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David Copperfield

David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield Timeline and Summary

  • David is born at 12:00 AM on a Friday.
  • His great-aunt, Miss Betsey Trotwood, hears that David is a boy rather than a girl. She decides not to become his godmother.
  • David is raised by his child-like mother and his nurse, Peggotty.
  • He notices that Mrs. Copperfield starts receiving visits from a handsome, stern gentleman named Mr. Murdstone.
  • Peggotty invites David on a trip to her family's house in Yarmouth. He meets Emily, Ham Peggotty, and Mr. Peggotty.
  • David gets a huge crush on Emily.
  • David comes home to find his mother married to Mr. Murdstone.
  • Mr. Murdstone brings his hostile sister, Miss Murdstone, to live with his new wife and son.
  • Together, Mr. and Miss Murdstone emotionally abuse the Copperfields.
  • Finally, Mr. Murdstone persuades Mrs. Copperfield to send David away to school.
  • David attends Salem House, a run-down school run by Mr. Creakle.
  • There, David meets his new hero, James Steerforth, and his dear friend, Tommy Traddles.
  • Salem House is an awful school, in which all of the boys are regularly beaten.
  • David spends two semesters at Salem House being whipped regularly by Mr. Creakle and growing closer to Steerforth.
  • While he is still at school, David hears the news that his mother and new baby brother have both died.
  • David leaves Salem House.
  • Mr. Murdstone no longer wants to support his stepson, David, so he sends David to his wine bottling plant in London.
  • David becomes a child factory worker.
  • He rents a small room with the extremely jolly but also spendthrift Micawber family.
  • The Micawbers are arrested for being in excessive debt.
  • David runs away from Mr. Murdstone's factory.
  • He walks from London to Dover, a distance of 73 miles.
  • In Dover, he meets his great-aunt, who is so moved by his ragged appearance that she takes him in.
  • Miss Betsey pays for David to go to a new, much better, school in Canterbury. The school is run by the kindly Doctor Strong, and David does very well there under his training.
  • While a student with Doctor Strong, David boards with the Wickfields.
  • Mr. Wickfield is Miss Betsey's business manager. His daughter, Agnes, keeps house for him.
  • David comes to regard Agnes as a sister.
  • He is less taken with Mr. Wickfield's clerk, Uriah Heep, who has a cold and deceitful manner.
  • David finishes school at 17 and is ready to start a new profession.
  • Miss Betsey suggests that David become a proctor, which is a kind of lawyer who deals in documents and so on. David plans to think it over.
  • David heads to Yarmouth (where the Peggottys live) to visit his old nurse.
  • On his way to Yarmouth, David bumps into Steerforth at an inn.
  • David rekindles his friendship with Steerforth. The two head to Steerforth's mother's house before going on to visit the Peggottys together.
  • All of the Peggottys adore Steerforth, and David has a lovely time in Yarmouth.
  • David notices that Mr. Peggotty's niece Emily seems shy and reserved around her fiancé, Ham Peggotty. He finds her awkwardness with Ham odd.
  • Before leaving Yarmouth, David decides to become a proctor.
  • Miss Betsey pays a thousand pounds for David to become an apprentice at the proctor office of Spenlow and Jorkins. David rents a new apartment in London and sets up his adult life.
  • While moving in his new legal social circles, David meets up with Traddles again. Traddles is now a lawyer in London, and the two of them become close friends.
  • Tommy Traddles is living in a house rented by the Micawbers. David befriends the Micawber family again.
  • David falls in love with the boss's daughter, Dora Spenlow. Dora is a lovely, naive, spoiled girl.
  • He hears that his old nurse Peggotty's husband has not got long to live. He plans a trip to Yarmouth to visit him before he passes away.
  • At Yarmouth, David witnesses Mr. Barkis pass away.
  • He is also on hand when the Peggottys receive awful news: Emily has deserted Ham to run away with Steerforth. All this time, Steerforth has been hanging around Yarmouth in secret, trying to seduce Emily away.
  • David returns to London filled with a sense of betrayal at the behavior of his best friend.
  • Back in London, David finds the Wickfields visiting. He is horrified to learn that the evil Uriah Heep has developed so much control over Mr. Wickfield.
