The Sins of the Fathers

Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, the latest addition to the literature page, is a long, rambling novel that, unlike most of the author’s works, was written with a clearly stated goal in mind.  Dickens wrote that he intended the novel “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.”  Near the end of the novel, the title character mourns that his own selfish behavior had ruined everyone and everything he had touched, wrecking his family in the process.  Such a description may lead to the conclusion that the novel is essentially bleak, but Dickens also includes admirable characters whose selflessness contrasts with the prevailing attitudes and behavior of those around them, and some of the selfish characters repent and experience a form of redemption, though with Dickens such redemption is always on the human level rather than eternal in nature.  Also worth noting is the fact that the author took a short break in the process of writing the book to pen a novelette called A Christmas Carol, which, like the longer book, deals with a selfish man who finds redemption at the end of the story.