Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 14

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 14

My Aunt Makes Up Her Mind About Me

  • David comes downstairs the next morning to find his aunt deep, both in thought and in breakfast.
  • David's really nervous because he still doesn't know what her long-term plans are for him.
  • Miss Betsey informs David that she has written to Mr. Murdstone, and that they'll see what would happen next.
  • David becomes deeply sad at this news.
  • Miss Betsey instructs David to go upstairs and ask Mr. Dick about his Memorial.
  • She wonders if David thinks "Mr. Dick" is a short name.
  • In fact, his real name is Mr. Richard Babley, but he hates it.
  • Miss Betsey tells David that he has been so cruelly treated by people who share his name that he can't stand it, which is why he is only known as Mr. Dick in the Trotwood household.
  • David promises that he will only call him Mr. Dick, and goes upstairs to find him.
  • Mr. Dick comments to David that it's a crazy world, and that he has just made a start on his Memorial.
  • Mr. Dick asks David if he knows the year when King Charles the First was beheaded?
  • David answers that it was 1649 (which is true).
  • Mr. Dick can't figure out why, if his execution happened so long ago, people have bothered to try and make Mr. Dick memorize this fact.
  • The man is glad Miss Betsey has asked after his progress, and wonders what David thinks of the giant kite sitting in the corner of his room. It's about seven feet tall.
  • Mr. Dick shows David that the kite is covered with handwritten pages of facts. Mr. Dick uses this kite to send these facts off into the air and away from his mind.
  • David laughs at this, and Mr. Dick joins him. They both become friends.
  • The boy goes downstairs and tells Miss Betsey that Mr. Dick seems to be doing well.
  • Miss Betsey wants to know what David thinks of him.
  • David asks if Mr. Dick might possibly be a tiny bit crazy?
  • Miss Betsey says that he is not mad at all – Mr. Dick has been called crazy, which is why Miss Betsey has been able to enjoy the pleasure of his company for the past ten years. But he's a lot saner than many people, she says.
  • Mr. Dick is distantly related to Miss Betsey.
  • The man's own brother wanted to lock him up in a mental institution because he is a little eccentric – even though their father asked Mr. Dick's brother to take particular care of him in his will.
  • Mr. Dick also had a sister who was very kind to Mr. Dick, but she was abused by her husband, which upset him very much.
  • Between the brother who wanted to put him away and the sister whom he saw mistreated, Mr. Dick was very ill when he came to live with Miss Betsey.
  • Miss Betsey says that Mr. Dick uses "King Charles the First" as a way of expressing his memory of his own agitation and illness – and why shouldn't he express it that way! she adds.
  • The Memorial is Mr. Dick's history of himself (though it is supposed to be a history of some lord or other), but King Charles the First keeps creeping in no matter how hard Mr. Dick tries to keep him out – his history of himself keeps getting interrupted by his memory of his illness.
  • Miss Betsey says that Mr. Dick is the nicest guy in the world, and if he likes to fly a kite now and then, who cares?
  • Hearing David's strong defense of Mr. Dick, he (a) starts to hope that she will take him in, and (b) begins to respect her merits.
  • As David waits for Mr. Murdstone's answer to his aunt's letter, he is really nervous, but he does his best to be nice to Miss Betsey and Mr. Dick.
  • At last, the day arrives when Mr. Murdstone himself is supposed to come to see Miss Betsey.
  • Just as they are about to eat lunch, Miss Betsey sees someone sitting sidesaddle on a donkey come riding across her beautiful lawn: it's Miss Murdstone. And Mr. Murdstone comes up soon after.
  • Miss Betsey exclaims that it doesn't matter who it is, she won't have trespassers on her grass!
  • Finally, they all assemble inside.
  • Miss Betsey makes David sit down and then turns to receive the Murdstones.
  • She's obviously still furious that they trespassed on her grass (although, honestly, they couldn't have known her rule).
  • Miss Betsey tells Mr. Murdstone it would have been better if he had left Mrs. Copperfield ("that poor child" (14.83)) alone.
  • Miss Murdstone agrees, and adds that it would have been better if Mr. Murdstone had never made such a marriage.
  • Miss Betsey rings for Janet and asks her to bring down Mr. Dick.
  • Mr. Murdstone tells Miss Betsey that David is a bad tempered, ungrateful boy whom he and his sister have tried to discipline.
  • Miss Murdstone adds that David is the worst boy in the world.
  • Mr. Murdstone continues: he has done what he thinks is best with a boy of David's type: to give him an occupation under a respectable man. But David (being ungrateful) has run away from that job Mr. Murdstone so kindly arranged for him.
  • Miss Betsey wonders if Mr. Murdstone would have set his own son to such a job, or if he would have sent David to London if Mrs. Copperfield were still alive.
  • Mr. Murdstone answers that Mrs. Copperfield would have known the Murdstones were acting in David's best interests.
  • As this conversation is going on, Mr. Dick keeps rattling his money more and more loudly, until Miss Betsey glances at him to stop him.
  • David's aunt finds out the deal with Mrs. Copperfield's property. The house and garden were left to David's mother after her husband died. However, everything went straight to Mr. Murdstone when David's mother died, leaving David with diddly squat.
  • Mr. Murdstone plans to take David back with him, and to do with David what he likes. He refuses to make Miss Betsey any promises.
  • David's stepfather warns Miss Betsey that if she steps in on David's behalf, she has to take full control of him: Mr. Murdstone will never deal with David again.
  • Miss Murdstone then thanks Miss Betsey sarcastically for her politeness.
  • Miss Betsey asks David what he wants.
  • David begs Miss Betsey not to let him go, because the Murdstones have never liked him, and because they turned his own mother against him.
  • Miss Betsey turns to Mr. Dick for his opinion.
  • Mr. Dick says that they should have him measured for a suit of clothes.
  • Miss Betsey applauds Mr. Dick's common sense, and tells the Murdstones that she will keep David because she's sure they're lying about him.
  • Miss Betsey accuses Mr. Murdstone of misleading Mrs. Copperfield with pretty words and promises, marrying her, and then bullying her into behaving as he wanted her to.
  • As Miss Betsey makes these totally true accusations, Miss Murdstone keeps trying to get a word in edgewise, but her sarcasm doesn't make a bit of difference to Miss Betsey.
  • Miss Betsey exclaims that Mr. Murdstone is a tyrant, that he broke Mrs. Copperfield's heart, and that his domination is what killed her.
  • Miss Betsey concludes that the reason Mr. Murdstone can't stand to look at David now is because he remembers how he used Mrs. Copperfield's own son against her, to torment her and to break her spirit.
  • As David watches Mr. Murdstone's face, he notices that Mr. Murdstone's expression doesn't change, but he goes completely pale at this.
  • Miss Betsey tells them both good day, and the Murdstones leave her cottage.
  • David's aunt turns to Mr. Dick and instructs him that he and Miss Betsey will share David's guardianship.
  • Mr. Dick says he will do so gladly.
  • Miss Betsey decides to change David's name: she wants to call him Trotwood Copperfield.
  • David is in a daze: his old life in Suffolk seems incredibly distant, and it's as though a veil has fallen over his awful experiences after his mother's death.

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