David Copperfield

David Copperfield

David Copperfield Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
David enjoys the freedom of having his own rooms, although he also finds it lonely at times; he misses Agnes in particular, and Steerforth has not yet visited him. After three days, he goes to ask Mrs. Steerforth about her son's whereabouts and learns that he is seeing a friend from Oxford but will be back the following day. David stays for dinner and talks about his trip to Yarmouth with Steerforth. Although Rosa Dartle is again "full of hints and mysterious questions," David is in such a good mood he begins to fall in love with her.
Although still supported financially by his aunt, David is now semi-independent: he has a job, along with his own living space. However, the nineteenth-century idea of home was closely intertwined with the nuclear family, so it's not surprising that David finds himself pining for a female presence—specifically, Agnes.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
The next day, Steerforth appears while David is having breakfast. David excitedly shows him around his rooms and invites him to stay for breakfast. Steerforth, however, says that he has to remain with his Oxford friends all day, so David suggests that they all come over for dinner. Once Steerforth has left, David speaks with Mrs. Crupp about the evening's plans. She recommends a young man and woman to act as waiter and dishwasher, respectively, as well as a list of courses and shops to find them at. David does as she recommends, and also orders several bottles of wine.
Eager once again to seem grown-up, David is thrilled to have the chance to show off his apartment and host his own dinner party. The fact that the evening doesn't go smoothly, however, is a reminder of how young and immature David still is.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Steerforth arrives at six in the evening with his friends Grainger and Markham, who are both very "lively." Since David is still self-conscious regarding his age, he asks Steerforth to preside over the dinner. The meal generally goes well, although David is continually distracted by the waiter (who keeps sneaking drinks) and the dishwasher (who keeps breaking plates). Once the meal is over, however, David quickly begins to enjoy himself—in part because the waiter and dishwasher leave, but mostly because he is rapidly becoming very drunk. He becomes very talkative, toasting Steerforth, arguing with Markham over the appropriateness of a proposed toast to "Woman!" and making elaborate plans to visit Oxford and host more dinner parties. Meanwhile, they all continue to drink and smoke.
Although David's drunkenness is comical, it's a mark of David's inexperience that he so disastrously misjudges how much he can and should drink. It also speaks badly of how deeply in thrall he is to Steerforth, since the novel implies that it is only through Steerforth's influence that he is acting this way.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
At some point, David becomes aware that he is leaning out his window, trying to catch a breeze and scolding himself for trying to smoke. Some time after that, someone suggests going to the theater, which David agrees is a wonderful idea. David can't find the door and then falls down the stairs as they leave. Nevertheless, they manage to reach the theater, eventually settling in one of the boxes. Several of their neighbors tell David to be quiet, but David catches sight of Agnes and calls out to her. She also tries to get him to quiet down, before finally asking him to go home for her sake. Although he is annoyed, David does as she asks, Steerforth escorting him back to his apartment.
The fact that David is willing to follow Agnes's advice even in the midst of his confusion and irritation is significant: in the following chapter, David will call Agnes his "good angel," and her moral influence is at work even at David's lowest moments. This is another way in which Agnes resembles the ideal Victorian woman, whose role was in part to guide the men in her life both morally and spiritually.  
Themes
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
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David sleeps badly and wakes the following day with a terrible hangover. He is also deeply ashamed of his behavior and can't stop thinking about having disappointed Agnes. Worse still, he does not know where she is staying, so he realizes he can't apologize any time soon. For the rest of the day, David tortures himself with the idea that he will end up dying of drink like his apartment's prior occupant had. He toys with the idea of sharing his woes with Mrs. Crupp but does not feel she would make a very good confidant.
David automatically turns to Agnes as the moral standard against which to measure his own behavior. Once again, however, he fails to realize the significance of this—namely, that he relies on her in the same way he would rely on a wife.
Themes
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon