David Copperfield

David Copperfield

Dora Spenlow Character Analysis

Dora Spenlow is David's first wife and Mr. Spenlow’s daughter. Mr. Spenlow is a proctor for whom David is working when he and Dora first meet. She and David develop a youthful infatuation with one another and eventually marry, though not until after Mr. Spenlow, who objects to the match, has died. Although Mr. Spenlow ultimately proves to have exaggerated his fortune, it is true that Dora lived an extremely easy and luxurious life growing up as her father's only child. As a result, she is somewhat spoiled and frivolous. Much to David's dismay, she has never learned to budget money or keep accounts. These tendencies are exacerbated by Victorian gender norms, which, for women of Dora's social standing, tended to stress the acquisition of ornamental skills over practical or intellectual ones. Dora thus loves music, dancing, and teaching her dog, Jip, tricks, but she lacks the ability to run her husband's household or even fully empathize with his interests and pursuits. David initially finds this frustrating and attempts to reshape Dora's character to be more serious and mature. These efforts only distress Dora, however, and David eventually reconciles himself to accepting his wife for who she is. Nevertheless, Dora remains conscious of the fact that she has been a disappointment to her husband, and this knowledge perhaps contributes to her decline and death. Dora suggests on her deathbed that it would have been better if she and David had "loved each other as a boy and girl, and forgotten it."

Dora Spenlow Quotes in David Copperfield

The David Copperfield quotes below are all either spoken by Dora Spenlow or refer to Dora Spenlow. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin edition of David Copperfield published in 2013.
Chapter 33 Quotes

What an idle time! What an unsubstantial, happy, foolish time! Of all the times of mine that Time has in his grip, there is none that in one retrospection I can smile at half so much, and think of half so tenderly.

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Dora Spenlow
Page Number: 410
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 42 Quotes

Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness. Never to put one hand to anything, on which I could throw my whole self; and never to affect depreciation of my work, whatever it was, I find, now, to have been my golden rules.

How much of the practice I have just reduced to precept, I owe to Agnes, I will not repeat here. My narrative proceeds to Agnes, with a thankful love.

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Agnes Wickfield, Dora Spenlow
Page Number: 507
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 45 Quotes

"There is nothing," said Annie, "that we have in common. I have long found that there is nothing. If I were thankful to my husband for no more, instead of for so much, I should be thankful to him for having saved me from the first mistaken impulse of my undisciplined heart."

Page Number: 552
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 48 Quotes

Finding at last, however, that, although I had been all this time a very porcupine or hedgehog, bristling all over with determination, I had effected nothing, it began to occur to me that perhaps Dora's mind was already formed.

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Dora Spenlow
Related Symbols: Jip
Page Number: 580
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 53 Quotes

"I am afraid it would have been better, if we had only loved each other as a boy and girl, and forgotten it. I have begun to think I was not fit to be a wife.

[…] If I had been more fit to be married, I might have made you more so, too. Besides you are very clever, and I never was."

"We have been very happy, my sweet Dora."

"I was very happy, very. But, as years went on, my dear boy would have wearied of his child-wife. She would have been less and less a companion for him. He would have been more and more sensible of what was wanting in his home. She wouldn't have improved. It is better as it is."

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Dora Spenlow (speaker), Agnes Wickfield
Related Symbols: Jip
Page Number: 638
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 58 Quotes

I had thought, much and often, of my Dora's shadowing out to me what might have happened, in those years that were destined not to try us; I had considered how the things that never happen, are often as much realities to us, in their effects, as those that are accomplished. The very years she spoke of, were realities now, for my correction […] I endeavoured to convert what might have been between myself and Agnes, into a means of making me more self-denying, more resolved, more conscious of myself, and my defects and errors.

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Agnes Wickfield, Dora Spenlow
Page Number: 681
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 62 Quotes

And O, Agnes, even out of thy true eyes, in that same time, the spirit of my child-wife looked upon me, saying it was well; and winning me, through thee, to tenderest recollections of the Blossom that had withered in its bloom!

