David Copperfield

David Copperfield Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36-45

David goes the next day to see Dr. Strong about the position. Along the way, he decides that he will use this time to prove to Dora that he is willing to work hard and take care of her. He dreams of having earned a beautiful house for Dora and Jip to play in. Dr. Strong happily receives David and is excited to have help with the dictionary. David works hard but enjoys it because he feels that he is proving himself worthy of Dora. Mr. Dick also wants to help with Miss Betsey’s financial situation, so he begins to work copying legal documents for Traddles.

One day, Jack Maldon arrives at Dr. Strong’s house and asks if he can take Annie to the opera. Dr. Strong encourages her to go, and she agrees, despite the fact that she obviously does not want to. Meanwhile, David receives a letter from Mr. Micawber saying that he is going to move once more. David and Traddles have dinner with the Micawbers, who reveal that Mr. Micawber is going to work for Uriah--which both companions find very unsettling.

All this time, Dora has no idea of David’s dreadful financial state, so he goes to Miss Mills’ home to let her know. At first, she does not believe him when he says that he is ruined. When she finally comes around, she begins crying, for she obviously does not want to live poor. She becomes even more hysterical at the thought that she might have to keep house. David feels awful for making her cry so much. Miss Mills manages to comfort her but makes clear to David that he cannot expect Dora to be able to handle these things. He then has tea with Dora, and they play the guitar together before he has to leave for work, despite Dora’s pleas that he not do so.

David is content at this point, working hard for Dora and having debates with Mr. Dick. However, Mr. Spenlow soon uncovers his affair with Dora (with help from Miss Murdstone) and forbids David from seeing her again. David refuses and leaves. Later, he finds out that Mr. Spenlow has died in a coach accident. Dora will not see him, for she thinks it is disrespectful to her father’s memory. David’s only connection to her is now through Miss Mills, who reads him her diary entries about Dora.

To get his mind off of Dora, David’s aunt sends him to check on her house in Dover. He then goes to Canterbury to visit the Wickfields, where he discovers that Mr. Micawber has moved in. David senses, from a strained conversation that the two of them have, that something has changed between them. Nevertheless, he is happy to see Agnes and talk to her about his situation, and she advises him to write to Dora’s aunts to ask permission to see her. They are unable to speak alone after that because of Mrs. Heep’s constant presence. David later finds out from Uriah that he had his mother follow them; Uriah loves Agnes and plans to marry her. Uriah pronounces his love that night, after he has gotten Mr. Wickfield extremely drunk. The latter grows angry and begins shouting at Uriah, while Uriah warns him not to threaten him because he knows his secret. This whole time, he is also constantly proclaiming his humbleness.

The next day David leaves, after a heartfelt goodbye with Agnes and a much more uncomfortable one with Uriah. David writes the letter to Dora’s aunts and hopes for the best. One night he runs into Mr. Peggotty, who tells him that he has been searching for Emily all across continental Europe. He has come close to finding her several times, and she has written three letters to the house in Yarmouth, in which she included money. David also learns that Ham continues to work hard but is deeply wounded by the whole affair. While Mr. Peggotty is talking, David sees someone listening at the door, but the figure leaves before he can talk to her. Mr. Peggotty then continues his journey, vowing to search for his niece until he drops dead.

David finally receives a reply from Dora’s aunts, who agree to meet with him to discuss his relationship with Dora. David brings Traddles along to help him convince the aunts to let him see Dora again. They are successful. After some lecturing, Dora’s aunts, Clarissa and Lavinia, agree to let David see Dora at dinner every Sunday at 3:00--and at tea, but no more than twice a week. These arrangements make David very happy. She is very opposed to meeting Traddles or even Miss Betsey, although eventually she comes around. The only thing that displeases David is the way that Dora’s aunts treat her like a doll, similar to the way that she treats Jip. He even finds himself treating her that way sometimes. She does not want to discuss such things with him because she knows he will get upset. Likewise, to prevent her from getting upset, he does not say anything and continues to play and sing with her.

The older David starts the next chapter by proclaiming that he has worked all of his life to try to do everything well, and there is no fulfillment on this earth without perseverance--talent and opportunity are not enough. He then describes a visit from the Wickfields to Dr. Strong’s house. Unfortunately, Uriah accompanies them, which the younger David does not like at all. However, he is very happy to see that Dora takes a liking to Agnes. Dora even wonders how David could have fallen in love with her, having grown up with a lady as good as Agnes. Agnes, meanwhile, reassures David that everything at the Wickfield home has remained the same and that she will never marry Uriah.

As David is about to retire to bed, he is pulled into Dr. Strong’s study by Uriah, who is already there with Dr. Strong and Mr. Wickfield. Uriah makes them tell the doctor about their suspicions concerning Annie and Jack Maldon. Dr. Strong refuses to believe them and leaves after a good deal of tension. David strikes Uriah for doing such an awful thing, but instead of striking him back, Uriah forgives him, something which incenses David even more. He also receives a letter from Mrs. Micawber, saying that that her husband has become a greedy, evil man and is no longer the jovial person he used to be.

