David Copperfield

David Copperfield

David Copperfield Chapter 34 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
David writes to Agnes to tell her of his engagement to Dora, and finds himself thinking of Agnes as one of the "elements of [his] natural home." He also tells her about little Em'ly's disappearance, though he avoids any mention of Steerforth, hoping she will simply guess the truth.
The fact that David can't imagine a home without Agnes, even now that he's engaged to another woman, is a clear sign that Agnes is meant to be his wife.
Themes
Home and Family Theme Icon
While David has been spending time with Dora, Traddles has stopped by his apartment a few times and stuck up a friendship with Peggotty, who is often there (much to the annoyance of Mrs. Crupp, who refuses to act as housekeeper while Peggotty remains). One day Traddles manages to catch David at home, assuring him that he entirely understands David's reasons for being gone so often. David questions how Traddles can stand to be away from his fiancée (who lives in Devonshire), and Traddles says he manages it "because there's no help for it." He also attributes his patience to his fiancée, Sophy, who is always preoccupied tutoring, tending to, and humoring her nine siblings and invalid mother.
Traddles and Sophy's patience and realism contrasts vividly with David and Dora's hasty and fanciful engagement. Significantly, however, Traddles suggests that he is patient because he has had to be. This lays the groundwork for the transformation David himself will undergo later in this chapter when his aunt loses all her money. The loss prevents David and Dora from marrying in the near future, and forces David to become more patient, disciplined, and industrious like Traddles.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David is still anxious about Traddles's financial situation, so he asks after Mr. Micawber. Traddles explains that the he is no longer living with the Micawbers, because the entire household was forced to vacate the premises after another debt was called in. Nevertheless, Traddles is not angry with the Micawbers, although he was sorry to see the furniture he'd been saving repossessed (including the flower pot and table). Fortunately, he has found the pieces at a local pawnshop, and asks whether Peggotty might be willing to buy them on his behalf, since the broker will run up the price if he knows Traddles wants them. David assures Traddles that Peggotty will help, but makes him promise not to lend anything to Micawber in the future. Traddles is happy to do this for Sophy's sake, but he still feels hopeful Micawber's plans will succeed in the end.
For Traddles, the lost flower pot and table are symbols of the middle-class home he hopes to establish with Sophy one day; they are decorative objects intended to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere rather than to serve any particular and necessary purpose. Recovering the items is therefore a legitimate concern, although the scene itself is humorous. Meanwhile, the Micawbers' existence is as precarious as ever, and it is a mark of Traddles' optimism and generosity that he continues to believe, against all evidence, that Micawber is on the verge of success.
Themes
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David and Traddles go find Peggotty and carry through with their plan to buy back the flower pot and table. Afterwards, Traddles returns home while Peggotty goes with David back to his apartment. When they arrive, however, they find the door open and hear voices inside. Entering, they find Miss Betsey and Mr. Dick surrounded by luggage. David greets them, reintroducing his aunt to Peggotty, whom she insists on calling "Barkis" (she has always considered Peggotty's name "pagan" sounding). Meanwhile, Mrs. Crupp—who is eager to please Miss Betsey—has made tea. Mrs. Crupp then leaves, and Miss Betsey tells Mr. Dick that the landlady is an example of the "time-servers" and "wealth-worshippers" she is always warning him about.
Particularly given that she has just lost most of her own fortune, Miss Betsey's disdain for "wealth-worshippers" is significant. She clearly disapproves of people cozying up to wealth in the hopes of enriching themselves, but her remark also suggests a broader impatience with anyone who would view accumulating money as an end in and of itself. The remark therefore underscores the novel's broader depiction of ambition as suspicious, at least among the lower classes.
Themes
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
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Miss Betsey asks David to pour the tea, but David senses that she is stalling, and begins to worry that she has found out about his engagement and is here to scold him. He waits for his aunt to speak, however, and she asks whether David has become "firm, and self-reliant." When he replies that he hopes he has, Miss Betsey confesses that she is "ruined," and that her luggage is now all that she owns other than the cottage (which she is renting out). She hopes Peggotty will help find Mr. Dick a place to stay, but she asks to stay with David for the night, and discuss the issue further in the morning.
The question about self-reliance that Miss Betsey poses to David is significant for several reasons. For one, it ties into the novel's depiction of hard work and independence as a hallmark of maturity in a man. In fact, Miss Betsey seems less concerned with David finding an additional source of income and more with him becoming a more active and purposeful person.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
David is stunned, but he manages to "rouse" himself when Miss Betsey embraces him and begins crying that she is sorry on his account. She recovers quickly, however, and assures him that they will deal with this setback "boldly."
At this point in the novel, Miss Betsey is actually much firmer and self-reliant than David himself. Once again, however, the novel hints that she is only able to maintain this resolution and composure by tamping down her womanhood (in this case, the stereotypically feminine outburst of emotion). Regardless, her words while crying underscore the fact that she views David as her child, whom she has an obligation to provide for.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon