David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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David Copperfield | Chapters 25–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

Agnes Wickfield sends David Copperfield a note, and he goes to see her at the home of her father's London agent, Mr. Waterbrook, where she's staying. He apologizes profusely and Agnes is understanding. When David tells her she's his good angel, she warns him his bad angel, James Steerforth, is a "dangerous friend." They talk about her father, whose drinking has gotten worse. Uriah Heep has taken advantage of Mr. Wickfield's weakness to become his business partner. Agnes says her father is afraid of the power Heep has over him, but it was the only way to save the business. Knowing how much David dislikes Uriah, Agnes urges him to try to be friendly for her father's sake. The next day, David attends a dinner at the Waterbrooks' home. Most of the guests are in the legal profession, and he encounters his old school friend, Tommy Traddles, who is studying to be a lawyer. The dinner conversation revolves around arcane legal topics and the importance of having aristocratic associates. Throughout dinner, Uriah Heep is constantly lurking near David. David invites Uriah back to his room for coffee, where Uriah talks of his partnership with Mr. Wickfield and suggests he might one day marry Agnes. David controls himself with difficulty. It's late and Uriah asks to sleep in David's living room because the place where he's staying locks the doors early. David spends a restless night, dreaming about running a red-hot poker through Uriah. After Uriah leaves in the morning, David asks Mrs. Crupp, his landlady, to air out the room.

Chapter 26

David Copperfield worries Agnes Wickfield might feel that her father's neglect of his business is related to his devotion to her. He fears she might decide she owes it to her father to marry Uriah Heep in order to protect her father's interests. He decides not to worry Agnes prematurely by telling her of Heep's plans. James Steerforth is away at Oxford, and for once, David is glad for his absence, despite his loneliness. Agnes's warning may be having an effect.

Weeks go by, and after David's apprenticeship at Spenlow and Jorkins is secured, Mr. Spenlow invites David to his house for a weekend. There, David meets Spenlow's daughter Dora, who has just returned from finishing school in Paris. David is instantly and completely smitten by Dora Spenlow's beauty and charm. Accompanying Dora, as her companion, is none other than Miss Murdstone. Taking David aside, Miss Murdstone suggests they avoid confrontation and treat one another as "distant acquaintances." David says she and her brother treated him cruelly and his mother unkindly, but he agrees to a truce. The next day, David walks in the garden with Dora and her little dog, Jip. When he goes home, David can't stop thinking about Dora. He buys new clothes and hopes for another invitation to Mr. Spenlow's house, becoming so depressed when no such invitation is issued that Mrs. Crupp notices and chides him about being in love, advising him to "keep a good heart, and to know [his] own value."

Chapter 27

David Copperfield visits Tommy Traddles, who is renting a room in a formerly genteel, but now run-down, neighborhood. At the door of the house, David passes a milkman trying to collect his payment from an unseen tenant. He finds Traddles happy, working hard at his law studies, and engaged to a curate's daughter. Not having received the inheritance from an uncle which he was brought up to expect, Traddles has had to pull himself into a profession and expects it will be a long time before he can marry, although he proudly shows David a table and flower stand he and his fiancée have bought in preparation for setting up house. Traddles mentions he's renting his room from the Micawbers, and David has an unexpected and happy reunion with the couple. Mr. Micawber, who always seems to be confused about David's age, refers to him as "the friend of my youth" and "companion of earlier days," which puzzles Traddles. David invites them all to have dinner in his room.

Analysis

Agnes Wickfield's instinctive distrust of James Steerforth foreshadows the tragic events he will cause. Uriah Heep has achieved at least part of his plan by manipulating himself into the position of partner in Mr. Wickfield's business. David Copperfield is alarmed by Heep's designs to marry Agnes, but he trusts that Agnes won't allow herself to be persuaded to such a commitment.

The conversation about aristocracy at the Waterbrooks' dinner party is a reminder of the prevalence of the kind of class snobbishness Steerforth revealed in speaking about Ham and the Peggottys. In these circles, aristocratic "breeding" is valued more highly than good morals, courtesy, and honesty.

The motif of the undisciplined heart is evident in Chapter 26 when David falls instantly in love at the first sight of Dora Spenlow. It isn't clear to the reader what, other than her beauty, attracts David to Dora.

Charles Dickens's plots often rely on coincidental encounters with characters earlier in the story, like the reappearance of the Micawbers and of Traddles. He prepares his readers for the reappearance of the Micawbers by having David be reminded of them when he sees the milkman trying to collect on his bill at the front door.

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