David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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David Copperfield | Chapters 62–64 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 62

David Copperfield falls into the habit of spending at least one evening a week with Agnes Wickfield. One day, he asks his aunt if she knows anything more about Agnes's romantic attachment. Miss Betsey says she believes Agnes is going to be married. On the way to Canterbury, David resolves to make his feelings known. He presses Agnes to tell him her secret, and her tearful response gives him some hope. It takes some time for him to tell her of his hopes, and her response confirms she has always loved him. Within two weeks, they have a quiet wedding. Agnes tells David that on the night Dora died, Dora had said she hoped only Agnes would "occupy this vacant place."

Chapter 63

Ten years later, David is a successful author, happily married to Agnes, with his children playing about him, when a surprise visitor arrives at his door. Mr. Peggotty has come on his own, just to see everyone, he says, "afore I got to be too old," and he stays with them nearly a month. Mr. Peggotty reports all of the emigrants are thriving in Australia. Mr. Micawber is now a respected magistrate. Emily has turned down marriage proposals, telling her uncle "that's gone forever," but she enjoys helping the sick, teaching children, and generally spreading kindness. Martha Endell is now married to a farmer. Mrs. Gummidge has been helpful and uncomplaining. Before Mr. Peggotty returns, he and David visit Ham Peggotty's grave, and Mr. Peggotty takes from it a little bit of earth and a tuft of grass, for Emily. Mr. Peggotty had learned of the deaths of James Steerforth and Ham but continued to keep the news from Emily, who finally learned it from an old newspaper account a traveler brought to their home.

Chapter 64

The narrator looks back on those in his life whose "faces are the most distinct" to him. Miss Betsey is more than 80 years old but is still able to walk "six miles at a stretch." Peggotty is still with her, busily working at her needlework. Miss Betsey is godmother to David's daughter, Betsey Trotwood, and she enjoys spoiling Betsey's younger sister, Dora. Mr. Dick, now an old man, makes giant kites for David's sons and still works on his Memorial when he has time. Old Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Rosa Dartle argue and quibble their days away. Julia Mills has married a wealthy Scotsman and surrounds herself with shallow "society" people, including the likes of Jack Maldon. Doctor Strong and Annie are happy, and he's still working away on his dictionary. Tommy Traddles, now a successful magistrate, presides over Sophy Crewler's birthday dinner "like a Patriarch," surrounded by his and Sophy's family, including their two sons. The person who is most important to David is Agnes, and he wishes only she will be near him when his life comes to its close.

Analysis

In Chapter 62, Miss Betsey's suggestion that Agnes Wickfield may be about to be married finally impels David Copperfield to reveal his feelings to Agnes, with the result everyone except David was expecting. Charles Dickens uses the device of a visit from Mr. Peggotty 10 years later to tell readers how each of the Australian emigrants fared. Dickens rewards the emigrants, who have been striving for redemption, by showing they have found success, fulfillment, and peace.

The beginning of the last chapter has a cinematic effect: the reader can imagine the movie camera moving from one vignette to another, showing each character engaged in typical activities. Then, just as in a movie, with one camera shot dissolving into another, "these faces fade away," but Agnes's face shines on David "like a Heavenly light." This last image of Agnes as a kind of savior reflects the fact that, in many ways, she finally saved David through her disciplined heart.

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