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Summary Chapter 16

CHAPTER 16

Even before he sets foot on shore, Martin is confronted by many newsboys holding up papers and shouting the news. A sallow gentleman remarks on how enlightened America is compared to other countries in allowing freedom of expression. He asks what Martin thinks of America. Martin replies that he hasn’t had a chance to form an opinion, as he hasn’t even touched the soil yet.

The gentleman asks Martin his name, age, profession, and destination. Martin is able to answer every question except the last—since he doesn’t know his destination. The gentleman introduces himself as Colonel Diver, editor of The New York Rowdy journal. This newspaper represents the American aristocracy. Martin is glad to hear that intelligence and virtue leads to the accumulation of wealth in America.

The captain of The Screw comes up and shakes hands with both Martin and Colonel Diver. The Colonel inquires about the voyage, which the captain claims was quick. The captain informs the colonel that he has sent the passenger list to his office. The colonel asks him to send a boy along with some champagne. The captain treats the editors of papers to champagne to prevent them from denouncing his ship. Colonel Diver invites Martin to his office for champagne and offers to show him to a good boarding house. Martin agrees and informs Mark Tapely.

When they arrive at the office, Martin mistakes a gentleman—who looks much younger than he is—for Colonel Diver’s son. He is glad he didn’t address him as such when Diver introduces the man as his war correspondent, Jefferson Brick. The Colonel assumes that Martin has heard of Brick, who is supposedly famous for making the European aristocracy tremble with his scathing articles. Martin admits his ignorance at the name.

Martin reads a few articles of The New York Rowdy Journal. He comments on how personal the articles are, which Diver takes as a compliment. He says they are an independent paper. Martin is already starting to regret talking to Colonel Diver when he goes with them to the boarding house.

When they arrive at the boarding house, they are outraged that the servant girl calls the owner “Master” as if he does own her. The boarding house is run by Major Pawkins, who is also a politician and businessman. However, his fluctuating income requires that he also run a boarding house.

The Major tells Martin that America is in the middle of a commercial depression. Martin is hopeful that it will end soon. The Major replies that they’ll manage and come out fine in the end. He tells Martin to see Mrs. Pawkins about the conditions of rent and lodgings. Over drinks, Martin meets the other lodgers. He is unnerved when he hears an alarm, and sees the other lodgers running. He assumes there is a fire. However, a black man tells him that they are trying to get a seat in the eating room—and that Colonel Diver has reserved a seat for him.

There is more eating than talking. Martin looks at the other lodgers and asks Colonel Diver about them for conversation. The sickly little girl is actually a woman—the wife of Jefferson Brick, who looks as much of a child as he does, despite giving birth to two children. All are supposedly remarkable people of the country. Most are with the military. The others who aren’t are doctors, reverends, and professors.

Afterwards, the men retire to another room to discuss their favorite topic—money. Despite their patriotic talk, they consider money more important. A person should come by it by any means, and men are judged by how much they have. When Martin brings up literature and art, the men denounce both as time wasters.

Martin starts conversation with a man that is being ignored by the others. The man asks Martin how he likes Colonel Diver. Martin says he doesn’t, though he is grateful to Diver directing him to this boarding house. The man informs Martin that the Colonel goes on board ships to get information from passengers. He occasionally brings passengers to the boarding house, having an agreement with Pawkins that he gets his rent reduced for referrals.

The man says that the Colonel and his crowd are not good examples of Americans, though their numbers make them very well represented.

Charles Dickens