Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “ The Pickwick Papers”
Westmount Public Library
January 8, 2012 2:30-4:30
- Mrs. Leo Hunter is to the arts (pretentious, pompous, without talent) what Mr. Pickwick is to the sciences (with his suspect treatise on tittle bats and his questionable archeological discovery). Compare and contrast them.
- The costume garden party assembles pretentious and pompous “experts” in their fields and even has a ridiculous foreign count taking notes. Their foolishness, made even sillier by their silly costumes provided by the shrewd Mr. Solomon, reminds one of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, a fairy tale in which vanity, pretense, artificiality and conformity play a large role. Mr. Pickwick wears no costume. Is he becoming less foolish in the reader’s eyes? Comment.
- What is Dickens saying about the “Lions of Literature” who are guests at the party?
- Mr. Pickwick’s fiasco at the boarding school has many elements of an episode in a modern sitcom. Comment.
- Does the embedded story of the lovelorn parish clerk serve only as filler? What other purpose would Dickens have in using it here?
- Misunderstandings, cross-purposes and jealousy between men and women abound in Pickwick. How does this contribute to the novel’s immense popularity?
- Mrs. Bardell’s lawsuit and Pickwick’s obsession with bringing Mr. Jingle to justice become firmer plot lines that thread their way throughout the book. Discuss how they serve to turn the novel into a more unified piece than a series of disjointed adventures.
- Does Mr. Pickwick’s good spirit despite his rheumatism, good sense in chastising Mr. Winkle on his poor gun skills and alcoholic misadventure make him more human and loveable?
- Comment on how Dickens perceives lawyers and their clerks in his description of Dodson and Fogg.
- What do you think of the relationship between Sam and Tony Weller?