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William Dorrit Timeline and Summary

  • In his 30s, Dorrit loses out in some partnership and gets saddled with all the debts.
  • He is put in debtors' prison, where his children and wife come to live with him. (His wife eventually dies.)
  • Dorrit grows into a bitter, selfish, deluded old man who goes around begging for money from his fellow prisoners and ignoring the fact that his daughter Amy is the only one keeping the family afloat.
  • He meets Arthur Clennam and immediately dislikes him because Arthur won't keep giving him money.
  • After a bad day, Dorrit tries to get Amy to lead on the son of the prison turnkey in order to improve his own place in the prison's pecking order.
  • One day he learns that he is heir to a huge fortune and thus can go free.
  • Dorrit takes his family abroad. There he spends money freely and lives in constant fear that his prison past will be discovered.
  • He hires Mrs. General to teach his daughters the ways of the aristocracy.
  • His money is enough to get Dorrit into the highest society. To his displeasure, though, Amy is not great at learning to be a highborn lady.
  • Dorrit commissions a portrait of himself from Henry Gowan.
  • He approves the marriage of his daughter Fanny and Merdle's son-in-law Sparkler.
  • All this time, Dorrit's paranoia keeps growing, and he misinterprets every action of his servants as a sign that they know he used to be in jail.
  • Dorrit returns to England to take care of his affairs and gets a visit from the son of the turnkey. He is furious at this visit and scares the young man.
  • After meeting Merdle, Dorrit gives him all of his money to invest and returns to Italy ready to propose to Mrs. General.
  • After starting to woo her, Dorrit goes to a dinner party and has some kind of mental collapse where he thinks that he's back in prison and that the party guests are his fellow prisoners.
  • Amy takes him home. He dies a few days later.
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