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Agnes Wickfield, Dora Spenlow
Page Number: 716
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dora Spenlow Character Timeline in David Copperfield

The timeline below shows where the character Dora Spenlow appears in David Copperfield. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 26: I Fall into Captivity
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...which has a beautiful garden. As they go inside, Mr. Spenlow asks for his daughter Dora, and David is immediately struck by the name. A moment later, David sees Dora and... (full context)
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David has difficulty dressing for dinner because he is so consumed with thoughts of Dora. At dinner, he is wildly jealous of anyone who seems to know Mr. Spenlow better... (full context)
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David, Mr. Spenlow, and the rest of the men rejoin Dora and Miss Murdstone, who pulls David aside. Although she can't help but complain a bit... (full context)
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Miss Murdstone walks away, and David spends the rest of the evening listening adoringly as Dora sings songs "to the effect that, whatever was the matter, we ought always to dance,... (full context)
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...decides to take a walk in the garden. On the way there, he comes across Dora's dog, Jip, who snarls at him. Nevertheless, he continues to fantasize about Dora as he... (full context)
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While he is strolling, David runs into Dora herself, who complains that Miss Murdstone hadn't wanted to let her outside, even though it... (full context)
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Dora asks whether David knows Miss Murdstone well and complains about her some more, saying that... (full context)
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Miss Murdstone eventually comes and fetches Dora and David for breakfast and church. David continues to fantasize about Dora throughout the service... (full context)
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...the next day to attend a case in Court. David is naturally distressed to leave Dora and can't focus on his work. In fact, this proves true for the next several... (full context)
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...says, the previous tenant was in love with a barmaid. David protests strenuously against associating Dora with a barmaid, but Mrs. Crupp simply urges him again to cheer up and "know... (full context)
Chapter 28: Mr. Micawber's Gauntlet
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David passes the time until his dinner party by thinking about Dora and eating very little, which he feels is appropriate to his "love-lorn condition." Having learned... (full context)
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...Mrs. Micawber finally resurfaces and makes tea, all the while pressing David more information about Dora. After tea is over, Mrs. Micawber performs a few ballads, and Mr. Micawber confides that... (full context)
Chapter 33: Blissful
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Far from distracting David from Dora, Barkis's death and Emily's disappearance just make her seem even "purer" and more loveable in... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Dora goes and fetches Miss Mills, who wishes her and David well. David then measures Dora's... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 34: My Aunt Astonishes Me
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While David has been spending time with Dora, Traddles has stopped by his apartment a few times and stuck up a friendship with... (full context)
Chapter 35: Depression
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..."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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 36: Enthusiasm
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...about the prospect of working hard to prove himself to Miss Betsey and to win Dora. In fact, he is sorry his situation is not more desperate and is tempted to... (full context)
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...Commons, David is now very busy. The thought that he is doing all this for Dora, however, thrills him—so much so that he sells several waistcoats to feel that he is... (full context)
Chapter 37: A Little Cold Water
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...passes, and David continues to feel wildly optimistic about the sacrifices he is making on Dora's behalf. He has not explained the situation to Dora herself, however, although he is scheduled... (full context)
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That evening, David goes to Miss Mills' and immediately asks Dora whether she "could love a beggar." When she realizes David is talking about himself, she... (full context)
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Dora says that she still loves David, but refuses to listen to anything more about how... (full context)
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Dora charms and distracts David for a while, but he eventually returns to his former subject... (full context)
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At this point, Miss Mills enters and asks what has happened. Dora says that David is a "poor laborer" and tries to promise him all her money,... (full context)
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Dora reappears, and is so pretty and charming that David begins to feel that Miss Mills... (full context)
Chapter 38: A Dissolution of Partnership
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...shorthand, although he finds it much more confusing than he had expected. The thought of Dora keeps him going, however, and after a few months he tries his hand at reporting... (full context)
