In Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens skewers the use of nature as a justification for vice, instead inviting readers to rise above their baser impulses, be those tendencies “natural” or not. This article looks at how nineteenth-century discourses of America as a natural paradise influenced Dickens’s depiction of the land, its inhabitants, and the political institutions taking root there in the 1840s. The novel’s critique of the role of nature in American life reached a crescendo with Martin’s arrival in Eden, a town linked by its name to a pro-nature ideology. Dickens’s rejection of Eden is a rejection not just of the United States, but of what he saw as the naïve and self-interested acceptance of “nature” as a replacement for complex moral thought. This critique is reiterated in the murder plot involving Jonas Chuzzlewit and is central to Dickens’s attack on selfishness and the many evils it generates, including fraud, violence, and slavery.

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