Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Wiltshire. District in southern England in which Mr. Pecksniff runs an architectural school out of his home in an unnamed village near Salisbury. From this base, Pecksniff plots to secure the money from his aging cousin old Martin Chuzzlewit, ultimately reducing him from house-guest to helpless dependent. When old Chuzzlewit’s repentant grandson, young Martin, poses a threat to Pecksniff’s power, Pecksniff smugly dismisses the young man from his home, secure in his power over the grandfather. Pecksniff also invites old Martin’s companion, Mary Graham, planning to take advantage of her proximity to seduce her into marrying him.
Apprentices John Westlock, young Martin, and Tom Pinch, all victims of Pecksniff’s hypocrisy, leave Pecksniff’s architectural school. Finally, this home also provides staged scenes of family harmony when needed, but when convenient, both daughters are sent from the family hearth, Mercy to wed the despicable Jonas Chuzzlewit and Charity to fend for herself in London at Todgers’s boardinghouse.
Blue Dragon. Inn in Wiltshire where old Martin is first introduced, ill and pursued by an expectant horde of scavenging relatives. Mrs. Lupin, the model landlady is especially welcoming to young Martin and Mark Tapley when they return from their disastrous trip to America. At her fireside, they hear of Pecksniff’s latest machinations. The Blue Dragon is also the place where Tigg Montague and Jonas Chuzzlewit invite Pecksniff to invest in the Anglo-Bengalee Loan Company, which leads to disastrous consequences for all three.
Village church. Church in which the saintly Tom Pinch plays the organ and first sees Mary Graham as she quietly listens to his music. One of the novel’s comic scenes later takes place here when Tom and Mary converse seriously about their concerns, and Pecksniff despicably eavesdrops, popping up and down behind a pew like the puppet Punch.
*United States. Indignant at his grandfather’s rejection of his wish to marry Mary Graham, young Martin goes to America hoping to make an easy fortune so he can return to England and claim Mary. However, he finds the country a nation of bores and boors. After Martin and his faithful assistant, Mark...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Adrian, Arthur A. “The Heir of My Bringing-Up.” In Dickens and the Parent-Child Relationship. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984. Good study of the parent-child relationship in Martin Chuzzlewit, using the example of Anthony and Jonas Chuzzlewit. Adrian argues that the novel explores the harm done by parents in shaping their children’s futures.
Gilmour, Robin. The Novel in the Victorian Age: A Modern Introduction. London: Edward Arnold, 1986. A good discussion of Martin Chuzzlewit, which views it as a transitional novel in Dickens’ oeuvre, possessing both the strengths and the weaknesses of his earlier novels at the same time that it anticipates the more complex social vision of his later novels.
Lougy, Robert E. “Martin Chuzzlewit”: An Annotated Bibliography. Garland Dickens Bibliographies 6. New York: Garland, 1990. An excellent listing of many critical works on the novel, along with reviews by Dickens’ contemporaries and a listing of stage and film adaptations. The annotations are invaluable for seeking out further sources.
Miller, J. Hillis. “Martin Chuzzlewit.” In Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958. One of the most important essays on the novel. Miller argues that the central problem facing the characters in Martin Chuzzlewit is “how to achieve an authentic self, a self which, while resting solidly on something outside of itself, does not simply submit to a definition imposed from without.”
Monod, Sylvere. “Martin Chuzzlewit.” London: Allen and Unwin, 1985. An excellent introduction to the novel, with detailed exploration of its sources and Dickens’ experience in writing it. Includes a detailed bibliography.