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...her to show something she has in her handbag. Miss Murdstone produces several letters to Dora, which David embarrassedly admits are his. Miss Murdstone then begins to explain that, knowing the... (full context)
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...appease Mr. Spenlow, who says that David has acted dishonorably. David objects that he loves Dora, but this only angers Mr. Spenlow further: Spenlow rants that David is too young and... (full context)
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...man, and David assures Mr. Spenlow that that is not why he wants to marry Dora. Spenlow, however, says that it would be better if David were "mercenary," and explains his... (full context)
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...to work in despair and tormented by thoughts of Mr. Spenlow and Miss Murdstone terrorizing Dora. He therefore writes a letter to Mr. Spenlow begging him not to take his anger... (full context)
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...back kitchen of her father's house, where she tells him that she has heard from Dora but has not been able to see her. David, meanwhile, "raves" in a way that... (full context)
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...the news surreal, but can't help but also worry that Mr. Spenlow's death will distract Dora from David himself. (full context)
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That evening, David learns from a servant that Miss Mills is currently with Dora and writes to her, asking her to communicate his condolences to Dora. The next day,... (full context)
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...help going through Mr. Spenlow's desk. David is anxious to know what will become of Dora, so he agrees, and they work through Spenlow's papers methodically until Jorkins finally concludes that... (full context)
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Meanwhile, David relies on Miss Mills for news of Dora, but Dora can only bring herself to call out for Mr. Spenlow whenever David is... (full context)
Chapter 39: Wickfield and Heep
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...he would think David was in love with her if he didn't already know about Dora. David has a strong sense of déjà vu when Micawber says this. However, he simply... (full context)
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...gently scolds him for this and reminds him that he ought to be relying on Dora now. This forces David to explain that Dora is "easily disturbed and frightened," and he... (full context)
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...should do, and she says that the most "honorable" thing would be to write to Dora's aunts and ask for permission to visit without pressing his suit too strongly. David worries... (full context)
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Before writing to Dora's aunts, David decides to go visit Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep downstairs. Uriah greets David... (full context)
Chapter 40: The Wanderer
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...Wickfields' while she paces back and forth in distress. David then composes a letter to Dora's aunts while Miss Betsey looks at him anxiously and "thoughtfully." The next morning, Miss Betsey... (full context)
Chapter 41: Dora's Aunts
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David receives a letter from Dora's aunts inviting him to visit and discuss his request to call on Dora. David accepts... (full context)
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When he dresses for the visit to Dora's aunts, David finds himself torn between wanting to look handsome and wanting to look "practical."... (full context)
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...nervously trips over Traddles and then sits on a cat as he tries to greet Dora's aunts. The fact that one of the women first assumes Traddles is David further unnerves... (full context)
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...were somewhat estranged from Mr. Spenlow, and that his death has in any case changed Dora's circumstances. Furthermore, she think David is a respectable young man who loves (or is "persuaded"... (full context)
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Miss Clarissa gives Lavinia permission to continue, and Lavinia says that they have spoken with Dora and believe that David "thinks" he is in love. David attempts to interrupt again, but... (full context)
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Miss Lavinia continues to explain that it is difficult to know whether David and Dora's feelings will last, at which point Miss Clarissa interrupts to say that they would understand... (full context)
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...asks David to follow her and leads him to the next room, where he finds Dora trying to eavesdrop. Dora is upset, however, and says she is frightened of David's friend... (full context)
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...plays and sings a little, and David tells Traddles that he will have to hear Dora sing and see her paintings. They continue to talk about Sophy as they walk home,... (full context)
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...permission) he begins to visit on Saturdays as well as Sundays. Meanwhile, Miss Betsey and Dora's aunts pay visits to one another and generally get along well, although the aunts are... (full context)
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One day during a walk, David tries to convince Dora that she should ask to be treated as an adult. Dora objects, saying that she's... (full context)
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The next time David visits, he brings Dora not only the cookbook but also an account book and a "pretty little pencil case."... (full context)
