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Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens


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I recently finished listening to Martin Chuzzlewitt by Charles Dickens. As usual there are the tales of good persons being outwitted by bad persons and of thwarted love between two young people. All of which comes right in the end. Fairly similar themes with a few of his novels.

 

So why bother reading more Dickens? For the use of language, the sheer joy of his dextrous manipulation of words, the expansive vocabulary conveyed with ease, elongating any normal sentence into a forest of words, branching and stretching, seeking sun and air. And then there are the characters, no one created characters like Dickens; Twist, Sykes, Little Nell, Barnaby Rudge, Scrooge and Magwitch to name a few.

 

In this novel the stand-out character for me is Mark Tapley, when we first meet him he is an employee at the local inn, the Blue Dragon. A man of infinite good nature, he sets off to seek for himself challenging situations to test his jolliness thinking there is no credit to a man of his nature if he just spends his time being jolly when all is easy.

I’ve read online some readers criticising the chapters where Martin C. is in America. Dickens is quite scathing of the Americans in these chapters and whilst the storylines within these chapters aren’t really essential to the overall story of the novel, they allow Dickens to provide his then current readers a window on America. It’s easy for us now, with American culture invading almost every aspect of our lives, to forget that in the first half of the 19th century little was really known by most people of how Americans lived.  

 

As always with Dickens when I start the novel, and the hundreds of pages (or in this case thirty odd hours) stretch before me and Dickens wanders and weaves his tale on a slow course like a knowing horse carrying his drunk master home I wonder if I’ll ever get into the story and then it clicks and I’m hooked. Dickens, whilst writing this novel told a friend he thought it his best novel, but it turned out to be his least popular novel. I enjoyed it, but if you’ve not tried Dickens before this is not the one to start with.

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