Thursday, December 24, 2009
Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. With Illustrations by Phiz. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1843-1844) Original Parts.
The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit is a satirical comedy of a young British Martin Chuzzlewit who eventually travels to America to seek his fortune. Dickens's novel emerged as a scathing satire of American culture, which included a satire of American journalism as an unscrupulous and scandal-driven industry. Dickens portrayed many of the Americans characters as a bunch of liars, snobs, bullies, aggressive savages and swindlers.
In this passage, Martin Chuzzlewit has just disembarked from the ship appropriately named “The Screw”, which had taken him from England to New York. He is immediately greeted by “Colonel Dive”, Editor of the “New York Rowdy Journal” and the young correspondent Jefferson Brick both of whom epitomize the corrupt and unscrupulous nature of the press in America. Martin then meets an unnamed American stranger at a party to which Colonel Dive has brought him. Martin and the stranger begin a candid conversation on the role of satire in America.
The passage reflects Dickens awareness that his satirical novel would garner criticism in America for its biting satire. It is also reflects how Dickens may have wanted his readership to view him: as an outspoken writer, willing to voice the truth as he saw it, despite public criticism. The novel initially garnered poor reviews due partly to the negative response it elicited among Americans. Dickens maintained that his work was neither anti-American nor different than any of his prior satirical works, such as Oliver Twist, which satirized English society and its institutions.
Gift of William M. Elkins
Posted by Joe Shemtov at 12:21 PM