The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 45 | Summary

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Summary

Sam receives a jailhouse visit from his father, his stepmother, and Mr. Stiggins. His stepmother and Stiggins don't know who Sam owes money to, which amuses Sam and his father. The stepmother and Stiggins both expect Sam to be ashamed of his imprisonment, but Sam is unaffected.

Shortly after the Weller family visit, Mr. Pickwick brings Sam to see Mr. Jingle and Job Trotter. Pickwick and Mr. Jingle walk off together, although Mr. Jingle is so weak that he must hold Mr. Pickwick's arm to keep on his feet. Sam mistrusts Job until he sees how thin his old nemesis has grown. He buys Job a large beer and offers him food, but Job explains that Mr. Pickwick has been helping them. Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Jingle return from their walk and Jingle appears to be crying. Pickwick is so saddened by everything he has seen that he vows to stay in his own room from now on. He sticks to this plan for the next three months, leaving his room only for short walks at night, when the prison is quieter.

Analysis

As the story begins to wind down, Dickens takes the opportunity to get a little revenge on one of the hypocrites populating this tale: Mr. Stiggins. Sam and his father enjoy making Stiggins look ridiculous. Mr. Weller has ensured that Mr. Stiggins's trip to the prison was as uncomfortable as possible, and Sam takes his usual approach of saying things in such an expressionless way as to make it impossible for Stiggins to take offense. One thing Mr. Stiggins will take, however, is a drink, and he and Sam's stepmother begin drinking and crying. Mr. Weller suggests they have "somethin' wrong" in their insides because they cry so often. A far more telling detail is when Dickens describes Stiggins as turning his eyes up "till the whites—or rather the yellows—were alone visible." Yellow eyeballs can be a sign of jaundice, a serious medical condition that indicates liver disease. Considering how much Stiggins drinks, it is not surprising that he would be ill, but it is important to remember that Mrs. Weller drinks along with him. Mr. Weller continues to have his doubts about Stiggins's advice, at one point calling Stiggins's words "moonshine," meaning "foolish ideas." Mr. Weller says if he can't find better advice than Stiggins's, he is likely to remain in the dark—a play on words, since Stiggins has just called him a "benighted man."

After they leave, Sam gets another surprise when Mr. Pickwick shows him Mr. Jingle and Job in prison. Pickwick's help has produced some improvement in the two men: they have more clothes, and they are cleaner and somewhat less skeletal. But Mr. Jingle is very weak, and Pickwick—a man old enough to be his father, or even his grandfather—has to help him to stand.

Sam's reaction is perhaps more understandable than Mr. Pickwick's—he looks skeptical and disbelieves Job's protestations (not without reason) until Job pulls up a coat sleeve to reveal how skinny he has become. In that moment Sam shows he can be just as generous as his master, dragging Job into the bar and arranging for him to drink a large beer. At a time when clean water was hard to come by, many British people drank alcohol at every meal, and beer, with its grain and hops, provided nourishment. Job honors Mr. Pickwick as their savior, but Sam responds in a most interesting way: he warns Job off, saying, "No vun serves him but me." Then Sam provides a memorable description of Pickwick: an "angel in tights and gaiters ... he's a reg'lar thorough-bred angel for all that; and let me see the man as wenturs to tell me he knows a better vun." Sam will not leave off protecting his master, even in the presence of someone who owes his life to Mr. Pickwick's intervention.

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