David Copperfield

David Copperfield

David Copperfield Chapter 33 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Far from distracting David from Dora, Barkis's death and Emily's disappearance just make her seem even "purer" and more loveable in comparison. Once they are back in London, David tells Peggotty that he has fallen in love and is somewhat disappointed that she doesn't consider his love as hopeless as he does. Whenever he is in Court, David finds it strange that the judges and lawyers around don't worship Dora as he does, and ends up "despising" them and the place as a result.
Dora's "purity" stems in part from her childishness. Although David clearly finds her attractive, his relationship with her lacks the implied sexual edge of his relationship with Emily; in fact, Dora eventually dies as an indirect result of marrying and sleeping with David, underscoring the fact that she's basically a girl rather than a woman. This in turn reflects the broader immaturity of the relationship—for instance, David's childish disappointment that Dora might share his feelings and therefore undermine his self-indulgently lovelorn state.
Themes
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Meanwhile, David takes Peggotty sightseeing and helps her to sort out her legal and financial affairs. When the latter are settled, she goes with David to Doctors' Commons to pay her bill. When Mr. Spenlow comes to greet them, however, they are surprised to see that Mr. Murdstone is with him. A tense exchange follows in which Murdstone expresses his condolences over Barkis's death and Peggotty pointedly says that she can take comfort in the fact that no one—including herself—was responsible for it. Murdstone seems somewhat shaken by this, but then tells David that they are unlikely to see each other again soon, taking the opportunity to once again criticize David's character. Murdstone then leaves, having paid for a marriage license. Mr. Spenlow and David chat, and it emerges that Murdstone is marrying a woman who is wealthy, young, and beautiful.
Mr. Murdstone's reappearance in a chapter otherwise about David and Dora foreshadows the tensions that will eventually arise in the latter's relationship. Although David is never cruel to Dora in the way that Murdstone is to his wives, he unwittingly begins to mimic Murdstone's actions in his efforts to make Dora a more serious and mature person.
Themes
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Peggotty settles her business with Mr. Spenlow and leaves, while Spenlow and David go to hear a divorce case in court. The case hinges on a legal technicality the husband is exploiting to get rid of his wife, which David finds morally questionable. He and Mr. Spenlow debate the issue, with David finally suggesting that he thinks improvements could be made to the legal system. Mr. Spenlow asks David to explain what he means, so David outlines a lengthy critique of the "Prerogative Office," noting that it is irresponsible to keep wills in such a disorganized and dilapidated building, that the clerks who do the most important work are paid the least, and so on. Mr. Spenlow, however, insists that the system is the best one possible and that it is not "gentlemanly" to question the existing order.
Since the legal system helps to maintain different kinds of social hierarchies, Mr. Spenlow's defense of the legal system is at heart a defense of the existing order, including the class system, gender norms, and so on. This is of course relatively easy for Spenlow to do, since he benefits from the status quo, and in fact, Spenlow himself associates his status as a "gentleman" with the ability to "take things as he found them."
Themes
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David finally drops the issue of the Commons, but he and Mr. Spenlow continue to chat. Eventually, Mr. Spenlow invites David to a picnic on Dora's birthday the following week. David is so excited by the prospect that he commits several "absurdities" over the next few days, including buying a new cravat and hiring and riding a horse to Dora's house.
Once again, David's feelings for Dora cause him to act foolishly—in this case, by wasting money on luxuries intended to impress her. As is often the case, however, David recalls his youthful foolishness fondly and with a hint of regret that it's now in the past.
Themes
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When David arrives at Mr. Spenlow's, he finds Dora sitting in the garden with Jip and a friend named Miss Julia Mills. David presents Dora with a bouquet of flowers but is too flustered to compliment her as he had planned. Dora is pleased with them, however, and cheerfully tells him that Miss Murdstone is away attending Mr. Murdstone's wedding. Meanwhile, Miss Mills watches Dora and David with "an air of superior wisdom and benevolence"; David later learns she has had her heart broken and has "retired from the world" as a result.
David guesses that Miss Mills is about 20—only slightly older than Dora. Therefore, the fact that Miss Mills positions herself as the voice of experience (and that David takes her basically at face value) is a gently humorous reminder of how young and inexperienced everyone involved in the relationship is.
