Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 3

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 3

I Have a Change

  • David and Peggotty finally arrive at Yarmouth, after a long, slow journey by cart (driven by "the carrier," who gets a name later in the novel: Mr. Barkis).
  • Peggotty loves Yarmouth; she finds it "the finest place in the universe" (3.6).
  • It's now been several years since David's birth, and Ham Peggotty (who was there the night of Mrs. Copperfield's delivery in the first chapter) has grown to be a huge six foot tall grown up.
  • Ham carries David on his back up to the Peggotty house, which is, in fact, an old ship.
  • The ship totally reeks of fish because Peggotty's brother sells lobsters, crabs, and crawfish, which he keeps in an old shed outside.
  • David meets Mr. Dan Peggotty, Peggotty's brother, and a lovely little girl, Emily, whom David immediately likes.
  • Mr. Peggotty asks after Mrs. Copperfield and welcomes David to the Peggotty home.
  • Eventually, David manages to work out the Peggotty family's relations: Mr. Dan Peggotty had a brother, Joe Peggotty, who is the father of Ham. But Joe drowned a while back.
  • And the lovely little girl who David's a bit smitten with, Emily, is not Mr. Peggotty's daughter. Her father was Mr. Peggotty's brother-in-law, Tom, who has also drowned.
  • Mr. Peggotty is, in fact, a bachelor.
  • He has adopted Ham and Emily because they are orphans.
  • Mr. Peggotty has also taken in Mrs. Gummidge, the widow of a business partner of his who has no money at all.
  • So, Mr. Peggotty is a fantastic guy. Even though he doesn't have much money of his own, he has still taken in three people who need him: Emily, Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge.
  • David goes to bed feeling contented and safe.
  • The next day, he and Emily head out to the beach.
  • Emily reveals that she is afraid of the sea because it has taken away so many fishermen (including, of course, her own father).
  • David and Emily compare notes about what it means to be an orphan – even though they've both lost their fathers, the similarity in their lives pretty much ends there.
  • Emily wants to be a lady (a.k.a. a wealthy woman), because if she were a lady, her uncle Dan Peggotty and her cousin Ham would both be safe from the storms that make a fisherman's life so dangerous.
  • She's afraid of the sea as an abstract thing, but she doesn't worry about it so much in person: she proves this to David by running quickly along the dock in a way that makes him think she's going to fall in. But she doesn't.
  • David is totally head over heels in love with Emily: he thinks she's an angel.
  • David tells Emily that, if she doesn't say she loves him back, he'll kill himself. So, of course, Emily says she does, and David believes her.
  • All the adults think that Emily and David's puppy love is really cute.
  • Mr. Peggotty likes to go to a local pub/bar called The Willing Mind.
  • One night, when he's a bit late coming back because the weather is bad, Mrs. Gummidge starts saying that she is driving Mr. Peggotty out to the bar more and more often.
  • Mrs. Gummidge says, "I am a lone lorn creetur' [...] and everythink goes contrary with me" (3.83). What she means is that she's alone and sad in the world, and everything goes against her.
  • In fact, Mrs. Gummidge thinks that she feels all bad things worse than other people do: when a storm blows up, Mrs. Gummidge says she's colder than everyone else.
  • She's a big ol' pile of self-pity.
  • When Mr. Peggotty comes home and asks how everyone is, he notices how gloomy Mrs. Gummidge seems.
  • Mrs. Gummidge apologizes for driving Mr. Peggotty to The Willing Mind.
  • Mr. Peggotty laughs this off: he doesn't exactly need encouragement to go, and it's not Mrs. Gummidge's fault.
  • Mrs. Gummidge frets that she has been annoying Peggotty and David all day.
  • David feels bad for her, and assures Mrs. Gummidge that she hasn't been getting on his nerves (although, of course, she has).
  • Mrs. Gummidge goes off to bed after telling everyone that it would be better if she just died and relieved them all of the burden of her presence (!!).
  • Mr. Peggotty doesn't react to this speech except to tell the others that Mrs. Gummidge has been thinking of her dead husband ("the old 'un" (3.108)).
  • In fact, whenever Mrs. Gummidge gets passive aggressive or self-pitying, Mr. Peggotty just feels more sympathetic towards her because she is a lonely widow.
  • And so two weeks pass pretty fast.
  • Finally, David and Peggotty have to leave.
  • David really doesn't want to part with Little Emily, and promises to write her all the time.
  • As David and Peggotty head home, David suddenly becomes more and more excited to see his mother again.
  • Peggotty doesn't seem to be as excited as David is to be going back.
  • Finally, they arrive at the Rookery, and the door is opened by a servant David doesn't know.
  • Peggotty finally confesses to David that she has something to tell him.
  • David gets so nervous at Peggotty's weird behavior that he thinks his mother has died.
  • Oh no! reassures Peggotty. But Mrs. Copperfield has gotten David a new father.
  • Peggotty takes David to the best parlor.
  • Sitting next to the fire is Mr. Murdstone and Mrs. Copperfield (now Clara Murdstone).
  • Mr. Murdstone warns the new Mrs. Murdstone (though we're going to keep calling her Mrs. Copperfield for the sake of clarity) not to get too emotional.
  • David climbs upstairs and finds that his bedroom has been moved down the hall. The whole house looks different: the kennel that had once been empty now has a huge, scary dog.

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