Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 28

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 28

Mr. Micawber's Gauntlet

  • David spends most of his time before his dinner party not eating and generally making himself sick with love for Dora.
  • Mrs. Crupp cooks up the food for David's dinner party, but only on condition that he'll eat out every night for the next two weeks.
  • David feels terribly bullied by Mrs. Crupp.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Micawber and Tommy Traddles all arrive together at the arranged time.
  • Mr. Micawber comments that David's house looks great – it's a lot like the place Mr. Micawber lived before he got married.
  • They sit around together and drink punch, but unfortunately, the food is awful.
  • Luckily, Mr. Micawber suggests that they all pile into the kitchen and cook up the rest of the meal themselves.
  • Everyone's extremely happy, and David finally wants to eat for the first time since falling in love with Dora.
  • In the middle of all this merriment, something totally odd happens: Littimer, Steerforth's servant, turns up.
  • Littimer asks David if Steerforth is around; Steerforth said he would be.
  • David has no idea where Steerforth is and assumes that he must still be up at Oxford.
  • Littimer takes over the cooking, but he seems so serious that the group quiets down a lot.
  • David asks Littimer to join them in eating; Littimer refuses.
  • As Littimer heads out the door, David asks him how long he was at Yarmouth. Is Steerforth's boat finished?
  • Littimer says the boat is finished, but he won't give David any further information on Steerforth.
  • Everyone seems relieved once Littimer leaves.
  • Mr. Micawber (who is quite tipsy by now) launches into a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" (for lyrics and meaning, check here).
  • Traddles still has no idea how Mr. Micawber and David came to be friends.
  • Mrs. Micawber then (as usual) lays out Mr. Micawber's disastrous money problems: Mr. Micawber is making no money on corn; before, he also made no money on coal.
  • What should Mr. Micawber do?
  • Mrs. Micawber thinks it's obvious: Mr. Micawber should be a brewer.
  • Sure, Mr. Micawber may have the manners of a banker, but since no one has hired Mr. Micawber to work in a bank, that's not much use.
  • Mrs. Micawber feels that the only way Mr. Micawber is going to be able to "throw down the gauntlet to society" (28.77) – to provoke society into helping him – is by advertising in the newspapers for a job.
  • David points out that ads are expensive.
  • Mrs. Micawber insists that it is necessary.
  • David is most impressed by her resolve.
  • Mrs. Micawber goes to lie down in David's bedroom.
  • David and Traddles congratulate Mr. Micawber on having such an amazing wife.
  • They all drink toasts to one another and everyone is very happy.
  • Mr. Micawber tells the company that, once he has gotten this new job, he wants to move. But there will always be a room for Traddles and a place set at the table for David.
  • Mrs. Micawber decides to come in and make tea.
  • They all continue to make merry, and to tease David over his new sweetheart (about whom, he will only say that her name starts with "D").
  • As the Micawbers and Traddles walk out the door, David pulls Traddles aside quickly.
  • David tells Traddles that Mr. Micawber absolutely means well, but Traddles still shouldn't lend him anything.
  • Traddles says he hasn't got anything to lend.
  • David points out that he could lend his name (presumably as a co-signer for a loan that Mr. Micawber will never be able to pay).
  • Traddles tells David that (possibly unfortunately) he already has signed something for Mr. Micawber – not the loan Mr. Micawber was discussing for the newspaper ads, but another one.
  • David hopes that nothing will go wrong with it.
  • Traddles says something ominous: he tells David he thinks nothing can be wrong, because Mr. Micawber told him just the other day that the loan was "provided for" (28.104). But Mr. Micawber always thinks all of his debts will soon be "provided for."
  • So, David repeats his warning to Traddles quickly.
  • Traddles thanks David, and they all head out.
  • David hears footsteps on the staircase, which he recognizes as Steerforth's.
  • Even though he remembers Agnes's warning, David is very pleased,.
  • Her suspicions about Steerforth don't seem serious when David can see the man himself before his own eyes.
  • Steerforth sees signs that David has been having another party.
  • In fact, Steerforth has just walked past David's three guests on the street.
  • David informs Steerforth that one of those three was his old school friend, Traddles.
  • Steerforth asks where on earth David found him.
  • Completely uninterested Traddles, Steerforth asks for something to eat.
  • He's just come from Yarmouth, where he's been doing some sailing.
  • David tells him that Littimer was just here asking about Steerforth.
  • Steerforth seems a little annoyed with his servant for some reason.
  • David asks if little Emily has gotten married.
  • Steerforth says he hasn't seen much of that group and doesn't know exactly.
  • He delivers a letter from Peggotty to David.
  • Apparently, Mr. Barkis is very sick and not likely to live much longer.
  • David turns to Steerforth (who seems in very high spirits) and tells him that he plans to go down and visit Peggotty.
  • Since Steerforth has just come from Yarmouth, he doesn't want to go there again so soon.
  • Instead, Steerforth plans to go visit his mother in Highgate.
  • Steerforth asks David to wait a day on his trip to Yarmouth. He invites David to visit Highgate the next night instead.
  • David agrees, and they part for the evening.
  • As David's getting ready for bed, a letter that Mr. Micawber handed over to David at the dinner party falls on the floor.
  • David opens the letter, and it's the usual awfulness: Mr. Micawber is crushed. He has no hope.
  • Unfortunately, all of his things have been assessed by a repo man – all of Mr. Micawber's things and all of Tommy Traddles's possessions, too. Yes, in other words, Traddles's stuff is about to get repossessed because Mr. Micawber hasn't paid his debts.
  • David is really worried: Mr. Micawber is a flexible guy and bounces back from these disasters, but how will Traddles cope?
  • It's going to be that much harder for Traddles to marry his fiancée, the curate's daughter.

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