The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (commonly known as Martin Chuzzlewit) is a novel by Charles Dickens, considered the last of hispicaresque novels. It was originally serialized in 1843 and 1844. Dickens thought it to be his best work, but it was one of his least popular novels.Like nearly all of Dickens' novels, Martin Chuzzlewit was released to the public in monthly instalments. Early sales of the monthly parts were disappointing, compared to previous works, so Dickens changed the plot to send the title character to America. This allowed the author to portray the United States (which he had visited in 1842) satirically as a near wilderness with pockets of civilization filled with deceptive and self-promoting hucksters. The main theme of the novel, according to a preface by Dickens, is selfishness, portrayed in a satirical fashion using all the members of the Chuzzlewit family. The novel is also notable for two of Dickens' great villains, Seth Pecksniff and Jonas Chuzzlewit. It is dedicated to Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, a friend of Dickens. -------------------------------------------------
Martin Chuzzlewit was raised by his grandfather and namesake. Years before, Martin senior takes the precaution of raising an orphaned girl, Mary. She is to be his nursemaid, with the understanding that she would be well cared for only for as long as he lived. She would thus have great motivation to care for his well-being, in contrast to his relatives, who only want to inherit his money. However, his grandson Martin, falls in love with Mary and wishes to marry her, ruining senior Martin's plans. When Martin refuses to give up the engagement, his grandfather disinherits him. Martin becomes an apprentice to Seth Pecksniff, a greedy architect. Instead of teaching his students, he lives off their tuition fees and has them do draughting work that he passes off as his own. He has two spoiled daughters, Merry and Cherry. Unbeknown to Martin, Pecksniff has actually taken him on in order to establish closer ties with the wealthy grandfather, thinking that this will gain Pecksniff a prominent place in the will. Young Martin befriends Tom Pinch, a kind-hearted soul whose late grandmother had given Pecksniff all she had, believing Pecksniff would make an architect and gentleman of him. Pinch is incapable of believing any of the bad things others tell him of Pecksniff, and always defends him vociferously. Pinch works for exploitatively low wages, while believing he is the unworthy recipient of Pecksniff's charity. When Martin senior hears of his grandson's new life, he demands that Pecksniff kick young Martin out. Then, Martin senior moves in and falls under Pecksniff's control. During this time, Pinch falls in love with Mary, but does not declare it, knowing of her attachment to young Martin. One of Martin Senior's greedy relatives is his brother, Anthony Chuzzlewit, who is in business with his son, Jonas. Despite considerable wealth, they live miserly, cruel lives, with Jonas constantly berating his father, eager for the old man to die so he can inherit. Anthony dies abruptly and under suspicious circumstances, leaving his wealth to Jonas. Jonas then woos Cherry, whilst arguing constantly with Merry. He then abruptly declares to Pecksniff that he wants to marry Merry, and jilts Cherry. Jonas, meanwhile, becomes entangled with the unscrupulous Montague Tigg and joins in his pyramid scheme-like insurance scam. At the beginning of the book he is a petty thief and hanger-on of a Chuzzlewit relative, Chevy Slyme. Tigg cheats young Martin out of a valuable pocket watch and uses the funds to transform himself into a seemingly fine man. This façade convinces investors that he must be an important businessman from whom they may greatly profit. Jonas eventually ends up murdering Tigg, who has acquired some kind of information on him. At this...