The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

During a walk before breakfast, Pickwick encounters Dismal Jemmy, who asks and receives permission to send him a tale to be entered in the transactions of the Pickwick Club. Based on advice they get at the inn, the Pickwickians decide that three of them will go to Manor Farm in a four-wheel chaise, with Mr. Pickwick driving, and Mr. Winkle will ride a horse. They are assured that the horses are obedient, but Mr. Winkle has difficulty even getting on his horse, partially because he tries to mount from the wrong side. They make it onto the open road, but the horses are difficult to manage. Mr. Pickwick drops his whip and asks Mr. Winkle to get it; Mr. Winkle dismounts to get the whip but then cannot get back on his horse. In the end the horses bolt and the carriage overturns. They unhitch the horse from the overturned carriage and try to walk, leading the horse.

When they approach a farm, they learn they are not quite halfway to Dingley Dell. They try to leave the horse at a public house, but the wife refuses, believing they have stolen it. It takes hours to reach Manor Farm, but they eventually arrive. Mr. Wardle greets them warmly and provides them with everything they need to recover from their difficult day.

Analysis

This chapter uses the "challenging/embarrassing circumstance followed by a respite" pattern explored in Chapter 4. In this case the challenging and embarrassing circumstance is the Pickwickians' attempt to travel to the Wardles' farm. Mr. Winkle, the sportsman, proves himself ill at ease on a horse, and Mr. Pickwick is a terrible driver. When their mishaps force them to approach a public house for help, the people in charge find it easier to believe that they stole the horse than that they are merely incompetent.

England, at the time Dickens was writing, was a society with clear class distinctions. Dickens frequently uses dialect to indicate someone's social class. The man and his wife at the public house offer an example of Dickens's lower-class dialect, which includes unusual contractions ("No, t'ant," for example, in place of "No, it isn't"), dropped letters (nothin' instead of nothing), and words spelled according to their pronunciation (afeered rather than afraid). This was not uncommon in British literature, but unlike some writers, Dickens did not use the dialect to suggest a character was less intelligent. In fact, when contrasting the Pickwickians with some of these characters, the lower-class characters often look wiser and more effective. That is by no means universal: Dickens certainly includes foolish or unscrupulous characters from the lower class. However, it is interesting to note that Dickens does not equate education (e.g., being taught to speak properly) with intelligence.

When the Pickwickians arrive at Manor Farm, they are welcomed and cared for in an enthusiastic manner. Dickens describes the kitchen, emphasizing the large amounts of food, the cozy fire, and the ancient clock and gun. Manor Farm is a place of comfort and peace, a place where trouble is so unusual that the gun is rusted.

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