Martin Chuzzlewit

Martin Chuzzlewit

eBook - 2016
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Publisher: [S.I.] : Project Gutenberg, 2016.
Branch Call Number: OverDrive eBook
Additional Contributors: Overdrive Inc

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CALS_Lee May 08, 2020

"The American one", in which Dickens put his 1842 visit to America to use. Dickens was disillusioned by what he found in America, greatly disappointed by the selfishness and greed he found, and he became less optimistic about human nature as a result. Extending his incomparable satire from class-ridden England to what he saw as the amoral selfishness of America, his American section is easily the best and most memorable thing about the novel, producing prophetic passages such as:

"The greater part of it may be summed up in one word - dollars. All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down into dollars... Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour and fair dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good Name and Good Intent, the more ample stowage room he had for dollars. Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars!"

Dickens' theme in this novel is selfishness, and he extends its focus from the American nation to his English protagonists, and for the latter at least redemption is found in the two related persons of Martin Chuzzlewit. Rank moral hypocrisy is personified in the very Dickensian name of Pecksniff, and of course, being Dickens, he has his impossibly pure hearted and good characters, one here ironically surnamed Pinch. The story is stretched out too far, as was the nature of his serialized novels, and the heroes live happily ever after, and the villians meet with bad ends, so however traumatized Dickens was by his visit to hypocritical and self-centered America, it didn't yet affect his novelistic denouements.

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