Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “ The Pickwick Papers”
Westmount Public Library
April 2, 2013 2:30-4:30
- How does the footmen’s “Swarry” compare to the Bath Ball in terms of pretension, hypocrisy, fashion, gossip, foolishness, etc. ...?
- What do you think of the amount of coincidences within these chapters (e.g. Winkle finding Sawyer and Allen in Bristol, Dowler fleeing to the same inn in Bristol, Sam finding Mary next door to Arabella Allen in Bristol, Mr. Pickwick finding Mr. Jingle and Job in the same prison)? Do you think these coincidences add or detract from the plot?
- Compare Sawyer’s and Allen’s intelligence, ingenuity and likeability.
- Consider Mr. Winkle as a lover. Is he believable?
- How does the “scientific gentleman” compare to an earlier version of Mr. Pickwick? To his present character?
- In what way does Dickens endear us to Mr. Pickwick more and more in these chapters? (Discuss his kindness to Sam, his sympathy for the lovers, his forgiveness to Jingle, his generosity in prison).
- Do you agree with Mr. Pickwick’s decision to go to prison on principle? Do you approve of Sam’s decision to have himself incarcerated?
- Comment on the change of tone and images in the prison chapters.
- Dickens had first hand experience of debtors’ prison as a child. At the time of the writing of Pickwick even his closest friends, let alone his readers, did not know this. How did this impact his writing?
- In the prison scenes, Dickens’ pathos has been said to be maudlin, yet his exposure of cruelty and corruption led to prison reform. Comment.