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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