The Pickwick Papers

by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 27-29 Summary

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With two days left before the Pickwickians are to leave for Dingley Dell, Sam Weller decides he should visit his father. With Mr. Pickwick’s ready permission, Sam goes to the Marquis of Denby public house and finds his stepmother (“mother-in-law”) in the company of Mr. Stiggins, the red-nosed reverend who serves as her spiritual adviser. His red nose indicates that he drinks heavily, contrary to his preaching. Mrs. Weller does not appreciate Sam’s disrespect toward Mr. Stiggins or his flirtations with her. She has already given up her husband, Sam’s father, as a lost cause. Sam stays overnight and leaves in the morning, advising his father to get rid of Mr. Stiggins, but Mr. Weller tells his son that he does not understand the nature of marriage—he is at the mercy of his wife in this matter.

The Pickwickians and Sam Weller travel down to Dingley Dell in a coach loaded with a large cod and several barrels of oysters. Joe the Fat Boy meets them. He loads their belongings into the cart but suggests that they might want to walk, remembering their loss of the carriage on their previous visit. They arrive at Manor Farm and are greeted warmly by the Wardles, who have gathered for Christmas and for Isabella’s wedding to Mr. Trundle. Sam is impressed by Joe’s immensity, and Mr. Snodgrass is impressed once again with Emily Wardle. There is also a “black-eyed young lady” by the name of Arabella Allen. The festivities begin the next day with the wedding, where Pickwick astonishes his friends by attending dressed for dancing.

The next day, the preparations for Christmas begin. There is more dancing and romance, and the group settles down to listen to Mr. Wardle tell the tale of a sexton who was carried off by goblins: Gabriel Grub is a sexton and a grave digger. He has a reputation for being surly and misanthropic. On Christmas Eve, as he is digging a grave, a goblin appears and snatches him down through the earth into the goblins’ cavern, where he is tormented and shown visions of people who have every right to be miserable but who manage to find happiness in their lives. He awakens to find himself beside the grave. He then disappears for ten years. When he returns as an old man, his attitude has changed dramatically and his heart has become warmer toward his fellow man.

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