The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 52 | Summary

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Summary

Back in London Sam receives a letter from his father. His stepmother has died. Sam visits his father and learns that his stepmother left her money to Mr. Weller and to Sam. Mr. Stiggins arrives, ostensibly to mourn her passing, but also to ask if she left him any money. Finally able to respond the way he always wanted to, Mr. Weller throws a drink in Stiggins's face, kicks him down the stairs, and dunks him in a horse trough.

Analysis

Dickens has hinted at the possibility of Sam's stepmother being ill more than once in the novel, but her death brings unexpected results. Mr. Weller, who has done nothing but complain about his wife through the entire novel, is somber after her passing. He says he misses her. This may also be because she repented of her excessive religious behavior on her deathbed.

That repentance is significant. In Victorian-era literature, the deathbed is a sacred place. Good people die in their beds; bad people die on the streets or in other places. By having her die of natural causes and in her own bed, Dickens is saying that Mrs. Weller is, in fact, a good person. The dying words of a good person were equally important in Victorian literature. These words were seen almost as a message from "the other side." And Mrs. Weller's final message? Being kind to her husband should have been more important than the religious meetings and charity events she hosted. Dickens sneaks in a little message for his audience, and puts it into a dying woman's mouth to be sure they pay attention.

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