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David Copperfield

Charles Dickens

Chapters IV–VI

Preface–Chapter III

Chapters IV–VI, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary — Chapter IV. I fall into Disgrace

Having returned home, David finds his house much changed. The change upsets him so much that he cries himself to sleep in his new room. His mother comes up to comfort him, but Mr. Murdstone finds them there and reprimands David’s mother for not being firm with her son. Mr. Murdstone dismisses David’s mother into another part of the house and warns David that he will receive a beating if he disobeys or upsets his mother again. That night, dinner is silent and formal, and David finds it very different from the old dinners he used to enjoy by the fire with Peggotty and his mother.

After dinner, Miss Jane Murdstone, Mr. Murdstone’s cruel sister, arrives to stay. She is dark and masculine, with eyebrows that nearly meet over the bridge of her nose. David observes that she is a metallic lady, with metal boxes and a metal purse. Miss Murdstone takes over the household organization, and when David’s mother protests that she can run her own house, Mr. Murdstone threatens her into submission. Whenever David’s mother voices her concern or anger about anything done in the house or to David, Mr. and Miss Murdstone tell her that her “firmness” is failing. They often refer to David’s mother, who is much younger than they, as a naïve, inexperienced, and artless girl who needs their training. David’s mother accepts the Murdstones’ molding of her, apparently because she is afraid of them.

David’s mother continues to conduct his lessons. However, because Mr. and Miss Murdstone snipe at David continuously throughout his recitations, his memory fails him during every lesson. His only comfort is his father’s small collection of adventure books, which David reads over and over in order to bring some friends and pleasure into his life. After one particularly poor lesson, Mr. Murdstone beats David savagely, and David, in self-defense, bites Mr. Murdstone’s hand. As punishment, David is locked in his room alone for five days. At the end of the five days, Peggotty comes to his door and whispers through the keyhole that he is to be sent away.

Summary — Chapter V. I am sent away from Home

David rides away with a carrier, Mr. Barkis, who travels between towns carrying people and packages in his cart. As David leaves, Peggotty bursts out of the bushes and gives him a little money, a note from his mother, and several cakes. David is nearly hysterical at being sent away. He shares the cakes with Mr. Barkis, who, on finding out that Peggotty baked them, asks David to tell her that “Barkis is willin’.”

At the inn where David switches to the London coach, dinner is waiting for him under the name “Murdstone.” The waiter tricks David into giving him all his dinner and some of his money as a tip. Because it is a large dinner, David gains a reputation at the inn for having eaten a tremendous amount. The coachman and the other passengers tease David so badly that he does not eat even when they stop later to do so. As a result, David arrives in London very hungry.

In London, David waits for several hours until Mr. Mell, who says he is one of the masters at Salem House, arrives to pick him up. On the way to the school, they stop at a charity home and visit an old woman who calls Mr. Mell “my Charley” and cooks David breakfast. They proceed to the school, where all the boys are on holiday. David is forced to wear a sign that identifies him as one who bites—his punishment for having bitten Mr. Murdstone.

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