David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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David Copperfield | Chapters 41–43 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41

David Copperfield is invited to meet with Dora Spenlow's maiden aunts at their home in Putney, and he takes Tommy Traddles with him. On the way, Traddles tells him about the family of his own fiancée, who depend on her a great deal and are unwilling to part with her. Though Traddles tries to soften the picture of Sophy Crewler's family, it is clear they are selfish and self-involved. Miss Mills has gone to India with her father, and David misses her moral support. The aunts agree to allow David to see Dora on a regular basis, but with no commitment to an engagement. He visits on weekends, and his aunt and Dora's aunts exchange visits every few weeks. David once again attempts, unsuccessfully, to engage Dora's interest in the cookery book and to have her practice keeping accounts. He's somewhat bothered by her childish approach to everything, and blames her aunts for treating her as a plaything. Grudgingly, he admits to himself he does this, too, "but not often." Dora has taken to calling him "Doady" on occasion, yet another of David's many re-namings.

Chapter 42

Agnes Wickfield comes to London on a two-week visit to Doctor Strong and his wife. Mrs. Heep, using the excuse of her health, accompanies them, though she stays in separate lodgings, and Uriah Heep, of course, comes along, too. Uriah tells David he has come to keep an eye on Agnes; he says he doesn't approve of her friendship with Annie Strong, whom he suggests has been having an affair with Jack Maldon.

The following evening, David takes Agnes to meet Dora, and he's pleased to find they seem to like each other very much. Dora tells David if she'd had a friend like Agnes, perhaps she would have been "more clever," and she wonders why he ever fell in love with her. He replies he couldn't see her and not love her.

When David takes Agnes back to her lodgings, he stops to greet Doctor Strong, seeing a light in his office. There he finds Uriah Heep and Mr. Wickfield with the doctor, who is upset. Uriah has told the doctor his wife has had an improper relationship with her cousin Jack Maldon. He says Mr. Wickfield suspected the relationship when he arranged for Maldon's posting in India. Mr. Wickfield admits he thought the doctor wanted Maldon out of the country. But Doctor Strong says he never suspected Annie and only wanted to help her cousin. He defends Annie and says any blame should be his; perhaps in marrying one so young, he'd taken advantage of her gratitude and affection. He'd wanted only to protect her and give her a comfortable life. He intends to stand by her and asks they never mention the subject again. After Doctor Strong and Wickfield leave, David has heated words with Heep. He loses control and slaps Heep across the cheek.

In the next few weeks, David notices that Annie seems timid and unhappy, and Doctor Strong treats her even more kindly than usual, often urging her to go out with her mother to a variety of amusements. Mr. Dick, who loves spending time with the doctor, begins to spend time with Annie Strong as well, helping her in the garden. His quiet, kind presence alleviates some of the tension and sadness.

David receives a letter from Mrs. Micawber, raising some concerns about her husband. She says Mr. Micawber no longer talks to her about his work. He's become secretive, mysterious, distracted, and distant.

Chapter 43

In this chapter, David Copperfield skips ahead "weeks, months, seasons" to when he has turned 21. He has mastered stenography and now earns a good income by "reporting the debates in Parliament for a Morning Newspaper." He has also secretly started writing for magazines and is paid regularly and well for his articles. He has moved to a little cottage, and his aunt is soon to move to one nearby. Most importantly, Dora Spenlow's aunts have given their permission for the marriage to go ahead. There is a flurry of activity to prepare for the wedding, and all of their friends attend. David recalls the images of his wedding, which seems like a happy dream from his current vantage point.

Analysis

Chapter 41 presents Dora Spenlow once again as capricious, silly, and childish. When she asks David Copperfield for the cookery book, there's some hope she intends to apply herself to learning something useful. But all she manages to do is teach Jip to stand on the book and hold the pencil case David bought for her in his mouth. In the next chapter, after meeting Agnes Wickfield, Dora wonders why David fell in love with her, realizing that Agnes has so much more to offer. Readers, at this point, must wonder the same thing. David seems to have only a small concern about Dora's childishness, and he keeps brushing it aside.

Uriah Heep is jealous of Agnes's friendship with Annie Strong; to break it up, he spreads the story about Annie and Jack Maldon. In making Annie seem to have a morally questionable character, he makes her appear to be an improper friend for Agnes, and the more he can isolate Agnes, the better chance he'll have of wielding influence over her. Heep's plan doesn't quite work, because instead of condemning Annie, Doctor Strong strongly supports her and says he wants no one to speak of the matter again. Whether or not he believes she's been unfaithful, he does think she's probably bored with him, because he's so much older, so he constantly encourages her to go out with her friends and with her mother. Annie thinks he's pushing her away because he believes she was unfaithful. It doesn't help matters that Jack Maldon persists in pursuing her.

Chapter 43 marks David's long-awaited entry into adulthood. Here, as narrator, David again uses present tense as he assesses what he has achieved. His apprenticeship is behind him, he has a steady income, he has embarked on his writing career, and he has finally married Dora.

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