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The Pickwick Papers

Charles Dickens

Critical Essays The Interpolated Tales

The interpolated tales are of little account from a literary standpoint. In general, they are badly written and out of keeping with the comic tone of the novel. But they do bear a relation to the large themes of the novel, presenting those themes in an opposite manner from which they are presented in the narrative proper. The contrast between these tales and the action of the novel could scarcely be greater. The mood and action of the tales are savage, violent, and luridly melodramatic. The father-son theme is treated as a brutal, unrelenting kind of warfare. Liquor, which is beneficent in the novel, becomes the source of alcoholic terrors in "The Stroller's Tale." And in the story of Gabriel Grub we see Mr. Pickwick's story written in reverse. If the mode of the novel is comedy, the mode of these tales is nightmare. One senses that Dickens was trying to grapple with his themes in all of their possibilities. The only way he could deal with their nightmarish aspect was to bracket it in the form of "tales."