Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 10

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 10

I Become Neglected, and Am Provided For

  • The first thing Miss Murdstone does after the funeral is to fire Peggotty. (Classy!) Peggotty has a month to find another place to live.
  • Peggotty explains to David why she's leaving.
  • Miss Murdstone tells David that he's not going back to boarding school.
  • But David's not sure what he is supposed to be doing: mostly, the Murdstones ignore him and he stays out of their way.
  • David tells Peggotty that he's worried about what's going to happen to him: every time Mr. Murdstone sees David, he looks so angry.
  • Peggotty tells David sadly that she can't find a job close by, so she won't be able to stand by David even though she wants to.
  • Peggotty plans to go to Yarmouth to live with her brother.
  • She suggests that David come and visit Yarmouth for two weeks, since no one seems to want him around the Rookery right now.
  • Miss Murdstone agrees to let David go (totally ungracefully), and David has to hide how happy he is just in case she takes it back to spite him.
  • David and Peggotty drive to Yarmouth in Mr. Barkis's cart.
  • David comments to Mr. Barkis that Peggotty seems pretty comfortable.
  • Mr. Barkis nudges Peggotty with his elbow and asks, "Are you pretty comfortable?" (10.35).
  • Peggotty laughs and answers yes.
  • They continue to joke together throughout the trip.
  • Finally, they arrive at Yarmouth. Mr. Barkis makes an extremely odd comment: he says that he will be a friend of David's because David "made it all right first" (10.47).
  • David has no clue what Mr. Barkis is talking about.
  • A bit later on, Peggotty asks David how he would feel if she got married.
  • David asks if Peggotty plans to marry Mr. Barkis.
  • Peggotty says yes.
  • David agrees that that would be all right, because then she would always have access to the horse and cart and could come to see him often.
  • Peggotty is delighted that David is okay with her plan, because she would never marry Mr. Barkis if it would hurt David.
  • David is genuinely happy for her.
  • They all arrive at the boat-house in Yarmouth.
  • Everything looks just the same. Mrs. Gummidge waits at the door, the house is full of the smell of shellfish. Little Emily is coming home from school soon.
  • David feels oddly disappointed by the old house, perhaps because little Emily is not waiting for him.
  • He tries to kiss her when she gets home, but she laughs, turns away, and says she isn't a baby any more.
  • Little Emily is totally spoiled by all the Peggottys, but she's still sweet-tempered and nice.
  • David's crush on her is even stronger than it was before.
  • Little Emily is so sad to hear that David has become an orphan that she tears up.
  • Mr. Peggotty points out the little Emily and Ham Peggotty are both fellow orphans.
  • Mr. Peggotty asks after David's friend, Steerforth.
  • The two male Peggottys and David go off into a long exchange about how awesome, smart, and handsome Steerforth is. (Fan club!)
  • At this point, David catches a glimpse of little Emily's face. In the middle of hearing about Steerforth's greatness, her face is shining.
  • Even though the house is just the same, there is a new distance between David and Emily now. In the year that they haven't seen each other, she really has started to grow up. Even though she likes David, she also enjoys teasing him.
  • During his visit, David gets to observe Mr. Barkis courting Peggotty. Mr. Barkis does this by leaving weird little presents at the door every day and sitting by the fire and staring at her in the evenings. He hardly ever speaks.
  • His courtship is an object of lots of laughter among the Peggottys.
  • Just before David is supposed to go home, he finds out that he is going on an outing with little Emily, Mr. Barkis, and Peggotty.
  • Peggotty looks the same as usual, but Mr. Barkis is all dressed up in new clothes.
  • Mrs. Gummidge rains on everyone's parade by complaining that she's miserable and bursting into tears before the children, Mr. Barkis, and Peggotty get into the coach and head out.
  • They stop at a church and leave David and Emily in the coach while Mr. Barkis and Peggotty head inside.
  • In the coach, David makes Emily promise to be nice to him, kisses her, and declares his undying love.
  • Emily bursts out laughing: she thinks of herself as much older than David, and tells him he's being "a silly boy" (10.115).
  • Mr. Barkis and Peggotty come out of the church after a long time.
  • The carrier winks at David and tells him that Peggotty's new name – is Clara Peggotty Barkis. Yes, those two crazy kids are finally married.
  • Peggotty seems totally unchanged by marriage: she's just the same as always.
  • Mr. Barkis drives Peggotty, David, and little Emily home.
  • As they ride back to the Peggottys' house in Yarmouth, David thinks that he would be so happy if he and Emily were married. They could live in the forest and never grow old.
  • They arrive back at the boat house. Peggotty says goodbye and heads back to Mr. Barkis's home. David feels that he has lost Peggotty – but at least he has little Emily.
  • Because her family guesses that David feels a bit abandoned by Peggotty, Ham and Mr. Peggotty feed him dinner, and Emily sits with him.
  • Even so, the next morning, Peggotty comes by the boat house just as usual.
  • David says goodbye to Mr. Peggotty, Ham Peggotty, and Emily, and goes to spend his last night in Yarmouth with Peggotty.
  • Peggotty promises that, no matter what happens, as long as she is alive, David will have a place in her home.
  • David thanks Peggotty, and gets into the cart that will bring him back to the Murdstones.
  • Once David gets back to the Rookery, he finds himself completely alone: the Murdstones pretend he isn't there, and he is completely neglected.
  • The only time they ever pay attention to David is to stop him from making friends. The old doctor, Mr. Chillip, invites David to visit (because he's a lonely widower), but David is rarely allowed to go.
  • The Murdstones also won't let David visit Peggotty often, because they are afraid he will complain to her.
  • The only thing that makes David happy during this awful period of loneliness is his father's old books.
  • And then, things get worse.
  • David bumps into Mr. Murdstone and another gentleman in the road near the Rookery.
  • The man next to Mr. Murdstone is Quinion, one of the two guys who teased David before Mr. Murdstone married his mother in the second chapter.
  • Quinion asks David where he's going to school.
  • Mr. Murdstone answers for David: he's not going to school right now.
  • Quinion asks if David is a clever kid.
  • Mr. Murdstone tells Quinion not to bother with David, and the two men let him go on his way.
  • Quinion spends the night in the Rookery.
  • That evening, the Murdstones and Quinion corner David.
  • Mr. Murdstone tells David that young people should not just mope around, especially bad young people like David. David needs to get out into the working world.
  • Miss Murdstone adds that David's stubbornness must be crushed.
  • Mr. Murdstone adds that he can no longer afford to keep David, so the sooner David goes out into the world, the better.
  • (By the way, David is, at this point, 10 years old!!)
  • Mr. Murdstone informs David that Quinion is the manager of the "counting-house" of his London wine company, Murdstone and Grinby. (A counting house is an accounting firm.)
  • David is going to go to work for Quinion.
  • Mr. Murdstone continues: in return for his work, David will make enough money to cover food and drink and a small allowance; Mr. Murdstone will pay for his room and washing.
  • Miss Murdstone tells David to do his duty.
  • David is completely confused, particularly since he has to leave with Quinion the next day – he doesn't exactly have time to collect his thoughts.
  • So, the next morning, David gets into a coach to London with Quinion.

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