David thinks of Dora constantly while walking in her neighborhood but does not dare approach her house. He takes Peggotty, who has come with him to London, to the Doctors’ Commons to settle her affairs. While they wait, Mr. Murdstone arrives at the Doctors’ Commons to get his new marriage license. Peggotty yells at him and blames him for the death of David’s mother.
Mr. Spenlow invites David to his house for Dora’s birthday. At the party, David makes a great show of not being jealous as another man pays attention to Dora. Dora’s friend Julia Mills forces David and Dora to reconcile. The two fall in love. Miss Mills arranges for them to meet at her house when Dora visits her next.
David and Dora become engaged. They continue to meet through Miss Mills but keep their betrothal a secret from everyone else. In retrospect, the adult David muses that he was happier then than he has ever been. Just the day before he wrote this section of the novel, David saw his daughter wearing a ring like the one he gave Dora—a sight that inspired a painful memory of Dora.
Traddles visits David and tells him more about his fiancée, who is the fourth of ten children of a curate in Devonshire and who cares for her mother and her sisters. Traddles tells David that Mr. Micawber has come into severe financial difficulties and has been forced to move and change his name to Mortimer. The authorities have seized all of Mr. Micawber’s things, including his flower pot and table. Traddles asks Peggotty to go purchase these items from the pawnbroker for Mr. Micawber so that he will not be overcharged. Peggotty agrees. When they arrive home, Miss Betsey is there with all of her things and with the news that she has been ruined by faulty business decisions.
Miss Mowcher brings comic relief to the novel and serves as a vehicle for Dickens’s social commentary. Her conversation with David advances a political message about social equality—specifically, that no one should deride her for her small stature because it is not her fault. Dickens uses Miss Mowcher to point out society’s tendency to discriminate against people who are different. But Dickens does not seem to take Miss Mowcher’s argument entirely seriously. Although David agrees that Miss Mowcher should not be dismissed because of her dwarf size, his own descriptions of her focus on her size, on her absurdity, on the disproportion of her body and her head, on how her umbrella seems to swallow her whole, and on how she is able to stand on the stove or use a chair as a table. Altogether, David’s descriptions paint Miss Mowcher as a comical rather than serious figure. This somewhat two-faced treatment of Miss Mowcher is part of a larger trend in Dickens’s novels: the author often points out social problems but offers neither strong arguments against them nor possibile routes for change.
Although most of the secondary characters in David Copperfield are flat and static, the dramatic change in Mrs. Gummidge in this section establishes her as a dynamic character. Whereas previously Mrs. Gummidge only whines and moans about her own fate and takes no notice of others’ problems, here she proves herself capable of great emotion and selflessness. She repays Mr. Peggotty for the immeasurable services he has done her at the moment when he most needs this repayment. In this regard, Mrs. Gummidge proves herself to be the only truly dynamic character in the novel so far. Although many characters in David Copperfield gradually reveal surprising traits, few of them actually change over time. Mrs. Gummidge’s transformation not only shows that she is a dynamic character but also conveys Dickens’s message that happiness is attained only through selfless sacrifice and dedication to others.