Set partly in America, which Dickens had visited in 1842, the novel includes a searing satire on the United States and is the story of two Chuzzlewits, Martin and Jonas, who have inherited the characteristic Chuzzlewit selfishness. It contrasts their diverse fates of moral redemption and wordly success for one, with increasingly desperate crime for the other. This powerful black comedy involves hypocrisy, greed and blackmail, as well as one of the most famous of Dickens's grotesques, Mrs. Gamp.
Charles Dickens's powerful black comedy of of hypocrisy and greed, Martin Chuzzlewit is edited with an introduction and notes by Patricia Ingham in Penguin Classics. The greed of his family has led wealthy old Martin Chuzzlewit to become suspicious and misanthropic, leaving his grandson and namesake to make his own way in the world. And so young Martin sets out from the Wiltshire home of his supposed champion, the scheming architect Pecksniff, to seek his fortune in America. In depicting Martin's journey - an experience that teaches him to question his inherited self-interest and egotism - Dickens created many vividly realized figures: the brutish lout Jonas Chuzzlewit, plotting to gain the family fortune; Martin's optimistic manservant, Mark Tapley; gentle Tom Pinch; and the drunken and corrupt private nurse, Mrs Gamp. With its portrayal of greed, blackmail and murder, and its searing satire on America Dickens's novel is a powerful and blackly comic story of hypocrisy and redemption. In her introduction, Patricia Ingham examines characterization, the central themes of the novel, and Dickens's depiction of America. This edition also includes two new prefaces, Dickens's postscript written in 1868, his working papers, a note on Mrs Gamp's eccentric speech, a chronology, updated further reading, appendices and original illustrations by 'Phiz'. Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed Martin Chuzzlewit, you might like Dickens's Dombey and Son, also available in Penguin Classics.
Patricia Ingham is Senior Research Fellow and Reader at St Anne's College, Oxford. She has written on the Victorian novel and on Hardy in particular. she is the General Editor of all Hardy's fiction in the Penguin Classics and has edited Gaskell's North and South for the series.
Martin Chuzzlewit is a dramatic serial on Masterpiece Theatre, a PBS television series presented by WGBH-TV, Boston, made possible by a grant from Mobil Corporation.
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