David Copperfield

David Copperfield

David Copperfield Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
David proposes that Mr. Dick stay in the same room Mr. Peggotty had rented, and takes him to see it. While there, David learns that although Miss Betsey had already told Mr. Dick her news before they left, he had not seemed upset to hear it. David accordingly begins to explain what being "ruined" could involve, but regrets it when Mr. Dick starts to cry. As they continue talking, David realizes that Mr. Dick actually had understood Miss Betsey, but had so much faith in her that he assumed she would be able to recover from the setback easily. Mr. Dick then begins to ask whether working on the Memorial might help, but David says the most important thing he can do at the moment is remain outwardly cheerful. Mr. Dick, however, is not always able to do this.
Mr. Dick's relationship with Miss Betsey in many ways resembles a marriage, but with the traditional gender roles flipped. In this case, it is the man who has boundless faith in the woman's determination and ingenuity, and who provides moral support for her in times of crisis. Although the dynamic is comical at times, it is functional, and David at least greatly admires Mr. Dick's devotion to Miss Betsey. 
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Returning to David's apartment, David and Mr. Dick find Miss Betsey looking calm. David gives her his bed to sleep in, but she refuses to allow him to prepare her usual nightly glass of wine for her, saying she'll have ale instead. Peggotty then takes Mr. Dick to his own room for the night, and Miss Betsey attempts to convince David that she is happy with her ale. She then turns the conversation to Peggotty, complaining about her name and the ease with which she handed away her money to her brother. She admits, however, that she likes Peggotty, and is so moved by her generosity and devotion that she begins to cry.
By and large, Miss Betsey reacts to the loss of her money with calm practicality: for instance, she asks David to give her ale rather than wine as a way of saving money. She isn't able to maintain an entirely unsentimental demeanor, however, as evidenced by the discussion of Peggotty. Although Miss Betsey attempts to take a hard-headed view on saving money, she is clearly touched by Peggotty's actions.
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Miss Betsey explains that while David was away with Mr. Dick, she and Peggotty talked about little Em'ly; Miss Betsey feels little sympathy for her, on account of the trouble she has caused. She then asks whether David "fancies himself in love," which offends David. When Miss Betsey goes on to question whether Dora is "silly," however, he is struck by the idea. His aunt then explains that she doesn’t mean to insult Dora, but she seems to pity both Dora and David for their naiveté. David attempts to convince her that he and Dora truly love one another despite their "inexperience." Miss Betsey says he reminds her of Clara Copperfield, and needs an "earnest" partner to steady him. David protests again, and Miss Betsey attempts to placate him by saying that although "girl and boy attachments" often fall through, she'll treat the affair seriously.
Miss Betsey suspects that Dora may not be the right partner for David long before David himself does. Her remark about "girl and boy attachments" implies that part of her hesitation stems simply from the couple's young age, and a sense that they aren't yet ready to take such a life-altering step as marriage. Perhaps because she knows David's tendency towards fancifulness, however, Miss Betsey also suspects that Dora may be similarly impractical and "light-headed." Since Miss Betsey hopes to encourage the "earnestness" she senses in David, she therefore hopes to see him married to a more serious-minded woman.
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David goes to bed and broods about how Miss Betsey's loss is likely to affect his engagement to Dora. When he finally falls asleep, he has several dreams about poverty, and continuously wakes to hear his aunt pacing around the apartment. At one point, she enters David's room and exclaims "Poor boy!" to herself, causing David to feel guilty about his own self-absorption. The night seems endless, and when David finally falls asleep for good, he dreams about Dora at a party, "incessantly dancing one dance" and ignoring David.
David's love for Dora exacerbates his fears of falling into poverty. It's not simply that he would, if married to Dora, have an obligation to provide for her, but rather that he senses that Dora is ill-equipped to the kind of life he now envisions for himself. Dora has so far lived a plush life, where she has never had to consider anything beyond her own amusement (here symbolized by her dancing). David's dreams suggest that Dora will have trouble adapting to a more modest, disciplined existence.
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The next morning, David rises before Miss Betsey and goes to Doctors' Commons to see if he can cancel his apprenticeship and recover the premium Miss Betsey had paid. He arrives there early and waylays Mr. Spenlow, asking to speak with him. Once in Mr. Spenlow's office, David explains what has happened and makes his proposal. Mr. Spenlow, however, says he can't cancel David's articles, although he assigns the blame for this to Mr. Jorkins. Reluctantly, he allows David to go and ask Mr. Jorkins, but Jorkins insists that he himself objects to the proposal when he learns that Spenlow has vetoed it. David then returns to Mr. Spenlow and describes the conversation, saying (truthfully) that Jorkins seemed sympathetic. Spenlow, however, says that Jorkins's demeanor is misleading, and that he will never change his mind.
To David's credit, he responds to his aunt's financial crisis quickly and decisively, trying to cut her losses by canceling his articles at Spenlow and Jorkins. The resistance he encounters here, however, is a good example of the kind of institutional red tape Dickens often criticizes in his novels: not only is David unable to recover the premium, but he encounters a system that seems designed to be as confusing and discouraging as possible.
