On the death of his father, Nicholas Nickleby travels to London with his mother and his sister Kate in the hopes that his uncle, Ralph Nickleby, might be in a position to offer them some assistance. Ralph Nickleby had little contact with his brother's family and feels no sense of obligation towards them. He's a hard hearted businessman who isn't at all surprised that his brother died penniless. His offer to Nicholas is to help him secure a teaching position which Nicholas manages to obtain with Mr. Squeers. Conditions are far from ideal however. As for Kate, her uncle arranges a position with a dressmaker.