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Tobias Smollett develops the conflict between Peregrine Pickle and Godfrey Gauntlet, as the two characters struggle with their emotions, social norms and class issues, through the use of dialogue, and symbols of masculinity in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle.
The setting of the 1750’s gives way to the essential aspect of the confrontation between the two characters because they have to abide by the social norms of the time. The back-and-forth nature of the dialogue conveys the irony that Mr. Pickle and Mr. Gauntlet are, in fact, in an argument but conforming to the respect of the social norms. With the social norms of politeness and addressing Mr. Pickle with his last name, Mr. Gauntlet expresses a concern about the relationship between Mr. Pickle and his sister. In saying, “I should be glad,” Mr. Gauntlet is preserving the social propriety of his politeness in speech, repressing his true emotions on the fact that Mr. Pickle is in a relationship with Mr. Gauntlet’s sister. Mr. Pickle replies, “Sir, I should be glad to know what title you have to demand that satisfaction?” (4-5) Mr. Pickle returns that same social norm of politeness and respect by addressing Mr. Gauntlet as “Sir”, however, in repeating Mr. Gauntlet’s language by saying, “I should be glad,” Mr. Pickle is subtly challenging Mr. Gauntlet; his masculine pride subtly surfacing through the dialogue. This idea is developed further when he inquires “What title do you have to demand that satisfaction?” Mr. Pickle preserves a calm, respectful manner of speaking while at the same time channeling his internal anger in a challenge of masculinity, honor and reputation. Mr. Gauntlet wants to preserve his masculinity as a brother while also preserving his family’s honor and his sister’s reputation due to the class difference between Mr. Pickle and himself. Mr. Pickle is contrastingly challenging Mr. Gauntlet’s effort because his love for Mr. Gauntlet’s sister transcends class issues. The dialogue between the two characters is a rapid-fire, back-and-forth confrontation that, while remaining respectful with the time period’s social formality, has undertones of pride, honor, reputation and challenging masculinity.
The conflict between Mr. Pickle and Mr. Gauntlet is one of masculinity. The archetypal masculinity of the brother is challenged by the masculinity of the sister’s lover that transcends the brother’s authority and class issues. “‘Gentleman. God wot!’ replied the other, looking contemptuously at his equipage, which was none of the most superb,” (20-22) The carriage and horse is a symbol of masculinity and Mr. Pickle’s equipage being “none of the most superb” is a comparison and challenge of his masculinity with Mr. Gauntlet’s. The conflict between the two men is heightened when they decide to “quarrel by the sword.” (31) The sword is a classic phallic symbol and the swordfight is a classic symbolic competition of masculinity, an allusion to Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. “Mr. Gauntlet told his opponent, that he himself was looked upon in the army as an expert swordsman,” (34-35) This statement itself is teeming with masculinity, through the use of the symbol of the sword. The use of equestrian and sword symbols, Smollett conveys the fury of pride and masculinity and the social propriety in honor and reputation between Mr. Pickle and Mr. Gauntlet.
The archetypal struggle of masculinity between two opposing male characters is developed by Tobias Smollett through the complex interplay of repressed emotions because of social propriety. The conflict between the archetypes of the prideful and protective brother and the transcendent lover who comes from a lower social class, Mr. Gauntlet and Mr. Pickle, is conveyed through the use of dialogue and symbols of masculinity in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle.
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