Sunday, March 13, 2022

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

💰 If I have to categorize Dickens' novels into favorites and non favorites, then Martin Chuzzlewit would definitely go to the non favorite (along with Hard Times and Dombey and Son). Not only that Its humour is dry - exaggerated sarcasm rather than comical - its plot is also weak and felt weird. There're abundant characters but lack of development, and the story is dragging on in the first two third; only started building pace in the last third. I honestly thought of DNF-ing it, but decided in the end to plough on - which is quite paid off, for at least I can check it off from my Dickens-unread list. Only one Dickens novel left now to read!

💰 Tired of his greedy and selfish family, wealthy old Martin Chuzzlewit lived a secluded life with only a companion - a pretty young girl called Mary Graham - to whom he said quite frankly that he will pay her wages generously, but she will not be left anything in his will. By this arrangement the old man hoped that she will serve him best without wishing him dead (in the hope of inheriting something).

💰 His grandson, young Martin Chuzzlewit fell in love with Mary (the feeling is reciprocated), but when he uttered this to his grandfather, the old man was enraged, and grandfather and grandson separated ways in anger.

💰 Then young Martin was apprenticed to a gentleman by the name of Seth Pecksniff. He calls himself a surveyor and architect, but all he ever produces are the works of his pupils which he claimed as his own. Yes, Pecksniff is what you call a sanctimonious person - a hypocritical swindler in a gentleman disguise. He accepted Martin because of his rich grandpa, but then banished him when the fact of their separation was known to him.

💰 Humiliated and poor, young Martin left for America with the jolliest young man on earth as his servant-slash-companion: Mark Tapley. Here is a chance for Dickens to reflect upon his own visit to America. And boy, didn't he smash those Americans with ugly picture of mean, selfish, greedy, hypocrite and opportunist people! Martin Chuzzlewit might be considered as Dickens' personal favorite, but I doubt if it would be an enjoyable read for American people. Is that one of the reasons why this book becomes one of Dickens' least favorite? Hmm...

💰 Anyway, the America period in young Martin Chuzzlewit's adventure changed him considerably when he touched English land months later. And meanwhile, we were introduced to another villain-even more evil than Mr. Pecksniff: the coward heartless scoundrel: Jonas Chuzzlewit, nephew of old Martin Chuzzlewit. The cruellest villain in Dickens' novel so far.

💰 Martin Chuzzlewit is a story about greediness, excessice pride, and selfishness. It is also the first appearance of a detective in Dickens' novel. It could have been a promising story, but like I said before, the first two third is rather flat, and only the last third is really enjoyable. It has some memorable secondary characters: Tom Pinch - the naive and tenderhearted pupil of Pecksniff who failed to see his hypocrisy; Ruth Pinch - Tom's little energetic sister; and John Westlock - another alumni of Pecksniff academy, and a kind-hearted young man. Unfortunately Dickens included too many characters in this story that he hadn't had enough space to develop them further.

In the end, while the story is conclusive enough to be satisfying, it's far from making it memorable. I have even forgotten some of the plots while writing it!

Final rating: 3 of 5


  1. Chuzzlewit is among my least-favorite Dickens novels also, there's a reason hardly anyone reads it any more! I also strongly dislike Hard Times, I honestly think people only read it because it's one of the shortest (because Dickens left out all the good parts). I can barely remember the plot of Chuzzlewit and have no desire to read it again. But I was surprised that I really liked Barnaby Rudge, another one hardly anyone reads any more.

    1. Ah, I share your taste on Dickens', then. I disliked Hard Times too; I don't even remember what that is about. This year I'm going to read Barnaby Rudge. I'm so relieved that you liked it!


What do you think?