You probably thought I had forgotten about this blog, but, no, I haven’t forgotten about Charlie. I’ve just strayed…again. I have read more than I’ve written about—I finished Barnaby Rudge and read Martin Chuzzlewit—but then I lagged. I did buy the next book, Dombey and Son, but I have yet to open it. I could make excuses (I was working three jobs/I got a library card/I needed a break), but I don’t want to bore you with my excuses. That’s not what you’re here for!
Anyways, I’ve decided to give myself to the end of this calendar year to finish. Yes, I’m still not even half way done, but I’ve read more of these latter books, so I don’t think they’ll take me as long.
I’ll say a few words on Barnaby and Martin now.
There will be spoilers.
I was disappointed by the ending of Barnaby Rudge. I guess I was expecting something more along the lines of A Tale of Two Cities with its heroic end, but instead, this one gives you everything tied neatly with a bow—all the good guys happy (even if one is missing an arm) and the bad guys rightfully punished. But I could have been okay with that, if not for the fact that it felt like a cop out.
There’s this great build up at the beginning of the end where there appears to be no hope for our hero and title character. He’s going to be executed for the apparent crimes he committed (after his mental disabilities made him susceptible to the lies of a “friend”). The day and time he’s scheduled to be executed even passes, and the other characters believe him to be dead—and so did I. It was sad, and I was mad, but it somehow felt right.
But no. Events occurred that you only found out about after they had happened, and it turns out Barnaby was spared. Everyone rejoices and celebrates—but I was left feeling like my chair had been pulled out from under me.
Sure, I love a happy ending. But that was cruel.
I also definitely guessed the identity of the mysterious man correctly, but I was disappointed with his character arc. There was no redemption story, which is what I was expecting. I love a good redemption story.
And then I read Martin Chuzzlewit. Oh Martin Chuzzlewit.
First, it took me awhile to figure out who the story was actually about as this particular family line has a lot of Martins. Once I got through the initial bog of information, it turned into a decent Dickens story. I liked Martin’s character arc and how he learns and changes—and his grandfather’s character changes as well. There were some great secondary characters, too—Mark Tapley, John Westlock, Mercy Pecksniff—and Mr. Pecksniff was a fabulous, though typical, Dickens villain.
But oh, Tom Pinch.
Dear, sweet Tom Pinch, who loved everyone and thought the best of everybody and was always optimistic, yet ends the story in unrequited love and supposed heartbroken.
(I say “supposed” because Dickens doesn’t actually say that he’s heartbroken—in fact, he says he’s happy—but I don’t see how he could not be heartbroken so I’m supposing that he was.)
Tom Pinch, who witnesses his sister and dear friend marry—and then watches his other dear friend marry the woman that he loves, and he remains close friends with the couple his whole life, though he loves her and never tells her.
I have no problem with Martin marrying Mary; he was in love with her long before Tom met her, and Mary most certainly loves Martin.
But is Tom not allowed to move on and find love elsewhere? He could still remain close friends with Martin and Mary—even live next door to them—he could just bring another woman into the circle of friendship as well.
I envision the novel ending with Jonas dying a deserved death, and then Merry, in her changed character due to her depraved husband and his treatment of her, finds comfort and solace in the company of Tom Pinch. They then fall in love and marry.
How hard would that have been, Charlie?
Perhaps that’s why I took a break. I was a little peeved at Charlie.
Some historical facts:
- Dickens wrote Martin Chuzzlewit after visiting America (the title character spends a disastrous time in America and almost dies), but his depiction of America angered Americans. He visited America in 1842 and was very disappointed in the country, which seethed into his portrayal of America in this novel.
- Martin Chuzzlewit wasn’t as well received as previous novels, and to make up for the lack of finances, Dickens decided to write a small book to be published during the Christmas season while Martin Chuzzlewit was being published periodically—this small book was A Christmas Carol, and it continued the greed theme that Dickens was writing about in Martin Chuzzlewit.
- Martin Chuzzlewit is the only Dickens novel to include the words “zoo” and “beetroot.” Don’t ask me why this is important.
- (This isn’t historical) One of the best chapter titles I’ve ever read: Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapter 46, “In Which Miss Pecksniff Makes Love, Mr. Jonas Makes Wrath, Mrs. Gamp Makes Tea, and Mr. Chuffey Makes Business.”