Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Classics Challenge: February Prompt


Mr. Pecksniff and Old Martin Chuzzlewit

This month's Classics Challenge Prompt is to write about characters.  I'm currently attempting to read Martin Chuzzlewit, one of Charles Dickens' lesser known novels.  It wasn't my first choice for Dickens but one of my online groups is reading it and it was on the TBR shelf, so I decided to give it a shot.

I've read about 150 pages so far and unfortunately not much is happening -- I don't even know enough about any particular character to really write about, so I'll give a bit about each one, as well as I can remember.   Dickens tends to throw a lot of different characters and situations at the reader in the first parts of his books; eventually, everything will tie up together somehow and all will be revealed.  Well, sort of.

Right now there are a lot of unpleasant characters, and a lot of them are named Chuzzlewit.  There are in fact two Martin Chuzzlewits in the story, Martin the elder and Martin the younger.  Martin the elder is a cantankerous old man with a lot of money, and an incomplete will.  He's traveling with a young woman Mary who is some kind of ward, when he appears to fall ill.  Suddenly the relatives appear out of the woodwork, to kiss up and try and ingratiate themselves.  They all show up at the inn where Martin is staying and start arguing amongst themselves.  It's kind of like a contest to see which one is the most revolting and annoying.

Meanwhile, another Chuzzlewit shows up in the vicinity, unbeknownst to the other relatives.  He's Martin the younger, a grandson who has fallen out of favor with Martin the elder.   By a complete and utter coincidence -- lots of these in Dickens novels -- young Martin has just arrived in the village to study architecture with his cousin, Mr. Pecksniff.  Like his name implies, Pecksniff is an annoying character, very full of himself, scheming, and hypocritical.  He has two unmarried daughters and is hoping to marry one of them off to Martin.  It also appears that he's going to get Martin to do all his work, then take all the credit.  I anticipate lots of horrible behavior from him based on his name alone -- Dickens is brilliant at giving vile characters such appropriate names!

The character I like best so far is Tom Pinch, who works for the Pecksniffs.  I'm not exactly sure what he does.  He seems to be an all-around helper, definitely some sort of servant, and the Pecksniffs are very condescending to him.  However, he's kind to young Martin and seems generally good-hearted.  Because he's nice, I predict that something terrible will happen to him before the book is out.

This post probably doesn't exactly fit the parameters of this month's prompt -- it's taken Dickens so long to introduce all these characters and set the scene, and as much as I love him, he is so very awfully wordy.  His descriptions are great and sometimes very funny, but doggone it, I really wish something would happen already!

Bloggers, have any of you read Martin Chuzzlewit?  Does it get better?  It's not terrible so far but I'm just not excited about it yet.

18 comments:

  1. I'm going to be reading my first Dickens' novel next month, Karen (A Tale of Two Cities), but that one isn't for the Classics Challenge, it's for my own mini-Dickens challenge. I'm not familiar with Martin Chuzzlewit but he is so very awfully wordy. is the reason I've reached the grand old age of 47 without being able to read one of his novels!

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  2. Tale of Two Cities is a good place to start. It's one of the most popular books of all time, though it's not my personal favorite among his books. It does have some great characters and scenes, plus the great backdrop of the French Revolution. And not too long!

    And God, he is wordy!!! I'm almost 200 pages into Chuzzlewit and nothing's really happened so far. I'll give it another 100 pages and if nothing happens, I'm dropping it for Trollope.

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    1. And not too long!
      Yes, of the three I'm going to be reading, it looked to be about the shortest!

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    2. Hard Times is the shortest, but I think it's awful, so pretend it doesn't exist. Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are great also.

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  3. I didn't really enjoy Martin Chuzzlewit. The story didn't seem to hang together very well. It was a bit of a chore to finish it. Having said that, I'll probably read it again in a couple of years time and find that I love it.

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    1. That's it exactly -- nothing's coming together yet, and none of these characters intrigue me enough to stick with it. I read Dombey and Son last year and I slogged through parts, but the story started out pretty well so I was somewhat invested in the characters. I don't care about any of these at all and I still have more than 600 pages to go.

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  4. He was wordy - but then he was getting paid by the word!! I'm afraid I can't read Dickens because I know he himself was quite a despicable character, especially to his poor wife. It puts me right off reading his books.

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    1. I fell in love with his books before I knew much about him, so somehow that hasn't stopped me loving his books. I did get the Tomalin biography recently but haven't cracked it yet.

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  5. I've not read any Dickens, but this year, I will be reading Great Expectations.

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  6. Great Expectations is a wonderful introduction to Dickens -- not too long, memorable characters, great plot. One of my favorites.

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  7. I don't think I will choose this for my next Dickens! It sounds trying. I loved Great Expectations and am eager to read more Dickens so I think I will move on to David Copperfield.

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    1. David Copperfield has some great moments and great characters. I did think it dragged a bit in the middle, but I can see why a lot of people love it. It's really worth reading.

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  8. Glad I went with Litlle Dorrit for my Dickens read--this does sound like it's tough going. Even w LD, it seems that Dickens's favorite part of writing was doing character sketches, and he does so many of them that sometimes the plot gets in the way of the teeming populace of hiss novels!

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    1. Little Dorrit is a really good one, nearly as good as Bleak House! The BBC adaptation from a few years back is really good too.

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  9. Karen - leaving comment to let you know tha tyou have won the Dickens letters over on Random. Please contact me by clicking onto Emailme at the left hand side of my blog. Congratulations!

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  10. I've not read this. Only two Dickens novels I've read are A Christmas Carol (loved) and Hard Times (hated). Wish I could love Dickens more - maybe you could recommend another one?

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    1. A Christmas Carol never did much for me, and I agree, I just hated Hard Times. Great Expectations is a good place to start, so are A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist. None of them are horribly long and they're all really popular Dickens works. OT and GE are two of my favorites.

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