Old Martin Chuzzlewit is a very rich man, but paranoid that everyone is after his money. His grandson has made the fatal mistake of falling in love with the only person Martin trusts, and finds himself disinherited.
Pecksniff returns to Wiltshire to carry out Old Martin's orders. After a tender parting from Mrs. Lupin, Mark Tapley helps Young Martin to a secret rendezvous with Mary Graham, before seeking his fortune in America.
Jonas gives his father a lavish funeral and later proposes to Mercy Pecksniff, much to Charity's anger. Tom Pinch brings news of young Martin to Mary. Old Martin warns Mercy about entering into a marriage without love.
Jonas seeks to insure Mercy's life, Pecksniff offers Mary a permanent position in his home and Charity plans to leave her father and live in London. Tom Pinch finally recognizes his devotion to Pecksniff is misplaced.
Tom Pinch finds Mercy has suffered at her husband's hands. Montague attempts to blackmail Jonas. Young Martin and Mark Tapley return home from America. Young Martin hopes to gain forgiveness from his grandfather.
Jonas murders Montague and is exposed, so takes his own life. Old Martin's senility is seen to be a sham and at a family conference young Martin's inheritance is restored and a blessing given to wed Mary, while Pecksniff is punished.