David Copperfield

David Copperfield

David Copperfield Chapter 43 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
David once again skims over several years, jumping ahead to his twenty-first birthday (the legal age of adulthood at the time). By this point, David has not only learned shorthand but also become modestly successful as a parliamentary reporter. He has also begun to publish a few works of fiction in magazines, further supplementing his income. Traddles, meanwhile, has qualified as a lawyer and is now earning money himself.
Given that David Copperfield is a coming-of-age story, the fact that David is now legally an adult is clearly significant. What's even more important, however, is his increasing success as a writer, and not just because of the money it brings in; David has finally found his vocation—a career that is not only profitable but also personally fulfilling.
Themes
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
David and Miss Betsey have moved out of his apartment and into a cottage, but Miss Betsey herself will soon be moving again to make room for Dora, whom David is finally marrying. In the meantime, Miss Lavinia works to assemble a wardrobe for Dora, while Miss Clarissa and Miss Betsey find furniture for the couple to look at and approve. Dora, however, sometimes buys less practical furnishings instead, including a "Chinese dog house" for Jip. Peggotty is also hard at work on David and Dora's behalf, cleaning the cottage and everything in it.
The fact that David has moved from his apartment to a cottage is a major step towards establishing a home and family of his own. Unfortunately, the episode involving the dog house once again hints that Dora will not be an ideal homemaker. The dog house is ornamental and completely impractical—it doesn’t evn serve its intended purpose at first because the sound of the bells that decorate it frightens Jip.
Themes
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David no longer spends much time at Doctors' Commons, but Traddles does visit him there on the day he goes to obtain a marriage license. David can hardly believe he is about to be married, and tells Traddles he hopes that next time they will be coming for Traddles' license. Traddles hopes the same, but says it is comforting to know Sophy will wait for him indefinitely. In any case, he says, he is almost as happy as if he were marrying himself, particularly since Sophy is taking part in the ceremony as a bridesmaid. That evening, Sophy and Agnes (who is also a bridesmaid) arrive at Miss Lavinia's and Miss Clarissa's home. Traddles proudly introduces Sophy to David, who describes her as "not absolutely beautiful" but extremely friendly and kind-looking.
Traddles is characteristically selfless on the topic of David's marriage; although Traddles has been engaged longer and is still unable to marry, he doesn't resent David's good fortune. Ultimately, it may be just as well that Traddles and Sophy wait so long to get married, because it ensures that the relationship—unlike David and Dora's—is based on something beyond infatuation. Sophy's physical appearance underscores this point: she isn't beautiful like Dora, but has other qualities that make her a good companion.
Themes
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David's state of dazed happiness continues into the next day, when he and his friends visit the cottage he and Dora will live in. He finds himself "unable to regard [him]self as its master," although it has already been furnished with everything from Dora's guitar to Jip's dog house.
David's difficulty in imagining himself as "master" of his cottage is understandable, given his inexperience; as the presence of the guitar and dog house suggest, neither he nor Dora really know much about what they need to establish a household.
Themes
Home and Family Theme Icon
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That evening before dinner, Miss Lavinia privately brings Dora to see David in the dress she'll be wearing for the wedding. Dora asks David whether the dress is pretty, and whether he is "sure" about Dora herself, and Miss Lavinia has to stop the couple from embracing to prevent her bonnet from being crushed.
Dora's question once again hints at her suspicions that David would be better off marrying someone else.
Themes
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
The next morning, David wakes up (still in a state of disbelief) and goes to collect Miss Betsey. Peggotty and Mr. Dick are also attending the wedding; in fact, Mr. Dick is giving Dora away. David also meets Traddles along the way, and everyone takes a carriage to church for the "fairy marriage." Just before they arrive, Miss Betsey squeezes David's hand and kisses him, saying she loves him like her own son, and that she can't help but think of Clara Copperfield on this occasion. David says that he is also thinking about his mother, along with everything Miss Betsey herself has done for him. Miss Betsey brushes this off, and they all enter the church.
On the one hand, David's description of the wedding as a "fairy marriage" is a reference to his own deliriously happy state at the time. However, it's also a commentary on how flimsy and fanciful his and Dora's understanding of marriage was. The reference to David's mother also becomes more bittersweet in retrospect as Dora's story begins to parallel Clara's more closely, culminating in her death.
Themes
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David explains that he has onlyDora entering, as well as various other people in the church, including "disagreeable" looking pew-openers and an "ancient mariner […] strongly flavoring the church with rum." At some point, Miss Lavinia begins crying and has to be revived by Miss Clarissa. David also sees Miss Betsey crying, despite her attempts to look "stern." Dora, meanwhile, is trembling throughout the ceremony and clinging to Agnes's hand for support; when the wedding is over, she finally bursts into tears on her father's account, though she quickly cheers up as everyone signs the register.
Given how detailed David's memory usually is, it's striking that his impressions of the ceremony are so vague. However, this is in keeping with the idea of the wedding being a "fairy marriage"; David's happiness on the day of his wedding to Dora is almost otherworldly, and consequently difficult to fully capture in narrative. This in turn reflects David's complex attitude towards his memories of Dora. Although he ultimately claims that she was not the ideal partner for him, he often sounds wistful when talking about their time together, depicting it as a kind of lost paradise.
Themes
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
The aftermath of the wedding is similarly hazy to David. As he and Dora walk out of the church together, he is vaguely reminded of his childhood in Blunderstone. Everyone is very cheerful on the ride back, and Sophy jokes that she is surprised Traddles didn't lose the marriage license David entrusted him with. A breakfast follows, but David can't remember what he ate, or what he said in the speech he gave.
Once again, David's memories of Blunderstone hint at parallels between Dora and Clara Copperfield, suggesting that David has married Dora in part as an attempt to recapture his childhood happiness with his beautiful but childlike mother.
Themes
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Eventually, Dora goes to change out of her wedding dress and the couple prepares to leave—delayed by the fact that Dora keeps forgetting things. Finally, Dora says her goodbyes to her aunts and leaves with David, carrying Jip to reassure him that she still loves him. Just before she and David get in the carriage, Dora runs back to say one more goodbye to Agnes. She and David then leave for their new home, and David finally believes he is really married as Dora asks one more time whether he is sure he doesn't "repent."
The fact that Dora is unsure of David's love for her on the very day of their wedding is a red flag to readers that Dora isn’t in fact the "right" wife for David. Once again, however, the novel takes pains to emphasize that there's no animosity between Dora and Agnes, thereby paving the way for David to guiltlessly remarry.
Themes
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David closes the chapter by saying that he will now resume his story, having "stood aside to see the phantom of those days go by [him]."
It's interesting that David distinguishes between his memories of his wedding and the "journey of his story"—particularly because the entire narrative he's writing consists of memories. In this case, David implies that he has taken a less active role in shaping his memories; he has passively "stood aside" and let himself re-experience them. This perhaps speaks to one of David's motives in writing a memoir, which is that it allows him to guiltlessly re-experience moments that were pleasurable but, in hindsight, immature or irresponsible.
Themes
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon