David explains that his narrative is now finished, and announces that he will "look back, once more—for the last time—before I close these leaves."
The suggestion that David isn't ever going to reread his memoir once it's finished speaks to how powerful and potentially dangerous a force memory is in the novel. David has often taken pleasure in re-experiencing his past through writing, but for that very reason, he needs to avoid the temptation to lose himself in memories and neglect the present and future.
David pictures himself with Agnes and his children, "journeying along the road of life," surrounded by many other people. He then describes these "faces." Miss Betsey, for instance, is now in her eighties but is still "a steady walker of six miles at a stretch." Peggotty, meanwhile, is now "shrivelled" rather than ruddy, but retains her old habit of needlework, and still carries around the book about crocodiles that David read as a child. She shows this to David's children (two of whom she is godmother to), reminding David of his own childhood. Mr. Dick also spends time with David's children, flying his kite with the boys and saying that he intends to finish the Memorial when he has time.
David's closing depiction of his life strikes a balance between change and continuity. Major figures from David's own childhood, like Peggotty and Miss Betsey, are still present and recognizable, though older. Interestingly, these figures also fill exactly the same role in the lives of David's children that they once did in David's own, with Mr. Dick flying his kite and Peggotty entertaining them with the "crocodile book." In other words, part of David's reward for successfully completing the transition to adulthood is to re-experience happy memories of his childhood through his own children.
David describes a visit to Mrs. Steerforth and Rosa. Although Mrs. Steerforth still possesses "traces of old pride and beauty," her overall state of mind is confused and "fretful." She asks Rosa who David is and, when Rosa tells her, says she is sorry he is in mourning and asks whether he has reconciled with Steerforth. She then suddenly remembers that Steerforth is dead and cries out for Rosa, who alternately soothes her and insists that she loved Steerforth "better."
Having refused to allow her son to grow up, Mrs. Steerforth's "punishment" is, appropriately, to remain permanently stuck in the past—specifically, the moments just before and after she learned of Steerforth's death. Rosa is similarly trapped—in her case, by her inability to let go of her obsession with Steerforth and her anger at his mother.
Miss Mills eventually returns from India married to a very wealthy man. She has several servants and now talks about money rather than the miseries of love. David disapproves of this and "what Julia calls 'society,'" which includes people like Jack Maldon. Maldon himself is safe in a post Doctor Strong secured for him, but nevertheless speaks condescendingly of the Doctor, calling him "charmingly antique."
Although David is well off at this point, his disdain for overt money-grubbing is a sign of both his moral character and his respectability: someone secure in their class position can afford to condemn people who take a clear interest in amassing wealth. David's distaste for "society" also speaks to his own middle-class values—particularly the importance of hard work, which causes him to disapprove of people who embrace idleness in an attempt to appear upper-class.
Meanwhile, Doctor Strong continues to work on his dictionary. He and Annie Strong now have a happy life together, in part because Mrs. Markleham no longer has the influence she once had.
David suggests that the Strongs' marital problems stemmed mostly from Mrs. Markleham's undue power in the household, which disrupted the balance of the traditional nuclear family. Now that Mrs. Markleham has been put in her place, the Strongs lead a happy life together.
Traddles is now a very successful lawyer on the cusp of becoming a judge. He reminisces with David about the period when Sophy acted as his clerk. As the two men walk to Sophy’s birthday dinner, Traddles also remarks that he has been able to accomplish many other things he wished to, including providing Sophy's father with a larger income, educating his sons well, and seeing several of Sophy's sisters happily married. Three other sisters have come to live with Sophy and Traddles, while an additional three keep house for Sophy's father. The only one who is not happy is "the Beauty," who married a "vagabond." She has since separated from her husband and is living with Traddles and Sophy, who are trying to cheer her up.
Like David, Traddles has reached the pinnacle of Victorian success through hard work and patience: he has both a thriving career and an idyllic family life. Still, the "Beauty's" unfortunate marriage is a reminder that life doesn't always work out so tidily for essentially good people.
Traddles and David reach Traddles's house, which is one of the properties he and Sophy used to look at. Since so many of Sophy's relatives are either living with or visiting them at any given time, Traddles and his wife have "squeezed themselves" into some small upstairs rooms. Everyone sits down to dinner, and David notes that Traddles and Sophy now have real silverware.
As their willingness to inconvenience themselves demonstrates, Traddles and Sophy are as selfless as ever. Despite this, Traddles has managed to advance quickly in his career, and the couple now has the material possessions (for instance, good silverware) associated with upper-middle class status.
David explains that he is approaching the end of his story and "subduing [his] desire to linger yet," but that one face—Agnes's—remains with him even as he does so. He sees her next to him, keeping him company while he writes late into the night. He then closes with a prayer that when he "closes [his] life indeed," Agnes will still be beside him, "pointing upward."
Once again, David hints that he must resist the temptation to surrender himself to his memories. It's in large part Agnes who allows him to remain focused on the future. In fact, the gentle guidance she has provided for David throughout the novel here becomes spiritual in nature: Agnes is no longer simply providing David with guidance on work and relationships, but actually pointing him toward heaven.