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Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit


by Charles Dickens

Amy Dorrit Timeline and Summary

  • Born inside the Marshalsea prison, where everyone calls her Little Dorrit.
  • Her mom dies when she is eight.
  • Amy grows up close to her godfather, the turnkey. He wants to leave her his money but can't figure out a way to make it legally impossible for anyone but her to have it, even if she wanted to give it away.
  • Amy befriends a dancing master in the jail and gets him to teach her sister Fanny to dance.
  • She then befriends a seamstress and learns to sew.
  • Amy tries to find some kind of profession for her brother, but nothing works out.
  • The family is poor, so Amy tries to hire herself out as a seamstress. After she puts an ad in the window of the Plornishes' shop, Mrs. Clennam hires her for almost daily work.
  • Somewhere along the way, Amy meets Maggy, a mentally disabled woman whom she takes care of.
  • At Mrs. Clennam's she meets Arthur Clennam and makes friends with him.
  • Amy slaves away day and night to try to maintain her father's growing exaggerations about his life before prison.
  • One day her father tries to indirectly, but really clumsily, get her to lead on John Chivery (the prison turnkey's son) a little bit so that Dorrit can keep getting little privileges from him.
  • Amy falls in love with Arthur.
  • She then gets more sewing work from Flora Finching, Arthur's ex-fiancée, who is obsessed with getting back together with Arthur.
  • Amy is sad to think that Arthur and Flora will be together and tells Maggy a fairy tale about a reclusive young woman who keeps a secret shadow in her house. The shadow goes away when the woman dies.
  • At Flora's house Amy meets Pancks, whose hobby is investigating genealogies.
  • Soon Arthur tells Amy the results of Pancks's investigations into the Dorrit family – they are rich!
  • A year later, Amy is traveling around Europe with her family, when the Dorrits run into Pet and Henry Gowan in the Alps.
  • Amy correctly guesses that Arthur used to be in love with Pet. She writes him several letters about the Gowans and how Pet's marriage is going (poorly).
  • In Italy Dorrit is angry at Amy for her inability to adjust to being rich and still acting like she's in prison.
  • Amy tries to be better, learns Italian, and tries to keep her sister from marrying the moronic Sparkler – to no avail.
  • Eventually, after her family goes back to London, Amy is stuck taking care of her brother Tip, who is stricken with malaria.
  • Finally, she also returns to London, only to find that the Dorrits' wealth has disappeared with the financial collapse of Merdle.
  • Amy takes care of Arthur in jail and visits her old friends.
  • One day Mrs. Clennam finds her and tells her that Arthur's real mom was a dancer who died a long time ago, and that Mrs. Clennam held back a will that left Amy Dorrit a bunch of money.
  • Amy proposes to Arthur by telling him that she is as poor as he is.
  • Before they are married, she asks him to burn the will Mrs. Clennam has given back to her. She decides to eventually tell Arthur the deal with his family, but to leave out the part about the money.