Themes
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Mr. Spenlow appears, and he, Dora, and Miss Mills take a carriage to their destination, with David riding alongside. David is in such a dreamy state throughout the ride that he doesn't know where exactly they end up. He notices, however, that it is a "green spot, on a hill," and that there are people there waiting for him, which immediately makes him jealous. He feels particular hatred toward a man with red whiskers making a salad, because Dora helps wash and slice the lettuce for him. Later, David sees "Red Whisker" sitting near Dora while eating and "flirts desperately" with another woman in response. Eventually, David wanders off alone and gloomily considers leaving. At that moment, however, Dora and Miss Mills find him.
Like David's early childhood at the Rookery, the picnic with Dora seems to take place in a kind of dreamy fantasy world. It's likely that David's memories of the day are idealized, but this is significant in and of itself, because it suggests that David sees his courtship of Dora as a more innocent period of his life; even his disappointments and missteps (for instance, flirting with another woman in revenge) are treated comically.
Themes
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Miss Mills says that both Dora and David seem depressed, and advises them not to "allow a trivial misunderstanding to wither the blossoms of spring." David ecstatically kisses Dora and Miss Mills' hands in response, and the three of them then walk among the trees in a transported state that David wishes could have lasted forever.
Miss Mills habitually speaks in a flowery and world-weary manner designed to enhance her reputation as an expert in romance. In retrospect, David finds her mannerisms faintly ridiculous, but they're in keeping with the more general youthful foolishness of his relationship with Dora.
Themes
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Someone back at the picnic eventually calls out for Dora, so she, David, and Miss Mills return. Dora plays on her guitar and sings, and David continues to be deliriously happy. After tea, they return home with Mr. Spenlow, who falls asleep in the carriage. Miss Mills asks David to ride alongside her for a moment, and then tells him that Dora will be coming to stay at her house, where David can visit if he likes. He spends the rest of the ride home talking to Dora.
Dora's singing and guitar-playing are, like Dora herself, pretty and ornamental but impractical. They're also conventional "accomplishments" for a well-to-do nineteenth-century woman, so it's worth noting that Dora's adherence to one set of gender expectations is what prevents her from living up to another.
Themes
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David decides he needs to tell Dora how he feels, and spends the next three days torturing himself with thoughts that she does not return his feelings. Finally, he goes to Miss Mills' house where he finds Dora painting the bouquet of flowers he had given her. Miss Mills leaves them alone together, and David waffles on whether to tell Dora or not while they talk about David's horse: David says the ride was long for the horse because he "had nothing to uphold him," but Dora doesn't catch the compliment and asks whether the horse hadn't been fed. Once David clarifies what he means, Dora retorts that he didn't seem so happy to be near her when he was flirting with Miss Kitt, but that he can do whatever he likes. 
David's awkwardness, combined with Dora's guilelessness, once again thwart his attempts to flirt with and pay compliments to her. 
Themes
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David bursts out that he is in love with Dora while Jip stands nearby barking. He grows more and more passionate as he continues, saying he will die if she wants him to, and that no one has ever loved anyone as truly as he loves her. At some point, however, both David and Dora (who has been crying) calm down and end up sitting next to one another on the sofa, engaged. Dora says she won't marry without Mr. Spenlow's permission, but David admits that they really had very little idea of marriage, or of the future. In the meantime, they decide to keep their engagement a secret.
David's declaration is fumbling and comical; he describes himself as "raving," and Jip's incessant barking gives the scene a sense of slapstick humor. Interestingly, David's account also skips over the actual proposal, perhaps implying that he wasn't in his senses at the time and consequently doesn't remember it. What's more, he remarks that neither he nor Dora was really thinking of marriage in a serious way at the time. All of this highlights the fact that David's decision to marry Dora is not a measured and thoughtful one; in fact, it's hardly a conscious decision at all.
Themes
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Dora goes and fetches Miss Mills, who wishes her and David well. David then measures Dora's finger and goes to a jeweler: the ring he orders resembles a chain of forget-me-nots, and he associates it with Dora forever afterwards.
Fittingly, the ring David buys features forget-me-nots, underscoring the nostalgia that colors so much of his relationship with Dora.
Themes
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David spends the next few weeks in a state of bliss, feeling as though he is separate from and above all the people he passes in the streets. A week after their engagement, he and Dora quarrel and she returns his ring, plunging David into despair. Miss Mills urges them to make up, however, and they end up as "blest" as ever. Looking back, David says that this was both a "foolish" time and one that he thinks of with exceptional "tenderness."
Much as he has throughout the chapter, David looks back fondly on the innocence of his relationship with Dora. Their quarrels are silly and melodramatic, but the very fact that they aren't serious is somewhat charming in retrospect, as David has since contend with deeper and more troubling problems.
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