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“My main object in this story was, to exhibit in a variety of aspects the commonest of all the vices: to show how Selfishness propagates itself; and to what a grim giant it may grow, from small beginnings”- Charles Dickens about the purpose of his novel: Martin Chuzzlewit (130)”Because the selfish man sees no common interest or bond between himself and the rest of his world he is free from moral compunction, free to construct a false self, mask, rle, or persona, and at pains to protect his real self from the encroachments of a hostile world.
” – Joseph Gold (131)”Any kind of imagination separated from its material or emanation becomes a Spectre of Selfhood”- Blake (134) 12/20/96Selfishness Versus Goodness and Hypocrisy Versus CandorIn his book, Joseph Gold gives us a rundown on how selfishness embodies itself throughout Martin Chuzzlewit. He analyses likely symbols in the book, which gave me more of an insight and a new perspective that helped me view the main characters and their transformation in a different setting. Selfishness and hypocrisy mark their victims with false shells and distorted personalities and lead them to believe in their superiority over mankind. This renders them incapable of experiencing anything real and leave them fumbling after false truths, while taking advantage of the pure at heart.
This seems to be the essence of what Gold wants to communicate with his analysis.Pecksniff is the hypocrite who shuns no one when it comes to him making a profit. Unconscious of his inability to self-reflect or perhaps proud of his exalted virtuousness, Pecksniff is the epitome of righteousness, as Gold explains; he is in the book to display the extreme and helps clarify Americas role as a “national Pecksniff”.
Through him do Thomas Pinch and Martin Chuzzlewit the Elder finally open their eyes to their own lesser vices; Pinchs nave behavior changes after confronted with the real, or should I say false shell of, Pecksniff, while Chuzzlewit Sr. sees parts of himself in Pecksniff and is at the same time reminded of true virtue, honesty and human interdependence through Thomas Pinch. Gold goes thoroughly into an analysis of the paradigm between Jonas and the Book of Jonah, both characters fleeing from their own selves; it isnt until they accept the wale, as Sairey Gamp puts it, signifying Jonahs return to God in the whales stomach, that they can reach self-fulfillment. Jonass “god” is Tigg Montague and their travel is in a coach going to Salisbury. It is here Jonas becomes aware his own self and the path which he has to follow, which ends up with the deaths of Montague and himself.
Golds analysis recognizes the main aspects of the book and his variety of quotes from other analysts/authors supporting his hypothesis (if he was ever unsure!), convinces me of the symbolism present in Martin Chuzzlewit and the very apparent human failings in some of the characters. Charles Dickens: Radical Moralist covers all of the major events and important interactions and relationships between Martin Chuzzlewits characters and explains their importance for the advancement of the books story-line.