Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 18

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 18

A Retrospect

  • David looks back on his school days.
  • David is not the least successful boy in school, but he's still a long way off from being the first one (Adams).
  • Adams is not as superior as Steerforth, but David still wonders what he'll be when he leaves the school – he's sure that Adam will be amazing.
  • David has a crush on Miss Shepherd, who boards at a school run by the Misses Nettingalls.
  • The Misses Nettingalls' pupils go to the same church that Doctor Strong's students attend.
  • Luckily, David and Miss Shepherd also go to the same dancing school.
  • David gives Miss Shepherd little presents: brazil nuts, cookies, and oranges.
  • Slowly, however, they grow apart: David hears that Miss Shepherd wishes David didn't stare at her so much.
  • Worse still, Miss Shepherd has a crush on Jones, one of his schoolfellows.
  • One day, David happens to walk past the Misses Nettingalls' girls and sees Miss Shepherd making a face at him and then laughing to her friends. He's done with her.
  • David grows older, and decides that he's above the Misses Nettingalls' young ladies. He's too good for them and for dancing school.
  • Doctor Strong calls David a promising scholar, and Mr. Dick and Miss Betsey are both very proud of him.
  • A young butcher in the town threatens to beat up Doctor Strong's boys because they think they're so great.
  • In fact, he stops a couple of the younger boys and punches them.
  • This butcher challenges David directly, and so David decides to fight him.
  • The butcher totally kicks David's butt, and he has to stay home for a couple of days to recover.
  • Agnes nurses David. She agrees that David had no choice but to fight the butcher (his honor was at stake!).
  • Adams graduates from the school and goes on to become a lawyer.
  • David no longer thinks Adams is so very great: he suddenly seems very meek and not at all grand.
  • Now David is head boy! He feels about a million miles away from the little boy he was when he first arrived at Doctor Strong's school.
  • And Agnes has also grown up: she is like a calm, sweet sister to David.
  • David has fallen in love yet again, this time, with the eldest Miss Larkins.
  • Miss Larkins is a tall woman of about thirty, and David is head over heels for her.
  • David plans to go to a ball that he knows Miss Larkins will also attend.
  • When he can't be with Miss Larkins, he tries to catch the eye of her father, Mr. Larkin.
  • David worries that, at 17, he may be too young for Miss Larkins. But so what! He'll be 21 soon!
  • Fantasies run through David's head of Miss Betsey giving him her blessing to marry Miss Larkins and offering him a fortune of 20,000 pounds.
  • Sadly, in real life, he also notices that Miss Larkins is very popular with the army officers in the town: he starts to worry that she won't even notice him.
  • So, David finally makes it to the ball and asks Miss Larkins to dance.
  • David tells Miss Larkins that he doesn't want to dance with anyone else.
  • They do dance together, and David is pleased that he has snatched Miss Larkins from the arms of Captain Bailey.
  • David asks Miss Larkins for a flower, which he then kisses and pins to his chest. (Seriously.)
  • Miss Larkins tells David that he is very bold, and then asks to be escorted back to Captain Bailey.
  • Miss Larkins later approaches David with a plain, somewhat older gentleman on her arm.
  • She introduces David to Mr. Chestle, who is in the hops trade (hops are flower clusters that are key in the beer and ale brewing process).
  • David thinks that Mr. Chestle must be some friend of the family, and is very proud of the introduction.
  • He's absolutely thrilled at this attention from Miss Larkins.
  • That is, until several weeks later, when Agnes tells him at dinner that Miss Larkins has just gotten married.
  • To Captain Bailey? Nope, to Mr. Chestle.
  • David is miserable, stops wearing his best clothes, and throws away Miss Larkins' flower.
  • Tired of the whole dating scene, David challenges the butcher to another fight and beats him.
  • He feels a bit better. And that's David's rise to the age of 17!

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