Dora Spenlow is David’s first love, and his first wife. David works for Dora’s father, the protective proctor Mr. Spenlow, and he meets the sweet-tempered Dora as a result of this proximity. David begins courting her, but Mr. Spenlow does not approve of the match, a complication that is ultimately solved when Mr. Spenlow dies of a sudden heart attack.

Once married, it becomes abundantly clear Dora is rather spoiled and childlike in demeanor, having never learned anything about running a home or managing finances. She is uninterested in these things and prefers activities like dancing and painting. Dora is given to occasional bouts of tears and defensiveness when David points this out, accusing him of picking on her. In this way, she resembles David’s mother Clara, who was similarly childlike and often reacted to Peggotty’s gentle remonstrations with tantrums. Dora’s lack of domestic knowledge can be attributed to the fact that she is the only daughter of a wealthy man, and therefore unequipped to run a lower-income household. Though David eventually concedes, his experience with Dr. Strong and Annie, in which he and Mr. Dick overcome Uriah Heep’s attempts to cause trouble in their marriage, forces David to reconsider what he wants in a romantic partner. Indeed, Dora recognizes that she is “not fit to be a wife”; she confesses this on her deathbed, and Agnes later reveals to David that Dora gave her blessing for Agnes to occupy her “vacant place” by David’s side after she dies, as his wife.