Like many of Dickens's novels, Little Dorrit contains numerous subplots. One subplot concerns Arthur Clennam's friends, the kind-hearted Meagles. They are upset when their daughter Pet marries an artist called Gowan, and when their servant and foster daughter Tattycoram is lured away from them to the sinister Miss Wade, an acquaintance of the criminal Rigaud. Miss Wade hates men, and it turns out she is the jilted sweetheart of Gowan.
The character Little Dorrit (Amy) was inspired by Mary Ann Cooper (née Mitton), whom Dickens sometimes visited along with her family. They lived in The Cedars, a house on Hatton Road west of London; its site is now under the east end of London Heathrow Airport.