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Free Barron's Booknotes-David Copperfield by Charles Dickens-Free Book Notes
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David doesn't seem like such a ridiculous young lover anymore. As he receives an answer to his letter to Dora's aunts, his narrative tone is slightly satiric, but steady. Love still makes him egocentric; when he learns that Mr. Mills is moving to India, David reacts as though it were done only to foil him. But Miss Mills' leaving does seem to signal the end of his clandestine, romantic courtship, and the beginning of a more normal one.

Traddles now looks like the comic suitor, in contrast to David. As the two young men walk to Putney to visit the aunts, David shows you for the first time how Traddles' hair sticks straight up. Traddles' story about his proposal to Sophy is comical, but it's also a warning that families can make things difficult for young lovers.

At the aunts' house, David is so nervous that everything seems exaggerated, fragmented, as in a dream. The aunts look like Mr. Spenlow, but they are birdlike and harmless. As they talk, they chime in on each other's words, just as the Murdstones did, but their formal speeches are like prim little chirps. Miss Lavinia, who was "disappointed in love," is like an elderly version of Miss Mills-silly but sympathetic. Miss Clarissa, her arms crossed, is still brooding over how they were slighted by Dora's parents. Both have led unfulfilled lives, and they're excited to have something interesting happening at last. At what point do you think they decide to accept David? When you hear Jip's stifled bark on the other side of the door, you know that Dora is listening. Once David has agreed to their terms (which are really quite easy), he's led to Dora, who's comically hiding in the next room.

Still, there are some unsettling details. Dora's fear of Traddles and of Betsey's promised visits shows her spoiled, timid nature. Jip's howls whenever Aunt Betsey visits ruffle the otherwise smooth relations of the two families. David notices that all three aunts treat Dora like a little doll, and she seems to like it. When he points this out to her, the criticism makes her cry. On the other hand, Dora tries to learn cooking and household accounts for David's sake, though she simply can't manage it and the cookbook becomes a perch for Jip. Dora fits her new nickname, Little Blossom, and even David can't help treating her like a toy sometimes. How does his new nickname, Doady, seem to suit him? What image of him does it create?

In the beginning of the next chapter, David speaks in a serious, honest voice about how hard work, concentration, and discipline have been the secret of his success. This is the older narrator David speaking, and perhaps it's straight from Dickens' heart, too. David is becoming a responsible young man now, and this side of him naturally surfaces when Agnes appears. The Wickfields (accompanied by the Heeps, of course) are in town to visit the Strongs, and David must endure Uriah and his vicious talk about the Strongs.


David has had suspicions of Annie and Jack, too, but Uriah's are more selfish and mean. Uriah is jealous of Annie's friendship with Agnes, and resents Jack's superior airs, so he spitefully determines to bring them down. You still have no hard evidence of any affair, but Dickens is deliberately leaving ambiguous clues. What is David's reaction to these bits of information? Is there any evidence to show what is going on with Annie at this point?

When Agnes meets Dora, Dora at first acts silly and scared, but Agnes' kind nature wins her over. Both come off well in this scene. While Agnes is typically serene and good, Dora is radiantly pretty and affectionate. Dora even becomes thoughtful, confessing to David that she feels inadequate compared to Agnes, and wondering why he fell in love with her (instead of with Agnes, she implies). David and Dora both grow more serious, as does their love.

As David sees Agnes home, she assures him that she'll never accept Uriah. Immediately thereafter, David stops by Dr. Strong's study and views a scene, posed like a still photograph, of Uriah tormenting Dr. Strong, and Mr. Wickfield watching helplessly. The scene then comes to life: Uriah is telling Dr. Strong his suspicions about Annie and Jack. Like a horrible master of ceremonies, Uriah spins out his evidence, and he drags David and Mr. Wickfield into admitting their misgivings, too, making everyone miserable. But Dr. Strong responds differently than Uriah expected. (Is Uriah too inhuman to predict people's reactions?) Blaming himself for putting Annie in an unhappy position, Dr. Strong gallantly vows to bear his knowledge in silence. David admires his simple chivalry, but Heep is furious that he can't cause the trouble he hoped to. Left alone with Heep, David loses his temper and strikes Uriah on the cheek. Uriah even turns that against David, saying he always liked David and forgiving him. This makes David feel guilty, but he doesn't apologize, and he remains openly hateful of Uriah.

David recounts gently, sorrowfully, the change that comes over the Strongs in the next few weeks. Ironically, the only person who can comfort them is Mr. Dick, with his simple goodness. In a letter from Mrs. Micawber, David learns that Mr. Micawber has become secretive and depressed. Even this happy home has been attacked by Heep's bad influence.

This installment ends with another chapter of present-tense retrospect.


The major characters appear here in silent scenes, almost like a film montage, showing snatches of life that tell their story. You hear a few words of dialogue at peak moments, but the rest is visual. Dickens provides settings and costumes with careful detail. At the wedding, "extras" are used to fill the crowd.

David courts Dora throughout the seasons of the year. He spends hours in Parliament, scribbling down the debates. He writes stories that appear in magazines. David moves to a cottage in the suburbs, and he and Dora shop for furniture (though they buy only a ridiculous house for Jip). Peggotty comes to clean up; Mr. Peggotty glides by in the streets at night. Everyone finally gathers for David and Dora's wedding, which he views like a sleep-walker. It's lovely and comic, but at the end Dora asks him in her most childish voice, "Are you happy now, you foolish boy? and sure you don't repent?" How does this make you feel about their marriage?

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