"The Tuggses at Ramsgate, Chapter IV, Sketches by Boz (Charles Dickens). London: Chapman and Hall, 1836. originally published in The Library of Fiction, 31 March 1836.


1. The physical settings of "a narrow street on the Surrey side of the water" (the Thames River) and the seaside resort of Ramsgate on the English Channel in Kent are not present merely for the sake of local colour.

A. What do these locales indicate about the Tuggses, their class status, and their place in Victorian society?

B. In what ways do these places contrast one another?

C. What do these physical settings represent?

D. What details does Dickens use to establish the chronological setting? Take, example, the sum of 20,000 — if an annual wage for an adult male in London's commercial district were 50, what would the Tuggses' inheritance be the equivalent of today?

Narrative Point of View

2. Intimately bound up with the perspective from which Dickens tells the story is his style, with its aloof, satirical tone and penchant for verbal portraits.

A. Which of the following standard "Narrative Points of View" has Dickens elected to use, and why? (i) Omniscient, (ii) Limited Omniscient, (iii) First Person, (iv) Dramatic or Objective.

B. How would the story be rather different if narrated from the perspective of each of the following? (i) Cymon Tuggs, (ii) Belinda Waters, (iii) Captain Waters.

C. Through the narrator's interpolated comments, what do we learn about him?


3. The Dickens Index (1990) notes: "The family's nave snobbery causes them to fall easy victims to the wiles of a pair of specious adventurers, Captain and Mrs. Waters." (267)

A. If this constitutes Dickens's theme, what is his thesis about the effects of sudden wealth upon the middle class in nineteenth-century Britain?

B. How do the brother's and sister's changing their names (to "Cymon" from "Simon" and to "Charlotta" from "Charlotte") contribute to Dickens's theme?

C. How does the closing line of the story contribute to the theme?

D. What thematic use does Dickens make of Cymon's donkey-riding accident?


4. In a literary text, an allusion is a direct or indirect reference (by either the narrator or the characters) to something well-known (or expected to be well-known) to the reader. The reference may be to another literary text, an event, a person, a popular past-time, and so on. Some allusions merely illustrate the subject or add depth, but others may have ironic value, pointing up the discrepancy between the subject and the allusion. What does each of the following allusions contribute to the story?


5. The tone of the story's narrator is consistently satirical — e.g., "disporting themselves in the water like so many dolphins" (11), but precisely what his attitude is in any given satirical thrust is not always clear. The term "satire" denotes either a whole work or a manner of speech that blends the censorious and the humorous, generally with the intention of reproving or correcting socially aberrant conduct or attitudes. Simple verbal abuse, however witty, is mere sarcasm. Consider the purpose behind each of the following examples.

A. Cymon in the two months between receiving the inheritance and arriving at Ramsgate has been "entered at the bar" (4). What point is Dickens making about the legal profession?

B. On the City of London Ramsgate steamer "everything . . . seemed gay and lively.--No wonder--the Tuggses were on board" (4). What view of themselves do the Tuggses apparently take? How is this view at variance with their name (indicative of cat food)?

C. What is the point of such names as the "Marquis Carriwini" and the "Dowager Duchess of Dobbleton"? What is different in effect in the name "Slaughter"?

D. "and young ones, making objects of themselves in open shirt-collars" (7) makes what point about the young males of the newly-rich middle class on holiday?

E. Note also the capitalization of such words as "ME" (3), "WILL" (5), "FAC SIMILE" (6), "SUCH" (15, 17), "WAS" (15), and "SO" (16): what is the intended effect?

F. What do the responses of the Tuggses to the bathing machines and sea-water bathing (page 5) indicate about their sense of morality?

Image and Symbol

6. A literary symbol is an object, animal, or person that in the context of a literary work means more than what it, he, or she literally is. It suggests or represents additional meanings through repetition and juxtaposition.

