Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son Summary and Analysis of Chapters 58-62


Chapter 58

A year passes. Dombey refuses to scale back his business, and the firm goes bankrupt. Shortly thereafter, Harriet goes to visit Morfin at his home. He confirms the collapse of the Dombey firm and that Dombey has lost all of his own money as well. Morfin is surprised and a bit displeased that Harriet seems happy to hear this news. However, she goes on to explain that at the time of James Carker’s death, since he died without a will, she and John inherited all of his wealth. They now wish to secretly give this money to Dombey, and ask Morfin to arrange it so that he will not know where it came from. After she leaves Morfin’s house, Harriet continues on at a house where Mrs. Wickam is nursing Alice. While very ill, she has found peace and contentment in the care Harriet has given her. At Alice’s request, Mrs. Brown reveals that Edith and Alice are cousins. Mrs. Brown’s lover, the father of Alice, was the elder brother of Edith’s father. Alice asks Harriet to continue to care for her mother. Harriet says she will, and promises to come back the next day; however, Alice dies peacefully shortly after she leaves.

Chapter 59

Dombey’s servants speculate as to what the impact of the bankruptcy will be. Furniture and valuables are sold from the house. As the house empties out, Mrs. Chick goes to visit Mrs. Pipchin to see how her brother is doing. Mrs. Chick has been cut off from her brother since questioning how he got into such a disastrous financial state. Mrs. Pipchin is planning to leave the house and has contacted Polly Toodle to serve as replacement housekeeper. Polly arrives the next day, accompanied by her husband, and Mrs. Pipchin promptly leaves. The next evening while Polly is sitting alone, Miss Tox arrives, having heard from the Toodle household that she has taken up the position. Saddened to hear of Dombey’s isolation, Miss Tox begins visiting the house regularly to try to provide assistance. Bagstock, whose servant has been entrusted to spy on the house, is astonished that Tox clings to her devotion to Mr. Dombey. Dombey, meanwhile, has come to realize how badly he has mistreated Florence, and how faithfully she has loved him. He considers moving away, but cannot bear to leave the house associated with memories of his children. He is in such despair that he contemplates killing himself, and then one day is surprised by a visit from Florence. She has come to beg his forgiveness, having returned from her voyage with Walter and now a young son, whom she has named Paul. As she begs him to forgive both her and Walter, Dombey exclaims that he is the one who needs to be forgiven. Dombey and Florence leave the house together, while Miss Tox and Polly pack up the last remaining possessions. Miss Tox also decides to employ Rob, who is determined to reform his behavior, as a servant. The house is left empty, and put up for rent.

Chapter 60

In Brighton, Dr. Blimber hands over the running of his school to Mr. Feeder, who is also going to marry his daughter Cornelia. At the wedding, the guests are joined by Toots and his own wife–Susan Nipper. The two are very happy together. After the wedding, back at their hotel, Toots and Susan receive word that Florence and Walter have returned, and have reconciled with her father. However, Dombey is very ill, which is causing Florence distress. Susan insists they hurry back to London so that she can help and support Florence. They arrive back and are happily greeted, arriving just before Captain Cuttle, who, while taking a walk, has been surprised to witness the marriage of Mrs. MacStinger and an unwilling but resigned Bunsby.

Chapter 61

Dombey continues to be very ill, but is very tender with Florence, and also shows forgiveness to both Susan and Walter. One day she is called way from his bedside by news of a visitor, who turns out to be Cousin Feenix. Feenix awkwardly explains that he wants Florence to accompany him on a visit, but cannot say to whom; he has, however, revealed everything to Walter, and Walter approves of the plan. Reassured by this, the three of them set off. They arrive at Cousin Feenix’s town house, and he and Florence enter while Walter waits outside. Inside, Florence finds Edith. Florence quickly updates her about her marriage and child, and then offers her forgiveness, suggesting that she also thinks her father will forgive Edith. Edith, however, wants to make it clear that she was not in fact guilty of adultery. Edith also provides a written account of the truth, which she gives to Florence with permission for her to disclose it as she sees fit. Although ambivalent, Edith expresses some compassion towards Dombey, and satisfaction that he has at last learned to love his daughter. They part ways with Edith’s promise that they will never meet again.

Chapter 62

Mr. Dombey gradually recovers, but displays a very different personality, being humble and loving to his daughter and son-in-law. He and Miss Tox become friends, and Dombey is able to live off the money given to him by John and Harriet Carker, though he never knows the money’s origin. Mr. Morfin has married Harriet and lives happily with her and John. Cuttle and Gils have gone into business together, and are now profiting. Toots and Susan have a baby daughter, and Walter has been fortunate to receive a post where he can prosper and no longer be required to travel at sea. In time, Florence gives birth to a daughter, and while old Mr. Dombey shows great devotion to both of his grandchildren, he is especially attentive to his granddaughter, thereby atoning for the neglect he had shown to his daughter.


Despite the personal tragedies that befall him with the loss of both of his wives, his son, and his daughter, the loss that finally pushes Dombey to his breaking point is the loss of his business. Importantly, the firm goes bankrupt not simply because of Carker's mismanagement but because of Dombey's pride and stubbornness, and his refusal to make the appropriate adjustments to his business practices. The collapse of the firm creates a second scandal following the dissolution of his marriage and completes the collapse of the Dombey reputation. Just as he has feared, he is the subject of gossip and speculation, and many individuals are somewhat pleased to see him humbled. Moreover, even characters like Bagstock and Mrs. Chick make it clear that they don't know how to relate to Dombey in his new position, and he loses the few superficial relationships he possessed.

Dombey's isolation and humiliation, however, are the forces that finally break down his pride and stubbornness, allowing him both to reflect on his life and, for the first time, to recognize his mistakes. Once everyone else abandons him, he can finally see the value of Florence's unconditional love and loyalty. Now that he is no longer obsessed with lineage and wealth, he can see the value of her not as a commodity but as an individual who has suffered so patiently. Because Dombey is reduced to a state of humility and vulnerability, he can open his heart, and meet Florence with open arms when she returns to the house.

Florence's decision to go back to her father's house when she returns to England may seem unconvincing, since she has been treated so badly by him, and has finally succeeded in establishing a new life for herself. However, now that she has become a mother, she seems to have an even deeper craving for connection to her own family. The next generation, first with her son and then with her daughter, functions as a source of redemption and new beginning.

Florence's reestablishment of family is completed in that she not only reconciles with her father but also has a chance to say a final farewell to Edith. Even before Edith explains that she is not actually guilty of adultery, Florence is willing to show compassion to her. Edith's insistence on Florence knowing the truth rather than believing that she had an affair with Carker reveals the stigma around this behavior. While Edith was willing to sacrifice her public reputation to free herself from her marriage, she could bear to have Florence think of her as a fallen woman. A parallel is established between Edith and Alice in that Alice also seems to have been morally redeemed by the time of her death. Harriet's virtue and compassion, much like that of Florence, allows her to end the novel at peace.

In typical Victorian novel fashion, many of the characters marry at the novel's conclusion. Some of these marriages seem improbable and abrupt, and may represent a last-minute desire to reassert the value of the domestic world after a novel that has been deeply critical of marriage and the family. What finally provides redemption is Dombey's reform. He not only reorients himself to a totally different kind of life and the companionship of characters far outside of his typical social circle, he also deliberately seeks to correct his past mistakes. This is seen most explicitly in his interactions with his granddaughter. He showers her with the love he has previously denied to his own child. While the errors of the past can never be undone, the novel ends with the suggestion that change and reform are possible even for the most unlikely characters.