Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-31


Chapter 26

Mr. Carker arrives in Leamington, and Mr. Dombey introduces him to Major Bagstock. Carker quickly ascertains that Dombey is interested in Mrs. Skewton’s daughter Edith. Carker also reports that he has seen Florence and that the ship Walter was sailing aboard is assumed to be lost. Mr. Dombey expresses regret that Walter was on board the ship, but Carker consoles him, implying that Florence may have been inappropriately attached to Walter and therefore it is better off that he is gone. Meanwhile, Bagstock meets with Mrs. Skewton and they discuss how best to facilitate an engagement between Edith and Mr. Dombey; Mrs. Skewton is concerned because she feels that her daughter does not confide in her. Mr. Dombey has invited the mother and daughter to accompany him on a visit to some local landmarks, and Edith maintains indifference to his overtures. Bagstock and Carker meet up again, and Bagstock excitedly confides how excited he is about the prospective match between Edith and Dombey.

Chapter 27

The next morning, Carker goes for a walk and finds Edith in a state of distress. An old woman is trying to get her to pay to have her fortune told, but Edith refuses. Carker dismisses the woman and returns to the hotel, where he joins Bagstock, Dombey, and Mrs. Skewton for breakfast. Edith arrives a few moments later and expresses her gratitude for his assistance. The group travels to Warwick Castle together and then spends the day visiting local landmarks while Edith sketches. That night, before he leaves the women, Dombey tells Mrs. Skewton that he will be coming to see Edith at a particular time the following day. When they are left alone, Mrs. Skewton asks why she wasn’t told about the planned visit. Edith says that she know she is going to be “purchased” the next day, and accuses her mother of having manipulated her throughout her life in hopes of securing an advantageous marriage. She also says that she thinks Carker can see through to her motivations and schemes, and she feels ashamed of the knowledge he has of her.

Chapter 28

Florence is getting ready to leave the Skettles house, and asks Nipper if Carker regularly visited the Dombey house during her childhood. Nipper says that Carker has always had a reputation for being a close confidante of Mr. Dombey and having lots of authority at the firm. Florence is troubled by the extent of knowledge Carker seems to have, as well as a menacing impression she gets from him. While she has been at the Skettles’, Toots has called on her regularly, and on the day of her departure he offers to take her home by boat; Florence politely declines. She leaves everyone very sad to see her go, and travels with Nipper back to the house. They are shocked to find, upon their arrival, that the Dombey house is in the midst of renovations. Before she can determine what is happening, Florence is summoned to see her father. He is accompanied by Mrs. Skewton and Edith, to whom he is now engaged. Florence is hopeful that this change will bring her closer to her father, and Edith seems to show kindness to her.

Chapter 29

Mrs. Chick comes to visit Miss Tox. She tells Miss Tox that Mr. Dombey is going to remarry, expressing doubts about his choice of wife. Miss Tox is clearly distressed, as Major Bagstock observes with pleasure. Mrs. Chick, witnessing her strong reaction, realizes that Miss Tox has been hoping to marry Dombey herself, and is outraged. Mrs. Chick announces her intention to cut off the friendship, and is annoyed with her husband when he says that he had always seen Miss Tox’s intentions, and assumed that the women were working together to facilitate a marriage.

Chapter 30

Edith is very kind to Florence and offers to ensure that Florence’s rooms are improved. She invites Florence to stay with her and Mrs. Skewton until the date of the wedding, but makes Florence promise to return to the Dombey house once Edith marries and departs for her honeymoon. Edith behaves protectively when her mother expresses an interest in Florence’s youth and beauty. When Mr. Dombey comes to their house for dinner, he is surprised to find Florence there. He continues to be cold towards her, and is also unoffended by the reserve with which Edith treats him. The night before the wedding, Mrs. Skewton tells Dombey that she would like Florence to stay with her while Dombey and Edith honeymoon in Paris. Mr. Dombey readily consents to this plan. When Edith and her mother are left alone, Edith tells her that if Mrs. Skewton does not agree to leave Florence alone, she will refuse to go through with the marriage. Mrs. Skewton objects that it is important for Edith’s marriage that Florence rapidly marry and leave her father’s house, but Edith insists that her mother’s miseducation corrupted her and that she will not see the same thing be done to Florence. Edith spends the night in emotional distress, able to fall asleep only when she slips into the room where Florence is peacefully sleeping.

