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At The Center of Martin Chuzzlewit—the novel Angus Wilson called "one of the most sheerly exciting of all Dickens stories"—is Martin himself, very old, very rich, very much on his guard. What he suspects (with good reason) is that every one of Iris close and distant relations. now converging in droves on the country inn where they believe he is dying, will stop at nothing to become the inheritor of Iris great fortune.
Having unjustly disinherited Iris grandson, young Martin, the old fellow now trusts no one but Mary Graham, the pretty girl hired as Iris companion. Though she has been made to understand she will not inherit a penny, she remains old Chuzzlewit's only ally. As the viperish relations and hangers-on close in on him, we meet some of Dickens's most marvelous characters—among them Mr. Pecksniff (whose name has entered the language as a synonym for ultimate hypocrisy and self-importance); the fabulously evil Jonas Chuzzlewit; the strutting reptile Tigg Montague; and the ridiculous, terrible, comical Sairey Gamp.
Reluctantly heading for America in search of opportunity, the penniless young Martin goes west, rides a riverboat, and is overtaken by bad company and mortal danger—while the battle for his grandfather's gold reveals new depths of family treachery, cunning, and ruthlessness. And in scene after wonderful scene of conflict and suspense, of high excitement and fierce and hilarious satire, Dickens's huge saga of greed versus decency comes to its magnificent climax.