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David is "bewildered" by his interactions with Mr. Spenlow and Mr. Jorkins, but realizes he will not be able to get the premium back. As he walks home, considering what to do next, a coach stops next to him and David looks up to see Agnes inside. David excitedly says that she is the person he most wants to see, and Agnes teases him that he ought to say that about Dora. She then explains that she has come to visit Miss Betsey, who sent a note to Agnes explaining her misfortune. David and Agnes then decide to walk the rest of the way home together, David feeling immensely more hopeful than he had earlier.
The fact that David immediately takes heart when he sees Agnes suggests that it is she, rather than Dora, who ought to be his fiancée: after all, she is already functioning as his emotional support and moral compass. Part of what makes Agnes an ideal woman, however, is her selflessness, so it is significant that she gently tries to direct David to rely more on Dora, despite appearing to be in love with him herself. Agnes's ultimate wish is to see David happy and successful, even married to another woman.
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As they walk, Agnes tells David that Mr. Wickfield and Uriah are in London as well; they are now partners, and Agnes has made the journey with them in part to protect her father. She further explains that Uriah and Mrs. Heep now live with the Wickfields (Uriah in David's old room), and that the entire atmosphere of the house has changed. David and Agnes briefly reminisce about their first meeting and how happy they were as children, before the conversation returns to the Heeps: Agnes has little time to herself now, because Mrs. Heep always wants to speak to her about Uriah. Meanwhile, she is unable to spend much time with her father. She hints that she suspects Uriah of "fraud or treachery," but David does not think she is aware of Uriah's hopes of marrying her.
Thanks to Agnes's presence (and her skills as a housekeeper), the Wickfield household has up until this point been an idyllic place, even taking Mr. Wickfield's alcoholism into account. Uriah's presence in the house, however, entirely changes its character: instead of acting as a shelter from the pressures of the outside world, the Wickfield's home has now been invaded by one of those pressures. Uriah's presence in the household threatens to override even David's memories of the Wickfield home, which likewise serve as a source of comfort and strength; Uriah, for instance, now sleeps in David's bedroom, as if he has taken David's place in the household.
Themes
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Agnes asks whether David knows how Miss Betsey lost her fortune, and seems anxious when he says that he does not. At that moment, however, they arrive home and find Miss Betsey agitated after arguing with Mrs. Crupp about whether it is appropriate for Miss Betsey to stay there. She is pleased to see Agnes, however, and David admires how naturally Agnes draws people into her confidence.
Mrs. Crupp objects to Miss Betsey's presence on the grounds that it's inappropriate for a woman to live in a set of rented rooms. Although Miss Betsey eventually gets her way, even she isn't immune to the strict social conventions surrounding women's behavior in nineteenth-century England.
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David tells Agnes and Miss Betsey about his attempts to cancel his apprenticeship, and his aunt says that his actions were "generous" but unwise. As Miss Betsey begins to explain how she lost her money, Agnes looks very pale. Miss Betsey then says that she ignored the advice of Mr. Wickfield and made several imprudent investments. When she finishes her story, Agnes asks her whether she has said everything, and—when Miss Betsey says that she has—looks relieved. David assumes that Agnes had feared her father was responsible for Miss Betsey's losses.
Miss Betsey's account of how she lost her money is not entirely truthful; Mr. Wickfield was in fact involved, and Miss Betsey is attempting to protect his reputation. Similarly, Agnes's anxiety stems from fears that her father might have been involved in business dealings that were not only unwise, but actually illegal. Although it turns out that Mr. Wickfield did not play the role in Miss Betsey's losses that both she and Agnes suspect, his descent into alcoholism has clearly affected his ability to do his job.
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Miss Betsey summarizes her financial situation for David and Agnes: she expects to earn about 70 pounds a year from renting the cottage, and Mr. Dick has his own income that she will not touch. Before Agnes can offer any advice, David interrupts and says he "must do something" immediately to help his aunt. Miss Betsey guesses that he is thinking of joining the army or navy and rejects the idea, at which point Agnes asks whether David has signed a lease on his apartment. This turns out to be the case, so Miss Betsey says that the most practical solution is for her to stay with David until the contract has expired. David protests that this will be uncomfortable for Miss Betsey, but she hushes him. 
David's offer to join the army or navy, though well meaning, is not especially well thought out. Aside from the risk involved (which Miss Betsey objects to), his apartment is already paid for, so his leaving it would be a waste of money. In other words, David's inexperience and rashness once again surfaces in this scene, contrasting with Agnes's greater maturity and level-headedness.
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Agnes suggests that, if David can find the time, he might be able to earn some money as a secretary: Doctor Strong is retiring to London and is looking for an assistant. David is free in both the early morning and late afternoon and, delighted with Agnes's proposal, immediately writes to Doctor Strong about it.