The older David now remembers his wedding to Dora. His memories are very beautiful, recollecting the beauty of his wife and the happy, loving presence of friends and family. He even remembers Dora using a cookbook that he gave her to teach Jip tricks. He remembers the tricks as rather adorable, too.

Although Dora is a very bad housekeeper and David is no better, the two of them are happy. They have their domestic struggles, especially with the maids, who often rob them. Dora tries to be a good wife by trying to make dinner and trying to balance their finances, although she loses focus not long into these tasks. She hates to annoy David but is very devoted to him, even staying up late to watch him write. She wishes that she could have stayed with Agnes for a year before they married so that she could have learned from her. Despite his wife’s faults, however, David is happy as long as Dora is happy. Upon her request, he begins to think of her as his "child-wife," and even Miss Betsey becomes devoted to her and does anything she can to make her happy.

Meanwhile, the marriage of Annie and Dr. Strong remains turbulent. The only person who appreciates this is Annie’s mother, Mrs. Markelham, whom Miss Betsey and David refer to as the "Old Soldier." Dr. Strong has been sending Annie out frequently to plays and other activities, and he often sends Mrs. Markelham along for company. But Annie is not enjoying these things, knowing that Dr. Strong doubts her fidelity.

One night, Mr. Dick asks David if he is weak in intelligence. He is happy when David says yes, for he believes that because of this, he can reconcile Dr. Strong and Annie. That is, Mr. Dick thinks that more intelligent friends would not be able to do so because they are too polite. Mr. Dick brings Annie to Dr. Strong, and she proclaims her faithfulness to him in front of David, Miss Betsey, and Mrs. Markelham, who is the only one who does not seem touched by the display. Miss Betsey kisses Mr. Dick and calls him a good man for his actions. Annie’s emotional display both pleases and troubles David, but he cannot explain why.


David remains enamored with Dora and works very hard in order to be able to provide for her. He is cognizant of his undisciplined heart, and he ought to know that she is not ready to maintain a household or to live a life that is less than luxurious. That much can be seen by her hysterical reaction to David’s newfound poverty. Yet, he is refusing to acknowledge the inherent problems in their relationship, still in the honeymoon period of love and marriage.

David’s memories of his marriage to Dora are so beautiful that it is impossible to doubt that he is truly in love with her. Dora’s childish mind is further revealed by the fact that everyone, including David, is scared to treat her normally for fear of hurting or scaring her. Her childlike devotion to David and juvenile wishing that she could be a better wife make her character endearing. She is easy to love, and it is not so surprising that David is so madly in love with her. Despite the fact that his "child-wife" is too much like a doll to perform any of the typical duties of a Victorian housewife, he deeply loves her. This romantic marriage could be Dickens’ way of reminding readers that the happiness of a marriage does not solely depend on the domestic skills of the wife, providing a way for wives to break out of the traditional Victorian mold.

Meanwhile, David is enjoying his employment with Dr. Strong. Dickens again uses foreshadowing when Jack Maldon returns once more to take Annie to the opera. Trouble with that relationship is on the horizon again, although Dr. Strong seems too trusting to see anything coming.

As the signs in previous chapters correctly suggested, the Micawbers’ situation has become so dire that they must move on again. That Mr. Micawber must take a job under Uriah must feel especially unsettling. This circumstance reveals that Uriah’s character is becoming stronger and stronger; he now can hire someone to work under him. Mr. Micawber’s relationship with David changes after the move as well, suggesting that Uriah has corrupted him.

Uriah’s character becomes even more sinister after David finds out that he had Mrs. Heep follow David and Agnes while they were talking. He has even gained the courage to tell Mr. Wickfield to his face that he is intending to marry Agnes, still maintaining the facade of humility. All of this makes clear that Uriah’s inevitable betrayal is coming in the near future.

More foreshadowing occurs when Dora meets Agnes and wonders how David could ever love her with Agnes around. So long as David is enamored with his child-wife, he will be blind to the feelings that remain for his childhood friend. Importantly, however, he feels very relieved to find out that she has no plans to marry Uriah in the future. This does not mean, however, that Uriah is becoming any less influential.

As for Mr. Micawber, according to a letter from Mrs. Micawber, he has become evil and greedy while working for Uriah. This change is completely out of character. Furthermore, Uriah willingly decides to cause trouble between Dr. Strong and Annie by bringing up the issue with Jack Maldon, forcing David and Mr. Wickfield to reveal their doubts about Annie. Throughout the entire charade, he keeps his mask of innocence and piety, even forgiving David for hitting him. Indeed, it becomes clear that Uriah has become dangerously bold and influential.

Finally, the Strong marriage is saved by Mr. Dick, whose simple mind is able to remind the couple just how much they love each other. By designing this entire situation, Dickens has not only revealed Uriah’s increasing power, but he has also shown again how beneficial a childlike mind can be. David’s confused emotions upon seeing Annie’s emotional outburst could be a combination of the joy of seeing the couple back together and apprehension or surprise that Uriah Heep was so able to hurt someone.