Montreal Dickens Fellowship
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Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “Martin Chuzzlewit”
Westmount Public Library
November 7, 2017 1:00-3:00
Chapters 11 - 20

  1. While Dickens is masterful at physical descriptions he also is very adept at portraying personality through action. Thus we learn volumes about Jonas Chuzzlewit through his treatment of Mr. Chuffey. Comment.
  2. Dickens was an avid walker, walking many miles daily (often at night). He had been forced to walk many miles back and forth to work and to see his parents in debtor’s prison (on the south shore of the Thames) as a child. Comment on how he compares walking to taking a “gig”.
  3. Dickens wasn’t born rich but quickly rose in wealth and status to be able to afford many things to which he had been unaccustomed. When he describes John Westlock’s appreciation of the finer things, do you think he is drawing on personal experience? One gets the sense that he enjoys his wealth but never takes it for granted. Discuss.
  4. Do you think that the pawn broker David is Jewish?
  5. Coincidence is always abundant in Dickens’s novels. Do you think Mark Tapley meeting and hooking up with Martin is too unrealistic? Does coincidence detract from your appreciation of the book? Can you “suspend belief” and still enjoy the plot?
  6. Do you think Mary is blind to young Martin’s faults? Compare her to the many other young, innocent, heroic, women in Dickens’s novels said to be based on Mary Hogarth, Dickens’s sister-in-law who died in his arms when she was seventeen years old.
  7. Compare and contrast Mark and Martin’s reactions to their sea voyage. How do they reveal their personalities?
  8. Right from the beginning, Dickens lampoons America the “Land of Liberty” with its dirt, violence and corruption in the name of equality and freedom. Comment.
  9. Mark lashes out at slavery. What were Dickens’s thoughts on the subject?
  10. Dickens (Mark) expresses amazement that the Irish could do so well. Comment.
  11. The Norris’s prove that being an abolitionist in America did not preclude one from being a racist. Discuss.
  12. Martin’s opinion of New York’s “aristocracy” is that their “snobbery”, which is based on cunning and wealth instead of lineage, is just as bad as that found in Europe. Comment.
  13. American women are criticized for their foolishness, vanity and idleness. Does this reflect Dickens’s view of women in general?
  14. Mrs. Gamp is one of Dickens’s most popular characters. What do you think makes her so popular among readers? Untrained nurses were the rule rather than the exception at this time. Do you think she is a true representative of the early Victorian nurse?
  15. Do you think Mr. Chuffy is mad?
  16. Were you surprised that Jonas Chuzzlewit chose Mercy instead of Charity. Why? Why not?