A. Consider the name symbolism involved in "Lieutenant Slaughter" — what is the writer implying about his temperament or personality? Why is the name doubly appropriate for this character in the story?

B. Although "The Temple" was a very real district of the City of London where lawyers offices were located, in the Inns of Court, what else does it imply about the nature of the stranger bearing glad tidings?

C. The cheesemongery features prominently in the opening pages — what about the Tuggses may it suggest?

D. What does the protagonist's renaming himself "Cymon" from "Simon" (consider the nursery rhyme associations of his real name) suggest about him?

E. Select another object or person from the story as a literary symbol, explaining its significance. Consider, for example, the surname "Tuggs," possibly based on "tugg-meat."

Plot and Structure

7. The plot is the narrative's mechanism of events in a cause-and-effect sequence leading to a climax (emotional high point, the location of maximum reader interest) and the falling action or denouement, which tidies up loose end and resolves the conflict. Two of the standard means of generating suspense are the dilemma and the mystery.

A. What kinds of conflict does the protagonist experience throughout the story? In terms of Dickens's development of theme, which is the most important? Explain.

B. Explain how, despite his being the butt of Dickens's satire, Cymon remains the protagonist or sympathetic central character throughout the story.

C. How does Dickens generate suspense?

D. How does Dickens prepare us for the surprise ending?

E. If a story is to posses artistic unity, all episodes should be relevant to the plot: explain how the seaside bathing and donkey-riding scenes do not violate the tale's artistic unity.

F. Identify the climax and the denouement.

G. How may we classify Cymon's final trial in the story as a "dilemma"?


8. The persons of the play or narrative, as distinct from the narrator and persons merely alluded to, are the characters. They may be classified as major or minor, static or developing, stereotype or individualized, one-dimensional or multi-dimensional. In a sketch, a character may be an example of some virtue or vice, or be a type such as a gossip, a busybody, a fop, a country bumpkin, a talkative old man, or a fashionable beauty.

A. To what extent are the characters in this story stereotypes?

B. Discuss one point when Dickens employs direct character revelation (utilizing authorial commentary and description) effectively.

C. Discuss one point when Dickens employs indirect character revelation (utilizing the comments and responses of the characters themselves, as well as their actions) effectively.

D. What motivates Cymon throughout most of the story?

E. Categorize the character of the protagonist as static or developing, providing a rationale for your decision.

Group Nine: Humour

9. To a certain extent, the story may be regarded as a farce translated from the stage to the page. The term "farce" implies a dramatic piece (not so developed as a three- or five-act play) designed to elicit laughter through the writer's exploiting improbable situations, gross incongruities, coarse wit, and physical humour--a classic example is Brandon Thomas's exploiting the comedic possibilities of female impersonation in Charley's Aunt (1892).

A. What role do the remarks of the narrator play in creating humour?

B. To what extent is the story a farce, and to what extent is it a comedy of character and situation?

C. Which emotions are dramatized (shown in the actions and reactions of the characters)?

D. Explain whether the story's humour is essentially a byproduct as opposed to its chief intention.

E. At the beginning of the story, the narrator describes Mr. Joseph Tuggs as a "grocer" and protests against his being labelled a "chandler." How is the former rather than the latter shown to be the more appropriate designation?

F. References to "low," "vulgar" society and "tradespeople" (page 3) are ironic in the mouths of the Tuggses. How do these remarks create humour? What thematic truth is thereby revealed?

Archetypal Criticism

10. Critic Northrop Frye in Anatomy of Criticism (1957) has asserted that the hero's power and nature as revealed in a work of fiction determine the "mode" of the fiction and the audience's or reader's expectations. By re-naming himself "Cymon," the protagonist reveals a conception of himself as a hero of romance, in which the hero is superior in degree to other humans; a hero out of romance is capable of astounding courage and endurance. However, he is in fact either a "low mimetic" or "ironic" hero:

The low mimetic: the hero is one of us, and superior neither in degree nor in power over the environment; we respond to our sense of common humanity, and demand the same "true to life" story that we find in our own experience. This is the hero of most comedy and of realistic fiction.

