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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 61 Summary
I Am Shown Two Interesting Penitents David spends some time finishing up his book at his aunt's house. Sometimes David travels in to London to see Traddles, who is managing his business affairs. It turns out that Sophy has been training as a copy clerk to keep up with Traddles's work. David compliments Traddles and Sophy as being two of the happiest people in the world. Traddles agrees: he can't believe how happy he is. However, Traddles admits, the other day while he was in court he went back to his boyhood habit of drawing skeletons. This reminds David that he has received a letter from old Mr. Creakle, his headmaster. Apparently, Mr. Creakle is now a magistrate – which is like a local, small-time judge. Mr. Creakle has invited David to come and see prison discipline in action. David suggests that Traddles accompany David to see Mr. Creakle. Mr. Creakle is very kind to his prisoners – much kinder than he ever was to anyone else under his power. The ex-schoolmaster welcomes David to his prison as though they were great friends, and he does the same to Traddles. The secret Mr. Creakle relies on in his prison is total isolation, which leads the prisoners to repent their evil deeds. Despite Mr. Creakle's claims, when they actually walk through the prison as part of a tour group, David is pretty sure from the design of their cells that the prisoners get to speak to each other. One model prisoner is Number 27; a second is Number 28. Number 27 is very pious and holy, and frequently writes to his mother. Mr. Creakle leads David to Number 27, who is patiently reading hymns. Number 27 is, of course, Uriah Heep. He asks how David and Traddles are. Uriah Heep tells them that he is very humble today. Heep claims that he is much more comfortable in prison than he ever was outside. Uriah tells the tour group that he deserves to be in prison as a consequence of his behavior, and that he must bear his punishment without grumbling. The tour group is very approving. They're next led to Number 28, and who should it be but Littimer! Littimer claims to be troubled by memories of his past deeds and sins. He says that he is perfectly happy. Littimer tells the group that he sees a gentleman among their number who he used to know. That gentleman should repent of his bad behavior before it's too late. You'd think that "gentleman" would clearly be David, but David notices a number of men in the group hiding their faces guiltily. Littimer then clarifies that the "gentleman" should tell the "young woman who fell into dissolute courses" (61.68) – i.e. Emily. He forgives her for leading him astray, before wishing them all a good day. They return to Uriah Heep. Mr. Creakle asks if he needs anything. Uriah Heep wants to write to his mother; he is afraid that she is not safe. Heep wishes his mother had come to prison; in fact, he thinks everyone would be better off in prison. Uriah Heep promises Mr. Creakle that he is a changed man. Uriah then reminds David of his own violent impulses – why, he struck Uriah on the face once! (The whole tour group looks angrily at David.) But Uriah Heep claims that he forgives David, and he hopes that David and the Wickfields all repent. Uriah Heep has been sent to prison due to bank fraud. Littimer robbed a man he was working for, but he was turned in by a little person – Miss Mowcher! He injured Miss Mowcher quite badly, but she wouldn't let him go. David and Traddles both realize that there is no point in telling Mr. Creakle that Littimer and Uriah are lying hypocrites. They leave the pair of them to the prison system.
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