Summary and Analysis
After a week of mysterious trips Mr. Pickwick announces to his friends that he is settling down for good in a newly purchased and furnished home at Dulwich. The Pickwick Club has disbanded. And he tells everyone that the wedding of Snodgrass and Emily Wardle will take place in his new home. Preparations are made, and the wedding is a glorious affair.
Nathaniel Winkle obtains a position in London from his father. Augustus Snodgrass settles down to being a country gentleman. Tracy Tupman takes rooms at Richmond, where he remains a bachelor. Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen go to India as surgeons, and after learning temperance they do well. Jingle and Job Trotter become useful members of society in the West Indies. Tony Weller retires a year later because of gout and lives upon the income from the money Mr. Pickwick invested for him. After two years Sam Weller weds Mary, and both of them serve Mr. Pickwick. And Mr. Pickwick himself becomes godfather to the many children of his friends, living on as a widely respected and much loved old man.
Even though we anticipate the novel's ending, this final chapter comes as a shock. We are saddened to realize that the characters have given up their rollicking adventures to settle down for good. After the vitality, the joy, the grand celebrations, the odd vital characters who enlivened the novel, the prospect of this glorious, absurd world losing its energy at last is regrettable. Yet the various plots have been exhausted and we know all we need to know about the characters.
The last several paragraphs resemble a newsy letter from an old friend telling one how one's mutual acquaintances are doing. The assumption that Dickens' invented characters are actual persons that we might meet anywhere is encouraged throughout the book, and we do come to feel that they are like old friends.
Even though Dickens has related the novel in the past tense and writes the last paragraph in the present tense to suggest that Mr. Pickwick is still alive, we do not get a feeling of the novel's "pastness" until the last chapter. When Dickens uses the past tense in the preceding chapters he gives us a sense of immediacy through constant dialogue and dramatic exchange, through presenting the sights and sounds of his scenes. The reader feels as if he were witnessing the scenes as they happen. But here Dickens suddenly stops dramatizing the action and merely narrates it. The drama ends and we get something like a newsy letter from the author.
Nevertheless, Dickens has created a vision of what the world might be like, in Dingley Dell, if only we had the good will, the purpose and energy to make it so. He seems to feel that the Kingdom of God can be achieved, here and now, in our hearts. Fellowship, romance, adventure, innocence and youthfulness are perennial values, and Dickens gave them great and wonderful form in Pickwick Papers: