David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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David Copperfield | Chapters 35–37 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 35

Mr. Dick takes a room in the same place where Peggotty is staying. David Copperfield gives his room to Miss Betsey and arranges to sleep in his sitting room. Before bed, David and his aunt talk about Peggotty's devotion to him, Emily's sad situation, and Dora Spenlow. Miss Betsey asks if Dora is silly or light-headed. It's a question he'd never considered, and David really can't answer it, but he assures her they love each other deeply. "Ah, Trot," she replies, as she shakes her head, "blind, blind, blind!" She tells him he's a lot like his mother, and advises him to look for earnestness in a partner. Still, she says they're very young and should let the relationship play out. David worries about how his new situation will affect his engagement, because he's still an apprentice and has no income. He attempts, unsuccessfully, to have Mr. Spenlow and Mr. Jorkins release him from his apprenticeship and return a portion of the fee his aunt had paid for it. Walking home, he encounters Agnes Wickfield, who has come to London to see her aunt. Her father and Uriah Heep are also in town on business. Uriah and his mother have now moved into the Wickfields' house, and Uriah has taken David's old room. Miss Betsey tells Agnes and David how she lost her fortune, stating she had lost it due to her own bad investments and not due to Mr. Wickfield's negligence, as Agnes plainly fears. Agnes suggests David might take part-time work as secretary to Doctor Strong, who has moved to London upon his retirement and is determined to complete his dictionary.

Mr. Wickfield stops by, accompanied by Uriah Heep, having arranged to meet Agnes at David's rooms. Mr. Wickfield looks unwell, and it's clear he's under Uriah's thumb. Later, David has dinner with Agnes and her father, and they talk of old times. David is overcome with admiration and respect for Agnes and for the devotion with which she cares for her father. On his way home, he hears a street beggar muttering, "Blind! Blind! Blind!" echoing the words Miss Betsey had uttered that morning.

Chapter 36

David Copperfield is feeling more determined and optimistic when he goes to see Doctor Strong the next morning. He arranges to work for Doctor Strong mornings and evenings. David is having breakfast with Doctor Strong and Annie Strong when Jack Maldon arrives on horseback and invites Annie to the opera. Annie refuses, but the Doctor insists she should go. David later learns that Annie cancelled her plan with Jack and visited Agnes instead.

David thinks he might supplement his income from Doctor Strong by becoming a court reporter, and he goes to see Tommy Traddles to ask about the idea, taking Mr. Dick with him. Traddles says he'll need a thorough command of shorthand for the job, and it's difficult to learn, so it could take years. David resolves to begin teaching himself shorthand right away. Mr. Dick wants to help out, too, so they arrange for Mr. Dick to earn money by copying legal documents. Traddles gives David a letter from Mr. Micawber, inviting them to a farewell party at his current lodgings; he'll be taking a job in Canterbury as a clerk for Uriah Heep. Micawber gives Traddles an I.O.U. for the money he owes him, and David realizes Micawber has never asked him for money. David considers this quite considerate of Micawber, because he knows he wouldn't have been able to refuse.

Chapter 37

David Copperfield feels pleased and invigorated by his regime of hard work. Peggotty returns to Yarmouth to be with Ham Peggotty, and David decides it's time to tell Dora about his new circumstances. Dora cries and is frightened, but David calms her and explains his plans for the future. She says she still loves him and childishly asks him to speak no more about being poor. He's unable to make Dora understand the challenges he wants them to face together "earnestly." Each time he tries to explain, she goes into hysterics. It takes intervention by Miss Mills to calm Dora down. Miss Mills agrees, unenthusiastically, to try to persuade Dora to take some interest in the cookery book David has brought for her and learn how to manage housekeeping accounts. David overlooks Dora's childishness and continues to be charmed by her.

Analysis

As soon as David Copperfield tells his aunt about Dora Spenlow, Miss Betsey recognizes immediately he's infatuated by Dora's beauty, with no thought of anything else. The repetition of her phrase, "blind, blind, blind" after he spends time with Agnes Wickfield highlights David's failure to see that Agnes, not Dora, is the one for him.

The reappearance of Jack Maldon signals that the situation between him and Annie Strong may soon be revealed.

Mr. Micawber's new position as Uriah Heep's clerk explains why Heep and Micawber had drinks together soon after David introduced them. It's unclear, though, what underhanded purpose Heep might have for hiring Micawber.

David is pleased his hard work is helping to keep him and Miss Betsey afloat financially, so it's a shock to him that Dora's reaction to the news about his finances is so childish and unreasonable. The fact that David's adoration of Dora is unchanged after this encounter suggests that he has as much of a blind spot for Dora's character flaws as he had for James Steerforth's.

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