David's supervisor, Mr. Spenlow, invites David to his home for the weekend. David meets Mr. Spenlow’s daughter there and instantly falls in love with Dora. He finds her almost ethereal in nature and has fallen for her even before he has spoken to her. David also is surprised to see Miss Murdstone, whom Mr. Spenlow hired to be Dora's companion after her mother died. Miss Murdstone pulls David aside and asks that they set aside their previous difficulties, and David agrees. After going on a walk with Dora and her dog Jip, David falls more deeply in love with her. He feels dismal every succeeding weekend on which he has no invitation to go to Mr. Spenlow's house. Mrs. Crupp sees this pattern and realizes that he has fallen in love. She advises him to go out and to think of other things.
David then decides to go visit his old schoolmate Tommy Traddles, who is studying for the bar to become a lawyer. Traddles has a fiancée waiting for him to get a job and make money for their marriage; he currently only has a few chairs and a table. As they are talking, Traddles reveals that his downstairs neighbors are none other than Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, who at that moment knock on his door and find David there. The Micawbers are financially unstable once again, but they are still happy, and Mrs. Micawber is pregnant once more.
David invites the three of them to come over to his house for a dinner party. Although Mrs. Crupp refuses to cook at first, they eventually sit down to a nice, happy meal. Littimer interrupts the meal and asks if David knows where Steerforth has gone. David replies that he does not and, after the meal, Littimer leaves. As his guests are leaving, David warns Traddles not to loan the Micawbers any money or even his name. Tommy replies that he already has done so and that Mr. Micawber has already taken care of it. However, Mr. Micawber later gives David a letter saying that he has not taken care of it yet.
Steerforth arrives just after everyone has left. He tells David that he has been sailing outside of Yarmouth. He replies with disgust when David tells him that Tommy was there, which David finds offensive. David soon forgets about this issue because Steerforth gives him a letter from Peggotty saying that Mr. Barkis is dying. David decides that he will visit them, but Steerforth convinces him to go to his home first.
David spends the day with Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle, who seems to believe that he is the reason for Steerforth's long absence. Miss Dartle is disturbed to learn that David had not seen Steerforth until the previous night. She also begins to worry that Steerforth and his mother will start fighting which, due to their similar stubbornness, would lead to a huge ordeal. However, Mrs. Steerforth says that she and her son would never fight because they are too devoted to one another. Finally, David takes his leave of the family. Steerforth makes him promise that if anything happens, he will always remember Steerforth at his best. David's last vision of him is his sleeping figure, and the adult David writes that he wishes he could have kept Steerforth that way forever to prevent the following events from happening.
When David first arrives at Yarmouth, he visits Mr. Omer once more, who tells him that Little Emily has not been herself lately. She seems very unsettled, as though she wants something more. He also mentions that Martha, Emily's friend, has gone missing. David then goes to Peggotty's house, where he encounters Mr. Peggotty and Emily in the kitchen, both very distraught. Mr. Peggotty claims that Mr. Barkis will die with the receding tide. Just as David goes to see him, Mr. Barkis exclaims, "Barkis is willin'!" With that, he fulfills Mr. Peggotty's prediction and dies with the ebbing tide.
David's relationship with the childlike Dora begins in these chapters. It is a very interesting period of David's life. For her part, Dora is a very free spirit who has been pampered by her aunts and her father her entire life. In many ways, she is very similar to David's mother. Her dog's name, Jip, is short for Gypsy, the paragon of a free soul. David realizes that Dora may not be the best choice for him in terms of commitment and marriage, but he has fallen madly in love with her. Thus, we see David's "undisciplined heart."
In addition, the Micawbers reappear once again, alongside David's childhood friend Traddles. The Micawbers, happy but still in financial straits, have been forced to borrow money from Traddles and reveal to David that they may not be able to pay him back. This signals the continuation of the Micawbers' unfortunate patterns and possibly another move in the future. Traddles may have made a mistake in helping them. Like David, he is another very simple, kind person getting a good education. Traddles' character is another indication of Dickens' appreciation and reverence for people with a childlike demeanor. Indeed, Traddles has remained likable from the beginning.
David's time with Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle gives more insight into Steerforth's character because this time reveals the environment in which Steerforth grew up. Mrs. Steerforth’s refusal to place the blame on her son for his own disappearance indicates her slightly skewed perception of reality and her idealistic view of her son, perhaps like most mothers with respect to their children. Miss Dartle's very negative opinion that David was the cause of Steerforth's disappearance, for her part, reflects her own negative spirit. It is easier to understand the cause of Steerforth's internal troubles after seeing the role models he had growing up. Note also the strong foreshadowing when Steerforth asks David to remember him at his best, together with David's last image of him as asleep.
More foreshadowing occurs when Mr. Omer tells David that Little Emily is not acting like herself. Her unsettled and unsatisfied demeanor indicates that she wants something more and that she will not be happy until she gets it. A very big hint about the next part of Emily’s story involves the news that her friend Martha has gone missing. Martha, obviously distressed, went to Emily for help, and there is no sign of Martha but Emily is looking distraught.
The negative tone of these chapters (with the significant exception of David’s hopes for love, by no means sure) is reinforced with the death of Mr. Barkis. Death is in the air, and this death in particular leaves Peggotty in the role of the single, strong woman once again. He was a wonderful husband to her, and he even left her some money. Despite the very negative situation, Peggotty will prove to be strong enough to push through this trial. In the face of adversity, she will deserve admiration for her strength and prove herself a good example of female empowerment.