"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, role,

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)


Source: Charles Dickens: Radical Moralist

Author: Joseph Gold

Publisher: The Copp Clark Publishing Company (1972); p. 130 - 146


In 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 America's role

as a "national Pecksniff". Through him do Thomas Pinch and Martin Chuzzlewit the

Elder finally open

their eyes to their own lesser vices; Pinch's naive 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 isn't until they accept the wale, as Sairey

Gamp puts it,

signifying Jonah's return to God in the whale's stomach, that they can reach

self-fulfillment. Jonas's

"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.

Gold's 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 Chuzzlewit's characters and explains their importance for the

advancement of the book's


Me reading the MC analysis…!

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