Monday, October 6, 2014

Mount TBR #22

I read this book for the Mount TBR reading challenge 2014.

Martin Chuzzlewit – Charles Dickens

Since the early 1840s, readers have not taken to this novel as they have to its predecessors such as The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. The reason is probably that the title character is selfish in a commonplace way and not compelling. The theme of the risks presented to self and others of selfishness cuts very close to the knuckle. Finally, the American chapters feature extremely harsh satire of those lovers of liberty, those drivers of enslaved blacks.

Still, I enjoyed it very much. I can’t resist the vitality of Dickens, from the marvelous cast of characters to amazing scene setting to the horrible insurance scams and mindsets of crooks and killers. I also think that 19th century patriots deserve every bit of the vitriolic satire and condemnation that comes their way, mainly for their toleration of the abomination of race-based chattel slavery, but also for hypocritically worshiping military rank and royalty, and relying on weapons and violence to solve disputes and shut up people whose opinions are perceived as objectionable.

I would recommend this novel to readers who’ve already read his most beloved novels, who believe his schmaltziness, lamely perfect women, and heavy-handed satire are far outweighed by his power over characterization and description.

1 comment:

  1. I really loved this book and it was the FIRST Dickens title I ever read! The criticism of the U.S. is scathing but not misplaced, for sure.

    My favorite moment is when Martin C. and Mark Tapely are both overwhelmed by illness and fever in the swamp and Mark writes "JOLLY" on his slate. Hilarious. Martin C. (both really) is a selfish twit, but Mark became one of my favorite characters, second only to the lovable Tom Pinch.