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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 44 Summary
Our Housekeeping David finds the early days of his marriage very odd: it's so weird to see Dora all the time, without having to make special excursions to see her. It still seems a special thing to come home late knowing that Dora would be there waiting for him. Neither David nor Dora know anything about keeping house. Their first servant, Mary Anne, has great references – but is a disaster. For one thing, she keeps stealing their teaspoons. Mary Anne is the cause of their first fight. David notices that dinner is supposed to be on the table at 4 P.M. one afternoon, but by 5, there's still no sign of it. He tells Dora to scold Mary Anne a bit. Dora feels that she can't because she is so weak, and Mary Anne knows it. David frowns, and Dora tries to trace the frown lines in his forehead. When he laughs, Dora is much happier. Still, David isn't pleased not to have dinner. Dora says she can't bear to listen to David reasoning with her. In fact, if he is trying to reason with her, he must be unhappy he married her. David is so offended by this claim that he tells Dora she's talking nonsense. Dora thinks that David is calling her a bad wife and starts to cry. David has no idea what to do, and he tries to tell Dora that they both have a lot to learn. Still, Dora has to learn to tell Mary Anne what to do. Dora cries and cries, and David feels horrible. David goes out for a bit, and when he comes back late at night, he finds his aunt waiting up for him. David asks Miss Betsey if anything is wrong. Miss Betsey says everything is fine, but that Dora is out of sorts. David tells Miss Betsey that he's also been unhappy all night, but he just tried to talk to Dora about their housekeeping. Miss Betsey counsels David: Dora is very delicate, and David must be patient and gentle with her. David thanks Miss Betsey and asks her to talk to Dora every now and again about household matters. Miss Betsey absolutely refuses; if she starts to interfere in their household, she and David might start to argue. David sees that Miss Betsey is right. Miss Betsey reassures David that they have plenty of time to build their marriage. But David married Dora, and he can't expect Dora to be other than she is, nor can he blame her for her nature. With this advice, David escorts Miss Betsey home and thinks over her advice. When David comes back, Dora comes downstairs, hugs him, and cries; she apologizes for being naughty and they make up. Next up, they continue to have huge amounts of trouble with servants. They dismiss Mary Anne, but they also have a lot of other terrible maids. Worse still, all the shopkeepers in town, knowing how young and inexperienced David and Dora are, manage to cheat them with poor-quality meats and washing. One of the first guests they invite to their house is Tommy Traddles. Traddles and David walk to David's home, which Traddles compliments once again. David loves seeing beautiful Dora at his table, but he cannot help but notice that the dining-room is terribly cramped. Traddles has barely any room to move. Jip is also behaving badly: he walks all over the tablecloth and barks at Traddles. Still, because David knows that Dora will be hurt if he insults Jip, he doesn't protest. David sees that Dora has purchased some oysters, which Traddles loves: he thinks this is a great idea. But, sadly, they absolutely cannot pry the tops off these excellent oysters. So, David, Traddles, and Dora look at the oysters while they eat some leftover bacon. Dora soon cheers up when she realizes David isn't angry at her, so Traddles, David, and Dora pass a very pleasant evening together. When Traddles goes home, Dora asks David to teach her what to do. David confesses that he knows about as much about housekeeping as Dora does. Dora tells David that he can learn, because he is clever. She wishes she could have spent a year living with and learning from Agnes. Then she might be more self-reliant. Dora asks David to call her a special name: "Child-wife" (44.100). She explains that David should think of her that way, so that when he is angry or disappointed, he will remember that Dora is only his "child-wife" (44.101). David doesn't think she is serious, but he eventually realizes that she is – Dora is pleading with David for patience. And Dora really, really tries, but she's just not that gifted – she cannot make the household accounts add up, even though she keeps trying. (Meanwhile, David's reputation as a writer is starting to grow.) David comes home in the evenings and show Dora again how to add, but Dora can only pay attention for about five minutes at a time before she starts playing. Because David is trying to save Dora from pain, he never talks to her about his daily worries over work and business and so on. So, David feels that he has no partner in the worries of their shared life. When he comes home late from the Parliamentary debates, or when he works on his writing at home, Dora sometimes sits up to watch him. One night, David tries to send her to bed, and she cries: she desperately wants to be allowed to be near David while he works. Dora worries that David will forget her in his world of writing. She asks David if she can hold his pens, and when he agrees, she is so happy. So now, whenever David works, she sits by him in a designated place and holds his pens specially for him. Dora is as affectionate to Miss Betsey as she is to David, and Miss Betsey works hard to keep her love. They are very close.
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