Martin Chuzzlewit

by Charles Dickens

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This is one of the least popular novels by Charles Dickens. Yet, he called it his best work. Download Martin Chuzzlewit, READ online FREE or buy:

As one of the last picaresque stories by Dickens, this book has a very special place in the hearts and minds of the writer’s fans and scholars. Novels in this genre are heavily focused on the life journey of a roguish hero, someone from the lowest social class who relies only on himself and his resourcefulness.

The master is known for mixing comedy and sharp satire with extremely realistic pictures from the daily lives of these people while talking about universal values and challenges. The novel first came out in 1842 in Dickens’s favorite serialized form. Monthly installments allowed the author to keep folks interested in his work for years and were, overall, a profitable endeavor.

Fact: the writer himself was very proud of it and called Chuzzlewit his greatest creation to date. However, the critics and the fans didn’t really like it that much and it turned out to be one of the least popular and commercially successful stories in his lineup. Monthly sales were very low for a writer of his magnitude.

Martin Chuzzlewit Summary

So, in order to fix it all and save the day, Dickens decided it was a good idea to work some magic on the plot and take his hero to the United States. He visited the country in ’42, which allowed him to get at least some understanding of what kind of a place it was.

In this book, he described America as a wild and dangerous place where people were scattered all over the place and profiteers were doing everything in their power to suck the locals dry.

Martin, the lead character of the story, has never really known his parents. His grandpa (and also his namesake) raised the boy. Many years ago, Mr. Chuzzlewit took Mary, an orphan, into his home, and raised her as his own. She became his nanny. They had an agreement: while Martin senior is alive, she will be treated like family.

Falling In Love With The Wrong Girl

That meant she had to do everything in her power to make sure the old man lived for as long as humanly possible. His big family, on the other hand, doesn’t really care about him and only dreams of one thing – to get its hands on his fortunes. Martin, his grandkid, makes the mistake of falling in love with the nursemaid.

He even tells grandpa that he’s going to marry her and turn her into a noble woman. Obviously, that was never a part of Mr. Chuzzlewit’s plans. But the boy disobeys his command to end the engagement, leaving the old chap no other choice but to take his grandson’s part of the inheritance away.

A Young Man On His Journey To Happiness

Eventually, Martin leaves his home and becomes a disciple for Mr. Pecksniff, one of the greediest folks in the whole country. Instead of dedicating himself to teaching his students the ins and outs of the architecture, he makes them do all the heavy lifting and presents it as the result of his hard work. Plus, he takes their money (for tuition).

The man has two kids – two spoiled girls – who aren’t really good for anything but gossip. By the way, even though Martin has no clue about his new teacher’s true intentions, he has big plans for him. The crafty and sneaky bastard hopes to get closer to his rich and influential grandfather to have a piece of that tasty inheritance cake.

Soon, Martin junior becomes friends with Tom, a kind, loving and caring young man whose grandma, a woman that passed away recently, was happy to give Pecksniff every last penny she had. She trusted the man’s promise to turn Tom into a true gentleman and a prominent architect, a respected and capable fella.

Charles Dickens And His Memorable Characters

The boy is extremely naive and doesn’t want to believe the “nasty things” folks around him tell about his mentor. He even defends the fraudster every time someone starts to grumble. Pinch (that’s his second name) is happy to work for unbelievably low wages while believing the “gifted architect” is doing him a huge favor.

Pinch and Pecksniff are the exact opposites of each other, and by bringing them together, Dickens shows us just how far we, the human beings, can go in our beliefs. While Tom is a ninny, incapable of seeing the world for what it is, his boss is one of the most morally ugly characters by Dickens. He doesn’t care about anybody else and is happy to rob the young man of his money and leave him with nothing.

He’s self-centered and thinks of himself as a man with a beautiful soul who’s ready to do anything for his kind. But in reality, he treats his students wrong and steals the result of their hard work. He’s something of a cousin to Mr. Chuzzlewit.

Martin’s Rise And Fall

Martin, in turn, is like an equalizer in this novel, the golden middle between following one’s gain blindly and ruining the lives of those that trust you and being a guileless fool ready to believe whatever people say.

He’s just as stubborn and selfish as his famous grandpa. Yes, the young Martin has his fair share of vices and virtues, but he is not afraid to say goodbye to his grandfather’s money for the sake of the girl he loves. After Mr. Chuzzlewit discovers what his grandson is up to, he tells the architect to let him go.

However, that makes the foolish boy trust the vagabond more and fall completely under his control. At the end of the story, he realizes that he’s been living his life the wrong way and changes completely.

Martin Chuzzlewit Themes

Dickens’s decision to portrait America as a country of soulless fraudsters and crooks was greeted by the United States with anger and frustration. The writer received numerous mails from the citizens of the US with messages full of wrath. His stinging satire wasn’t at all appreciated, even though he did hope for good sales over there.

Many people considered the novel to be an anti-American propaganda, while Charles Dickens has stated many times that he didn’t have anything against the country. In fact, his satire in this story wasn’t more offensive than in any other novel where he used to denounce the British society, the laws, and the corrupt government.

Controversy Surrounding The Novel

Dickens paid a lot of attention to slavery in America and had only bad things to say about it (obviously). Interesting fact: many critics and big-time writers accused Dickens of encouraging an international war by starting a fire between the Brits and the Yanks.

When he released the story, the Oregon boundary dispute was raging. Now, despite the fact that the matter was resolved without a single shot, folks called Martin Chuzzlewit one of the worst publications by the otherwise great Charles Dickens.

Selfishness is the main theme of this sensational novel. It’s natural to pretty much all the members of the old man’s family. As for Pecksniff, he’s being constantly named as the greatest villain in the author’s roster. Dickens managed to understand the very essence of men like him and did a great job of warning us all of the consequences of being selfish.

Martin Chuzzlewit Movie And Other Adaptations

In 1844, almost immediately after the last installment came out, the book was turned into an epic stage play with some of the best actors of that time. The cast included Thomas Manders, among others. The first silent movie adaptation saw the light of day in 1912. In ’94, a TV series based on this story was released. And that’s pretty much it.

At the same time, Chuzzlewit has numerous references in movies, TV shows, books, and even comic books. Many directors were kinda afraid to make a big-screen adaptation of this turbulent novel because of the way Dickens portrayed the Americans. But that doesn’t make this story any less admirable.

Summing Up

In his wish to constantly be true to himself and share his opinion about the injustice that happens every single day around us, Charles Dickens was ready to cross certain lines. Slavery and fraudsters used to be a big part of America in the 19th century, and he was one of the few writers that shed a light on that.

But, at the end of the day, selfishness in the main theme of Martin Chuzzlewit, and that is probably why the master himself called it his best work. It’s extremely hard to fight it on a daily basis; yet, with the help of the great writer, we can all change for the better.

 

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