2 of Fire - Old Martin Chuzzlewit
with Mary Graham
Old Martin Chuzzlewit; Mary Graham.
Upon initial glance, seeing Old Martin Chuzzlewit as the first personified card of the Suit of Fire may appear strange. Yet, just as the characters in the novel are fooled into thinking Chuzzlewit is feeble and at death's door, it is in fact a ruse on the senior Chuzzlewit's part to ascertain the mettle of those who would find in his demise their own self-serving boon. More, Chuzzlewit's ploy sets in motion a series of events which both unmasks the false-hearted and engenders maturity in those stalled by solipsism and experiential limitation. Old Chuzzlewit is wary that his vast inheritance will go to those unworthy, an injustice which would surely redound in further injustice in the world. Believing money to be the root of all evil, he fears too his inheritance itself may potentially corrupt those not strong enough of character – namely, his grandson Young Martin Chuzzlewit - to counter its corrupting force. As a gardener hardens-off the plants in his care, so Old Martin Chuzzlewit intentionally estranges his grandson.
The 2 of Fire also depicts Mary Graham, an orphan girl Old Martin has taken under his wing and into his employ to care for him. To assure she has no vested interest in his death, Old Martin informs Mary she is not named in his will. This impartiality is threatened – potentially, at least – when she and Young Martin fall for one another. When Old Martin forbids their relationship's continuance, it becomes a test not only of their fortitude but of the depth and veracity of their feelings. Employing Mary to care for him, then, is a secondary ruse on the old man's part, a beneficent double-dealing which sees Old Martin actually taking care of Mary.
The nexus of Martin Chuzzlewit is Old Martin Chuzzlewit, yet he is in a sense the least important character in the novel – the calm in the eye of the storm. He is the spark which sets the work alight, and which illumines each character in turn.
Shorthand : Willpower - setting a plan into action - a character of strength and determination - making things happen - Firm rule - all in the service of justice - admirable authority - wealth come by meretricious means - surprising vitality - true intentions - false starts - unbridled ambition - rank treachery - deplorable lack of humility - shameful cheating - over-confident - falters midway - a goal set and achieved - actual value of said is other than conceived - led, in the end, to a complete revaluation of all goals.