Chapter 31

The preparations for the elaborate wedding create a bustle and excitement for the various minor characters whose lives are tied to the Dombeys. Major Bagstock and Carker both offer Mr. Dombey their congratulations. Mrs. Skewton tells Dombey that she now thinks it better that Florence not stay with her after the wedding. Mr. Dombey and Edith are married amidst much celebration, despite Edith’s continued unease with Carker. The wedding causes dissipation amongst the unsupervised servants and the day ends on a hollow note as everyone departs.


This section revolves around Dombey's engagement and marriage and the impact it has on a far-flung cast of characters. The idea of the Dombey household as the nucleus of action that spreads far beyond it is perhaps most evident in the chapter describing the events of the wedding, which reverberates through a number of social rankings. Dombey's actions and choices carry significance for many people around him because of his economic impact and his status as a public figure. This should place him in a position of responsibility, although it rarely seems to impact his choices. At the same time, these scenes make it clear that there is a gossipy, voyeuristic interest in the lives of the Dombey family. They occupy a kind of celebrity position and this exerts a kind of pressure, especially since celebrity does not always ensure popularity. Illustrated most extremely by Carker, but also displayed by other characters like the Dombey servants, there is often a tinge of resentment, and a sense that a downfall would be welcomed by those envious of his power and privilege.

The cynicism around what should be a joyous event is developed most strongly by the insight the reader is given into Mrs. Skewton and Edith's feelings about the marriage. Mrs. Skewton acts as a kind of parallel to Dombey in that her parenting is preoccupied with how she can gain from her daughter's beauty and desirability. She believes Edith should welcome the chance to marry Dombey, whether or not she feels affection for him. Edith occupies a much more ambivalent position in that she expresses disgust and self-loathing with the feeling that she is selling herself. However, she also seems resigned to this fate. She does not believe that there is any possibility of happiness left for her, and seems to think that her mother's education has corrupted her perspective so much that she can indeed only aspire to money-driven marriages, even if she resists at the same time. In this way, Edith's perspective shows the damaging effects of bad parenting, perhaps prefiguring what could have become of Paul had he not died with his childhood innocence intact. By having been taught that money is the most important thing, and that her beauty is a tool for achieving it, Edith has been irreparably damaged.

At the same time, Florence's innocence, innate goodness, and willingness to love, pierce through even Edith's cynicism. She quickly warms to her stepdaughter and feels ferociously protective of her, especially when it becomes clear that Florence's beauty has caught Mrs. Skewton's attention. Edith knows that her mother will try to warp Florence's perspective, values, and sense of modesty, and is determined to prevent her own unhappy fate from being passed onto the next generation. In this way, Edith does function as a kind of surrogate parent to Florence. At the same time, however, her sense of shame is so deep that Edith fears a kind of moral contamination and tries to draw boundaries between herself and Florence. This reflects the way in which, although she has not yet committed any sexual transgression, Edith thinks of herself already as a kind of fallen woman, and her marriage to Dombey is revealed as a form of legalized and socially sanctioned prostitution.

The reaction of characters to Dombey's marriage functions as a kind of test for their true feelings and intentions. Florence is immediately hopeful and optimistic: she is eager to forge a relationship with her stepmother and wonders if this is the occasion that will finally allow her to bond with her father. Miss Tox is deeply hurt by the news–so hurt that her long hidden emotions come to the surface, and Mrs. Chick finally realizes her friend's long-standing affection for her brother. While Mrs. Chick has been unimpressed with the news of the wedding, resenting the idea that anyone would be good enough for her brother, but she is so outraged by what she considers a betrayal from her friend that she ends the relationship. This signals the Dombey family pride, as well as the perception that those outside the family circle are inherently inferior, and should be viewed as threats.