Chapter 42: Mischief
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A few days later, David takes Agnes for tea with Dora, anxious for Agnes's approval. Dora is hiding when they arrive, but David eventually persuades her... (full context)
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Before David and Agnes leave, Dora tells David privately that she thinks she would be "more clever" if she had known... (full context)
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As Agnes and David walk to Doctor Strong's, David listens eagerly as Agnes praises Dora, feeling that he has never loved Dora so much. David tells Agnes that she is... (full context)
Chapter 43: Another Retrospect
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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David explains that he has only< scattered and dreamlike impressions of the ceremony. He notices Dora entering, as well as various other people in the church, including "disagreeable" looking pew-openers and... (full context)
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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.... (full context)
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Eventually, Dora goes to change out of her wedding dress and the couple prepares to leave—delayed by... (full context)
Chapter 44: Our Housekeeping
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David finds the transition from courtship to marriage strange—particularly the idea that Dora is now always nearby, and he does not need to scheme in order to see... (full context)
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Despite his happiness, David quickly discovers that neither he nor Dora is really equipped to maintain a household. They hire a servant named Mary Anne who... (full context)
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One day, David mentions to Dora that it is past the time they planned to have dinner, and suggests that she... (full context)
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...work, he finds Miss Betsey waiting for him. She explains that she has been keeping Dora company, because she is very upset. David explains that he himself is upset, but that... (full context)
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...Betsey leaves with a final warning not to use her as a "scarecrow" to frighten Dora. David watches her go, thinking that she looks worried, and realizing for the first time... (full context)
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Nevertheless, David and Dora continue to have difficulties managing the household. David eventually dismisses Mary Anne, but the next... (full context)
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Eventually, David decides to bring Traddles home for dinner, and sends a message to Dora to tell her. Traddles is excited by the prospect, imagining a future day when he... (full context)
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After Traddles leaves, Dora apologizes to David and asks him to teach her better housekeeping skills. David says that... (full context)
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Not long after the dinner party, Dora tries once again to learn cooking and accounting. She is no more successful than before,... (full context)
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David takes on more and more of the household work himself to spare Dora worry, but he begins to feel a vague sadness himself. Occasionally, it occurs to him... (full context)
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Dora takes to sitting up with David whenever he is working late at home. One evening,... (full context)
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Around the same time, Dora begins carrying the household keys around with her, although she mostly uses them as a... (full context)
Chapter 45: Mr. Dick Fulfills My Aunt's Prediction
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...often forced out over her own protests. Jack Maldon only rarely accompanies them, however, although Dora sometimes goes. Since David is now convinced that Mrs. Strong is not having an affair,... (full context)
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One night when Dora is out with Miss Betsey, Mr. Dick stops by David's house and asks to speak... (full context)
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...need to obey those kinds of social conventions. Finally, he swears David to secrecy as Dora and Miss Betsey return. (full context)
Chapter 48: Domestic
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By about a year and a half into their marriage, David and Dora have largely given up their attempts at housekeeping. They do employ a page, who argues... (full context)
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The debacle with the page convinces David to try talking to Dora again, and he tells her that he regrets that their "want of system and management"... (full context)
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David gently tells Dora that this is "ridiculous" and begs her to be "reasonable": if they fail in their... (full context)
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After this conversation, David decides that a different approach is necessary, and resolves to "form [Dora's] mind." He stops playing along with her "childish" mannerisms, talks to her about serious topics,... (full context)
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David admits that he has been "trying to be wise," and Dora guesses that he has been trying to make her wise as well. She says that... (full context)
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David explains that this was his last attempt to change Dora, and that doing so had made him feel miserable and guilty. He admits, however, that... (full context)
