The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 43 | Summary



Sam goes to find his father, who is at a pub near the Insolvent Court, where a friend's case is to be heard that day. Mr. Weller tells Sam that his wife and Mr. Stiggins are suffering from their constant intake of rum. Sam informs Mr. Weller of Mr. Pickwick's decision to remain in prison, and they both agree it won't work out well. Sam borrows 25 pounds from his father, and his father arranges to have Sam imprisoned for not paying the debt. Sam is arrested and taken to the same prison where Mr. Pickwick is incarcerated. Sam tells his employer that he has been arrested and therefore he will be there as long as Pickwick is.


The discussion between Sam and Mr. Weller is the first time the reader hears a frank assessment of Mr. Pickwick. They agree that he cannot survive in prison on his own. Mr. Weller uses a cooking metaphor, describing Pickwick as "rayther raw" going in, but likely to be "done so ex-ceedin' brown" that he will be like a "roast pigeon." Dickens's choice of a pigeon is deliberate: roast pigeon was a meal the Wellers would be familiar with, but more pertinently, a pigeon was a plump bird, rather easy to catch.

Mr. Weller has no useful suggestions to help Mr. Pickwick, but Sam does. His solution is a tribute to his ingenuity, but it is also a sign of just how strongly he feels about his master. He disagrees violently with Mr. Pickwick's refusal to pay the money, but if Pickwick is going to be imprisoned, then Sam will be too. It is hard to imagine a servant or friend making a similar decision; debtors' prisons were notoriously corrupt. If anything went wrong, Sam could end up imprisoned for life. While he never says so, Sam loves Pickwick and is willing to take that risk to care for him.

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