"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, rôle,
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 naïve 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...!