Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 12

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 12

Liking Life on My Own Account No Better, I Form a Great Resolution

  • Mr. Micawber manages to make deals with his creditors, and he is released from debtors prison.
  • Mr. Micawber has to spend a little more time at the prison because there are fees to be settled, but he's going to go free soon.
  • Back at the prison, Mr. Micawber celebrates with his club while David and Mrs. Micawber toast Mr. Micawber's freedom together.
  • David asks Mrs. Micawber what Mr. Micawber plans to do now.
  • Mrs. Micawber tells David that her family has suggested Mr. Micawber leave London for Plymouth (which is where she's from).
  • David asks Mrs. Micawber if she will accompany Mr. Micawber back to Plymouth.
  • Mrs. Micawber weeps as she informs David that she will never leave Mr. Micawber: yes, perhaps they have had to hock all of their precious possessions, including the things she inherited from her parents, but she will stand by her man!
  • Mrs. Micawber gets more and more upset as she assures David she'll never leave Mr. Micawber.
  • Finally, she gets so loud in her protests that she frightens David, and he runs off to find Mr. Micawber with his club.
  • There, David tells Mr. Micawber that Mrs. Micawber seems to be in hysterics, and Mr. Micawber bursts into tears.
  • Mr. Micawber runs to Mrs. Micawber and asks what is wrong.
  • Mrs. Micawber promises Mr. Micawber that she will never desert him.
  • Mr. Micawber is so moved by her devotion that he keeps begging her to be calm.
  • David, meanwhile, starts to cry.
  • And Mrs. Micawber is so emotional that she makes Mr. Micawber weep again.
  • So Mr. Micawber, Mrs. Micawber, and David all cry together for a time.
  • Then, Mr. Micawber goes to put Mrs. Micawber to bed, and David waits for him.
  • Eventually, Mr. Micawber emerges and tells David that Mrs. Micawber is very sad.
  • The problem is that the Micawbers have gotten so used to their troubles that they don't know how to face their new freedom.
  • David is so confused and miserable to think that the Micawbers will soon leave London that he doesn't know what to do.
  • Late that night, he has a sudden idea: he realizes that he can't survive London without the Micawbers. So he has to escape, too.
  • He knows that the Murdstones don't care. He's received a couple of parcels from Mr. Murdstone containing clothes, but there is no sign that the Murdstones expect him to become anything other than a drudge toiling away in that warehouse.
  • Mr. Micawber comes in to the counting house the next day to explain to Quinion that he is going to Plymouth and can no longer be responsible for David's rooms.
  • Quinion puts David up in the house of one of the other warehouse workers.
  • On the Micawbers' last day in London, they have dinner together, and David brings over presents for the kids.
  • The Orfling is also there to say goodbye, since she now has to find another place of employment.
  • Mrs. Micawber promises that she will always think fondly of David: he has been a true friend to the Micawbers.
  • Mr. Micawber also tells David that he is amazingly sympathetic and compassionate.
  • David's only landlord also has a bit of advice for him: never procrastinate! And also – never get into debt! Debt makes you totally miserable. (We here at Shmoop can also add that this is absolutely, totally true: debt does suck.)
  • Mrs. Micawber gives David a motherly hug and the family drives away in a coach to Plymouth.
  • The Orfling and David shake hands and go their separate ways.
  • David returns to Murdstone and Grinby's wine warehouse.
  • But he doesn't plan to stay at the warehouse for much longer: David is going to run away.
  • He wants to go and find his aunt, Miss Betsey Trotwood.
  • David has heard of her in the story of his birth (remember the first chapter, so long ago?).
  • He imagines his aunt touching his mother's hair and feeling sympathy for her girlish beauty.
  • He starts to wonder if his aunt might have some pity for him.
  • Slowly, David becomes determined to run away to Miss Betsey.
  • David writes to Peggotty and drops hints to try and work out where Miss Betsey lives. He also asks if he can borrow a little money.
  • Peggotty writes back that Miss Betsey lives near Dover (on the southeast coast of England), but she's not sure exactly where. She also includes some cash for David.
  • David feels that he has to stay at the warehouse until Saturday night because he has been paid in advance for his labor.
  • Saturday night, when they're all lined up to get paid for their work, David shakes hands with Mick Walker, says good night to Mealy Potatoes, and runs away.
  • David finds a boy next to a donkey cart near the house where he's staying. David tries to hire the boy to help him carry his trunk to the coach office.
  • The boy does take the trunk according to David's instructions.
  • Unfortunately, the boy also sees the money David borrowed from Peggotty, which David drops.
  • The boy grabs David's cash.
  • The boy accuses David of running away on "a pollis case" (12.63)— a case for the police.
  • He says that David has to prove it's his money at the police station.
  • David bursts into tears and demands his cash back.
  • The boy starts to drag David off (presumably to the police) when he suddenly changes his mind, jumps on his cart, and drives away with David's trunk and money in hand.
  • David runs after the boy's cart, but he can't keep up.
  • Finally, with very little left in his possession, David sets out on the road he thinks leads to Dover.

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