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David and Dora's second year of marriage is happier than the first. Dora, however, grows extremely ill after... (full context)
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One day, Dora tells Miss Betsey that when she is well, she will make Jip run around again,... (full context)
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David has Traddles over for dinner shortly after this, and Dora gets out of bed for the occasion, looking a little better. She is still too... (full context)
Chapter 50: Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True
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...niece's whereabouts, and David finds his devotion touching. Mr. Peggotty also becomes a favorite of Dora, and he pays frequent visits to David's house. (full context)
Chapter 52: I Assist at an Explosion
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...with Mr. Micawber approaches, and David and Miss Betsey discuss what they ought to do: Dora is very weak, and Miss Betsey feels she ought to stay with her and send... (full context)
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...bells, however, remind him of how much everything has changed: "their own age […] pretty Dora's youth; and of the many, never old, who had lived and loved and died, while... (full context)
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...to Uriah. Uriah is momentarily surprised, but then greets them fawningly, saying that he hopes Dora is doing better. He also remarks that despite all the changes in the office, he... (full context)
Chapter 53: Another Retrospect
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David pauses his narration, overcome by memories of his "child-wife" Dora, whom he imagines begging him to "stop to think of [her]." He imagines himself back... (full context)
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One morning, Dora shows off her curled hair to David, saying that she often thinks about how much... (full context)
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On another day, David is sitting next to Dora's bedside, since she no longer leaves her room at all. She asks him whether it... (full context)
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One night, David is sitting alone with Dora. Agnes and Miss Betsey are present, but downstairs. Although David is aware on some level... (full context)
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David insists that he and Dora have been very happy, and Dora says that this is true, but that David would... (full context)
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David waits downstairs as Agnes goes to speak with Dora, watching as Jip sleeps uneasily in his dog house. Weeping, he begins to think back... (full context)
Chapter 54: Mr. Micawber's Transactions
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David's grief does not hit him all at once after Dora dies, in part because so much else is going on around him at the time.... (full context)
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...have suggested it. Regardless, he is deeply aware of and grateful for her presence after Dora's death, and begins to think that his old association of Agnes with the stained glass... (full context)
Chapter 56: The New Wound, and the Old
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Mrs. Steerforth expresses her condolences for Dora's death, and David replies that they all "must trust to [Time]" in grief. This unnerves... (full context)
Chapter 58: Absence
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..."little by little," he comes to appreciate the depth of his despair. His grief encompasses Dora, Steerforth, and Ham, but also the loss of the Peggotty's home, and the ruin of... (full context)
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...sky and mountains. David lies down in the grass and cries as he hasn't since Dora's death. (full context)
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It has now been nearly a year since Dora's death. David decides to spend the remaining three months in the same valley and then... (full context)
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...he was the one who set the terms of their current, platonic relationship by marrying Dora. (full context)
Chapter 59: Return
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Mr. Chillip expresses his condolences over Dora's death, which he says he learned about from Miss Murdstone. It turns out that Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 60: Agnes
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...in thought, thinking about the time Miss Betsey lamented that he was "blind" for loving Dora. Miss Betsey seems to guess what David is thinking, and says that Mr. Wickfield is... (full context)
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...had with little Em'ly before her departure, and about the visits Agnes has paid to Dora's grave. As Agnes speaks, David finds that he is better able to bear these painful... (full context)
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...Agnes with making him what he is, and says that he has thought so since Dora's death, when Agnes appeared on the stairs "pointing upward." This image has stayed with him,... (full context)
Chapter 62: A Light Shines on My Way
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...that he learned to take her for granted. Nevertheless, he says, his life even with Dora would have been "incomplete" without Agnes. After Dora's death, this became even clearer to him,... (full context)
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...drives away together, Agnes says she has something she needs to tell David: the night Dora died, she "left something" to Agnes, and Agnes asks David to guess what it was.... (full context)