Once again, Agnes demonstrates her ability to nudge David in the right direction; in fact, David again repeats that she is his "good angel" in this scene, alluding to the gentle guidance she provides for him. His remark also links Agnes's sound career advice to morality, which is appropriate given the connection the novel establishes between work ethic and personal character.
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When David returns from posting his letter to Doctor Strong, he discovers that Agnes has quietly rearranged the apartment to give it a more homey atmosphere. Miss Betsey seems to be in a slightly better mood about the prospect of staying in London, although she is still worried about the smog.
Part of what makes Agnes an ideal homemaker (and Victorian woman) is the fact that she never seems to be working; as David notes in this scene, his apartment seems to have rearranged itself. This is significant, because the Victorian home was supposed to be entirely separate from the outer world of labor and toil.
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Related Quotes
There is a knock on the door, and Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep arrive. David notices that Mr. Wickfield looks much worse than the last time he saw him, and not only physically: he seems ashamed of himself and his situation, and only greets Miss Betsey after Agnes urges him to do so. Wickfield is also deferential to Uriah, much to David's dismay: "[T]he thing that struck me most, was that with the evidences of his native superiority still upon him, he should submit himself to that crawling impersonation of meanness, Uriah Heep."
David's characterization of Uriah often blurs the lines between class and morality. The words David associates with Wickfield and Uriah—"superiority" and "meanness," respectively—most explicitly refer to each man's moral character, but they also have class-based connotations. As a result, it's difficult to determine what David finds most offensive about Uriah: his villainy, or his lower-class background.
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Miss Betsey explains that she has been telling Agnes about her finances, and that Agnes is "worth the whole firm." When Uriah Heep agrees, Miss Betsey retorts that being a partner himself should satisfy him. Uriah then turns to David and makes a show of sympathizing with his situation. He also asks David how he thinks Mr. Wickfield looks and praises Agnes's beauty. He "jerks about" while saying all this, causing Miss Betsey to finally snap at him to "control his limbs." This subdues Uriah a bit, although he also remarks to David that he expects Miss Betsey's usual "quick temper" is even quicker than usual due to stress. He then says he simply wants to offer his own, or the firm's, services to Miss Betsey and David.
Part of what marks Uriah's ambition as evil is the fact that it does not stop at becoming Wickfield's partner. Uriah makes no secret of the fact that he hopes to marry Agnes, and is in many ways depicted as a sexual predator; his "writhing" for instance, escalates as he talks about Agnes's beauty. This is to some extent understandable, since Uriah's status in the firm and in the household does place him in a position where he could easily exploit Agnes. However, it's also worthwhile comparing Agnes's and Uriah's relationship to the similarly cross-class relationship of Emily and Steerforth. Although Dickens condemns the latter in a different way, he doesn't depict it as so viscerally disgusting as the dynamic between Uriah and Agnes. Arguably, this reflects the belief that middle-class women like Agnes were purer than their working-class counterparts, and therefore polluted by the interest of lower-class men.
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Mr. Wickfield says he agrees with Uriah, and that Uriah has helped him by relieving him of much of his workload. Uriah exclaims that he is grateful to be of help, ignoring Mr. Wickfield's obvious lack of enthusiasm. Agnes asks whether her father will stay with her and David for a while, and Uriah answers for him, saying that Mr. Wickfield can "represent the firm" while he himself goes to attend to business.
Since Uriah is the junior partner in the firm, his behavior in this scene—answering on Wickfield's behalf and essentially giving his partner orders—is completely inappropriate. Clearly, however, he intends to make it clear to everyone present that he's effectively in charge of the business at this point.  
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After Uriah leaves, the rest of the group reminisces about their time in Canterbury, and Mr. Wickfield slowly begins to seem more like himself. David attributes this to Agnes's influence, although Mr. Wickfield never entirely shakes off his melancholy. David then returns with Agnes and Mr. Wickfield to their rooms and has dinner with them. Afterwards, Agnes pours her father's wine for him as usual and then settles him in to sleep on the sofa. David says he hopes that he never forgets how gently and lovingly Agnes acted that night, both toward her father and toward David himself.
Mr. Wickfield's relationship to the past is often unhealthy; his inability to move beyond his wife's death, for instance, contributes to his alcoholism. In this case, however, memory is a source of solace to him (although a bittersweet one, given how his life has changed). Meanwhile, Agnes continues to function more as a mother or wife to her father than as a daughter. The fact that she assists her father in his drinking despite wishing that he would stop is an especially clear example of how tangled and codependent their relationship is. 
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After Mr. Wickfield falls asleep, Agnes and David talk about Dora for a while, and David finds he loves Dora more and more as Agnes talks about her. When David leaves for the night, he hears a beggar muttering "blind" over and over. This startles David, because it is also what Miss Betsey said when he was describing his love for Dora to her.
Like the repetition of the word "blind," Agnes's ability to make Dora seem even more loveable to David is an indication that David's engagement to Dora is misguided, and that it's actually Agnes herself David loves: everything associated with her takes on added charm. Agnes's approval also foreshadows Dora's eventual blessing of the match between Agnes and David.
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