Martin Chuzzlewit (Senior)
Martin Chuzzlewit (Senior), a rich, eccentric old man descended from a long family line noted for selfishness. He dislikes his fawning relatives and suspects that everyone about him is after his fortune. After quarreling with and disinheriting his grandson and namesake, whom he had intended to make his heir, he goes to live with Seth Pecksniff in order to test the motives of that self-styled architect and arch-hypocrite. Having tested young Martin Chuzzlewit by turning him loose to fend for himself in the world and having witnessed many proofs of Pecksniff’s duplicity and hypocrisy, he rights the wrongs done to his grandson and abandons Pecksniff to his downward career of drunkenness and beggary.
Martin Chuzzlewit, the title character, a rather wayward and selfish young man brought up in expectation of becoming his grandfather’s heir. The two quarrel when Martin falls in love with Mary Graham, his grandfather’s companion and ward, and the old man turns his grandson out of the house. Hoping to become an architect, young Martin studies for a time with Seth Pecksniff, a relative, but after a few hints dropped by old Martin, the young man is rebuffed by Pecksniff. With Mark Tapley, a young hostler, he goes to America. Martin’s reactions during this journey show Dickens’ singular bias against the “uncivilized” areas, customs, and citizens of the United States. After his return to England, Martin seeks an interview with his grandfather, but Pecksniff, with whom the old man is living, turns the humbled young man from his door. Comforted only by the love of Mary Graham, he returns to London. Old Martin Chuzzlewit, no longer the senile man he had seemed to be while residing with Pecksniff, appears in London soon afterward, is reunited with his grandson, and gives his blessing to the marriage of young Martin and Mary Graham.
Anthony Chuzzlewit, old Martin Chuzzlewit’s brother, a miserly man of cunning and suspicious nature.
Jonas Chuzzlewit, Anthony Chuzzlewit’s son. Eager to inherit his father’s wealth, he attempts to poison the old man, but his scheme is discovered beforehand by his father and Chuffey, a faithful clerk. Because old Anthony dies of a broken heart a short time later, Jonas believes himself a murderer. He marries Mercy Pecksniff and treats her brutally. Later, he becomes convinced that Montague Tigg, a flashy speculator, has learned his secret. Desperate because Tigg demands hush money, Jonas murders him. His guilt is revealed and he is arrested, but he poisons himself while waiting for a coach to take him off to prison.
George Chuzzlewit, a corpulent bachelor.
Mary Graham, old Martin Chuzzlewit’s ward, a young woman of great integrity and sweetness. Although his great hope is that she and young Martin Chuzzlewit will fall in love and marry, he tests the young people by telling Mary that she will receive nothing after he is dead and by disinheriting his grandson. Mary remains faithful in her devotion to young Martin through all his hardships and tribulations. They are finally reunited with old Martin’s blessing.
Seth Pecksniff, old Martin Chuzzlewit’s cousin, an architect and land surveyor who has never built anything, though he receives large premiums from those who study under him. Young Martin Chuzzlewit becomes one of his apprentices, but Pecksniff turns him away to please the young man’s grandfather and to ensure his own advancement. In all of his dealings, he is completely self-seeking; he performs no generous act, shows no generous motives. Servile, false, conniving, he is a complete hypocrite and a monster of selfishness. He becomes a drunkard and a writer of begging letters to his prosperous relatives.
Charity Pecksniff, called Cherry, his older daughter. Deserted by Augustus Moddle, her betrothed, she becomes her father’s ill-tempered companion in his later years.
Mercy Pecksniff, called Merry, a vain, selfish woman who marries her cousin, Jonas Chuzzlewit, partly to spite her sister. The cruel treatment she receives at his hands transforms her into “a model of uncomplaining endurance and self-denying affection.” Old Martin Chuzzlewit provides for her after her husband’s death.
John Westlock, an apprentice to Seth Pecksniff, who sees through his master, quarrels with him, and leaves...
(The entire section is 1918 words.)