  • Uriah Heep tells David in secret that he plans to marry Agnes one day. David is disgusted.
  • David receives a sudden surprise visit from Miss Betsey: she has lost all of her money, and she and her ward Mr. Dick are both homeless.
  • To support his poor aunt, David gets two more jobs: he starts taking dictation at government debates, and he gets a job as a secretary for his old teacher, Doctor Strong.
  • David continues his courtship of Dora Spenlow.
  • With the help of Dora's chaperone Miss Murdstone (!!), Mr. Spenlow discovers love letters from David to his daughter. He forbids David from falling in love with Dora.
  • That very night, Mr. Spenlow suddenly dies, leaving Dora with very little money.
  • David goes to meet Dora's next closest relatives: her two aunts, Miss Clarissa and Miss Lavinia. They agree to allow Dora to marry David.
  • Miss Betsey sends David to check on her property in Dover.
  • David visits the Wickfields. Uriah Heep has officially become Mr. Wickfield's business partner.
  • Uriah Heep has officially hired Mr. Micawber as his new law clerk. Mr. Micawber won't say anything bad about his new boss.
  • David and Dora eventually get married.
  • They move into a little cottage in Highgate, near Doctor Strong.
  • David is finding some success as a fiction writer. He is working incredibly hard to support his new wife.
  • Dora has a lot of difficulty with basic household tasks. She cries whenever she has to think about anything too serious.
  • David slowly becomes disappointed with life with Dora.
  • He and Dora are too different to be happily married.
  • Even so, David loves Dora and wants her to be happy.
  • Dora begins to grow ill.
  • David gets a letter from his old friend, Mr. Micawber, asking David and Traddles to come and see Mr. Micawber in Canterbury.
  • Before going to Canterbury, David gets a visit from Mr. Peggotty.
  • Mr. Peggotty has been searching for the lost Emily all of this time.
  • Finally, David hears word of where Emily is from a shared acquaintance, Martha Endell.
  • David watches as Mr. Peggotty comes to rescue Emily from the dive in London that she's wound up in after running away from Steerforth.
  • David, Traddles, and Miss Betsey all go to meet Mr. Micawber for this mysterious showdown.
  • Mr. Micawber can't keep silent any more. He has collected evidence of Uriah Heep's fraud and blackmail of Mr. Wickfield.
  • David finds out that Miss Betsey's money wasn't lost after all; it was just hidden by Uriah Heep to make his old rival David's life harder.
  • Uriah Heep is now out of the picture.
  • Mr. Micawber has done the right thing, but he now has no income (again). So, he agrees that the best thing would be for his family to sail to Australia.
  • Dora grows sicker and sicker, and David must come to terms with the fact that she might die.
  • Finally, on her deathbed, Dora sends David out of the room. She wants to impart her last words to Agnes Wickfield, who is there nursing Dora.
  • Dora passes away.
  • David starts making plans to go to Europe after Dora's death.
  • Before he leaves, Mr. Peggotty brings David a letter from Emily to Ham Peggotty.
  • David goes to Yarmouth. There is a strong storm going on.
  • While David is sheltering at an inn, he hears that a ship is struggling just off shore.
  • Ham Peggotty tries to swim to the ship, but the sea is too strong and he drowns.
  • The man on the struggling ship also drowns: it's James Steerforth.
  • David takes Steerforth's body to his mother, Mrs. Steerforth.
  • He goes to the London docks to watch the ship bound for Australia. It's carrying the Micawbers, Mr. Peggotty, Emily, Martha Endell, and Mrs. Gummidge.
  • David heads to Europe for three years.
  • He realizes that he has been in love with Agnes Wickfield all of this time.
  • When he gets back to England, he finishes off his novel.
  • David sees Agnes regularly, but he doesn't confess his love – he thinks that boat has sailed. After two months back in England, David can't stand the stress anymore – he asks Agnes how she feels.
  • Agnes loves David, and the two get engaged.
  • David finds out Dora's last words to Agnes: Dora told Agnes not to let anyone else marry David unless it's Dora herself.
  • He's overjoyed that Dora would have approved.
  • David and Agnes get married and have lots of kids.
  • They live happily ever after, surrounded by friends and family.

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