The ironic: The hero is inferior to us in power or intelligence, giving us the sense of "looking down" on a world of bondage, frustration, or absurdity. Even if the reader feels that he is, or might be, in the same situation as the hero, the situation is being judged by norms of greater freedom and power.

A. Since Frye contends that the rising bourgeoisie of early nineteenth-century Britain preferred the low-mimetic mode in fiction, and since Charles Dickens, son of a clerk in the Naval Pay Office and himself a reporter, wrote specifically for this class, how may we argue that the pattern of the low-mimetic hero applies to Cymon Tuggs?

B. On the other hand, since Dickens's bourgeois readers were socially a bit above the Tuggses (who, is essence, run a corner store in a working-class district), how might one apply the pattern of the ironic hero to Cymon Tuggs?

C. According to Frye, in comedy the hero begins in isolation and moves progressively towards social integration — how is this pattern reflected in the story of Cymon Tuggs?

D. A feature not uncommon in Dickens's fiction is the nave hero, a protagonist whose obtuseness leads him into putting a mistaken interpretation of affairs and other characters that the knowing reader penetrates, thereby participating in the work's structural irony. To what extent does the story reveal Cymon Tuggs as a nave hero?

E. Other features of Archetypal Criticism include the motif of death and rebirth (often signified by a journey over water), the rags-to-riches "Cinderella" myth, the siren or temptress, and wise man--how may these concepts be applied to "The Tuggses at Ramsgate"?

Three Illustrations

Fig. 1 "Captain and Mrs. Waters Greeting The Tuggs's Family on Ramsgate Sands."

A. One of Robert Seymour's two illustrations to "The Tuggs's at Ramsgate," published in Chapman and Hall's Library of Fiction, 1836, and subsequently included in Sketches by Boz. J. A Hammerton, The Dickens Picture-Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrators (London: Educational Book Co., n. d. [1909?]) 81.

CAPTAIN AND MRS. WATERS GREETING THE TUGGS'S FAMILY ON RAMSGATE SANDS — One of Robert Seymour's two illustrations to "The Tuggs's at Ramsgate," published in Chapman and Hall's Library of Fiction, 1836, and subsequently included in "Sketches by Boz"

A. "One may take the boy out of the cheesemongery, but one cannot so easily take the cheesemongery out of the boy." What other themes and comments upon the Tuggses "from the Surrey Side" translated to Ramsgate Sands does the picture suggest?

Fig. 2 "Vengeance of Captain Walter Waters and Lieutenant Slaughter. Mr. Cymon Tuggs discovered behind the curtains, at the Waters's lodgings."

B. The second of Robert Seymour's illustrations to "The Tuggs's at Ramsgate," published in Chapman and Hall's Library of Fiction, 1836, and subsequently included in Sketches by Boz. J. A Hammerton, The Dickens Picture-Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrators (London: Educational Book Co., n. d. [1909?]) 82.

B. The plate is a theatrical rendering of the story's climax — what, however, is ineffective in Seymour's rendering of this textual moment? What seems to be his focus?

Fig. 3 "The Tuggs's at Ramsgate."

C. "From Cruikshank's etching of the same scene as Seymour's woodcut on opposite page," published in Chapman and Hall's Sketches by Boz, third series, 1837-9, J. A Hammerton, The Dickens Picture-Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrators (London: Educational Book Co., n. d. [1909?]) 83.

D. Compare this rendering of the discovery scene (a theatrical standard long before Sheridan exploited this farcical device in "The Screen Scene" of The School for Scandal in the late eighteenth century). Notice the juxtaposition of Cymon, Slaughter, Belinda, and Captain Waters: which plate is more effective in its detailing and juxtapositions, and why?

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Last modified December 11, 2003