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David Copperfield

Charles Dickens



Chapters XXXIX–XLII, page 2

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Summary — Chapter XXXIX. Wickfield and Heep

To distract himself from his troubles with Dora, David goes to check on Miss Betsey’s cottage, which proves to be in excellent condition. He then goes to Canterbury to visit Agnes and Mr. Wickfield. At Mr. Wickfield’s, David finds that Uriah Heep and his mother have taken control. Mr. Micawber has become a tenant at Mr. Wickfield’s house. David sees Mr. Micawber and speaks with him but feels they have grown distant from each other. Agnes persuades David to write to Dora’s aunts to seek permission to visit Dora.

David longs to talk to Agnes in private, but the bothersome Mrs. Heep never leaves them alone. When David tells Uriah that he is engaged to someone other than Agnes, Uriah admits that he asked Mrs. Heep to follow David and Agnes around. Uriah also professes his love for Agnes and his intention to marry her. He reveals that his father taught him to be humble and ingratiating in order to succeed in the world. Uriah observes that, although he is humble, he does have some power.

Later, when Uriah, Mr. Wickfield, and David are alone together, Uriah gets Mr. Wickfield drunk, toasts Agnes, and announces his intention to marry her. Mr. Wickfield becomes hysterical at this suggestion and tells David how much control Uriah has managed to establish over him. Uriah warns Mr. Wickfield to keep quiet and not insult him because he knows Mr. Wickfield’s secret. Eventually, Agnes comes into the room and drags Mr. Wickfield away.

Before David leaves, he and Agnes have a tender parting. Uriah informs David that he has apologized to Mr. Wickfield and that they have made up. Uriah tells David that his sin was bringing up the subject of his marriage to Agnes too soon, but he assures David that it will happen.

Summary — Chapter XL. The Wanderer

Late one night, David runs into Mr. Peggotty, who says that he has been looking for Little Em’ly on the continent. Mr. Peggotty has come close to finding her a few times and has received a letter from her. In all, Little Em’ly has sent three letters containing money to the Peggottys. Mrs. Gummidge has replied to one of the letters, telling Little Em’ly that her uncle misses her terribly and will forgive her if she comes back. While Mr. Peggotty tells David this story, David sees Martha listening at the inn door. Martha disappears, and Mr. Peggotty goes off to a cheap inn where he can stay for the night before he sets off again on his journey.

Summary — Chapter XLI. Dora’s Aunts.

Dora’s aunts answer David’s letter and tell him he is welcome to visit in order to discuss his courtship of Dora. Thrilled, David goes to see the aunts, bringing Traddles along to assist him in convincing them. On the way, David asks Traddles to comb his hair. Traddles says that no amount of combing will make his hair lay flat—a family trait that leads his beloved Sophy Crewler’s sisters to make fun of him incessantly.

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