Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 32

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 32

The Beginning of a Long Journey

  • David finds himself thinking of Steerforth as a beloved friend who has now died – he can't imagine that he'll ever see Steerforth again.
  • The entire town has heard about the Peggottys' misfortune, and they treat the family gently.
  • The next morning, David comes to the boat house and finds Mr. Peggotty with Ham and Peggotty.
  • He goes for a walk with Mr. Peggotty and Ham.
  • Mr. Peggotty informs David that he plans to leave Yarmouth. He wants to travel with David to London the next day.
  • Ham will continue working as a fisherman. He'll live with Peggotty in Mr. Barkis's old house.
  • Mr. Peggotty plans to leave the boat house exactly as it was when Emily left, so she'll have a place to go if she ever comes back.
  • Mrs. Gummidge will take care of the house while Mr. Peggotty is away looking for Emily.
  • David asks Ham what he wants to do now, and Ham can't answer: he feels totally at sea and lost right now.
  • Mrs. Gummidge is preparing breakfast for them when they get back to the boat house.
  • She looks after them kindly, and she promises that she will write to Mr. Peggotty regularly to let him know how things are going at the boat house.
  • David is impressed with Mrs. Gummidge: she spends the whole day running useful errands without ever complaining or quarreling as she used to do.
  • David goes out in the late evening for a walk and returns to Mr. Omer's shop.
  • Mr. Omer is so upset that he has gone to bed early.
  • Minnie is still up, though, and she speaks to David.
  • She exclaims that Emily is a lying, bad-hearted girl.
  • David protests.
  • Minnie starts to cry, and asks what on earth Emily will do next? How can she have done this to herself and to Ham?
  • Minnie is so unhappy that her husband comes in to take care of her.
  • David returns to Peggotty's house.
  • Peggotty, meanwhile, is staying at Mr. Peggotty's house to help him.
  • David is sitting up late at night when he hears a soft knock at the door.
  • He opens the door and finds just about the last person in the world he expected to see: Miss Mowcher, the hairdresser.
  • Miss Mowcher looks incredibly upset.
  • David asks her what the matter is, and invites her inside.
  • Miss Mowcher tells David that she feels quite ill when she thinks that she could have prevented what has happened if she had been less foolish.
  • David seems surprised that Miss Mowcher has such strong feelings about this whole disaster.
  • Miss Mowcher is annoyed that David assumes that, because she is a little person, she doesn't have regular human feelings.
  • David apologizes.
  • Miss Mowcher continues: people expect her to be foolish, so she plays the fool. Why shouldn't she? She has to make a living!
  • If Miss Mowcher had been serious and confiding to Steerforth, he would never have listened to her.
  • The little lady tells David that she saw him walking through the street and decided to come pay him a visit.
  • Miss Mowcher knows of Emily from Omer and Joram.
  • The hair dresser scolds David for having looked so fond of little Emily during his previous meeting with Miss Mowcher.
  • Miss Mowcher thought that it was David who was courting Emily, not James Steerforth.
  • And Littimer encouraged Miss Mowcher's mistake by telling her that Steerforth had only come down to Yarmouth with David to keep an eye on David's budding romance with Emily.
  • Littimer told Miss Mowcher that Steerforth was there to keep David and Emily from going too far.
  • Only now does Miss Mowcher realize that Littimer deliberately deceived her.
  • It's because she thought it was innocent young David pursuing Emily that Miss Mowcher agreed to give Emily a letter from Littimer.
  • She now thinks that that letter was probably the first method Steerforth used to bring Emily in contact with Littimer, and then with Steerforth.
  • Miss Mowcher became suspicious when she was visiting the nearby town of Norwich, where she saw little Emily, Steerforth, and Littimer, but no David.
  • She came to Yarmouth to try and stop the plot, but it's already too late and Emily has disappeared.
  • Miss Mowcher asks if David trusts her.
  • David can't say that he does.
  • Miss Mowcher tells him that he would trust her if she were a full-sized woman.
  • David is embarrassed to admit that might be true.
  • The little hairdresser advises David not to judge people by how they look.
  • Miss Mowcher gets up to go, but she says she'll be in touch: she promises that, if she ever hears word of little Emily on her travels, she'll let David know.
  • She gives David a piece of advice: she recommends that, if David ever sees her behaving as she did when David first met her, to see who she's with. That may explain why she's having to defend herself by appearing foolish.
  • David feels completely differently about Miss Mowcher now.
  • The next morning, Mr. Peggotty and Peggotty arrive to meet David for the coach to London.
  • Ham Peggotty and Mrs. Gummidge come to say goodbye.
  • Ham pulls David aside and tells him to look after Mr. Peggotty. Ham also offers that, if Mr. Peggotty ever needs money, Ham will be happy to send some.
  • They part, and David remembers that moment with great sorrow: Ham is convinced that he will be alone for the rest of his life.
  • Mrs. Gummidge also seems deeply moved and tearful as she runs after the coach saying goodbye to Mr. Peggotty.
  • They arrive in London, and David manages to find a place for the Peggottys to stay, in a room two streets over from his own.
  • He brings the Peggottys up to his boarding house to eat.
  • Mrs. Crupp is profoundly annoyed because Peggotty immediately dusts David's room for him, as though Mrs. Crupp weren't taking good enough care of the place.
  • Mr. Peggotty wants to see Mrs. Steerforth.
  • David writes to Mrs. Steerforth, letting her know (as gently as he can) what Steerforth has done.
  • They arrive at Mrs. Steerforth's house in Highgate, where they also find Miss Rosa Dartle.
  • Mrs. Steerforth looks pale and shaken: she clearly knows what Steerforth has done.
  • Steerforth's mother asks Mr. Peggotty what he wants from her.
  • Mr. Peggotty holds out Emily's letter to Mrs. Steerforth, who reads it without apparent emotion.
  • He asks whether Steerforth will marry Emily.
  • Mrs. Steerforth says no: Emily is uneducated and ignorant, and her family is too low to be connected to the Steerforths.
  • Mr. Peggotty promises Mrs. Steerforth that, if Steerforth were to save Emily from disgrace, none of her family would ever come and bother the Steerforths.
  • Mrs. Steerforth seems touched, but she nevertheless repeats that Steerforth can never marry Emily: it would ruin his career.
  • Steerforth's mother offers Mr. Peggotty money to make up for the loss he has suffered.
  • Mr. Peggotty tells her that it's the worst thing he's ever heard, offering money to repay the life of his disgraced child.
  • Mrs. Steerforth flushes with anger: she asks how Mr. Peggotty can talk to her that way, when now there is a huge gap between Mrs. Steerforth and her son?
  • She claims that Mr. Peggotty's loss is nothing compared to hers, now that Steerforth has chosen a young girl over his own mother.
  • Miss Dartle keeps trying to soothe Mrs. Steerforth, but she stays furious.
  • When Mrs. Steerforth talks this way, David sees the resemblance between her and her son very clearly: the same strong, misdirected will.
  • Mr. Peggotty says that he has no more to say, and leaves.
  • As they are walking out the house, Miss Dartle suddenly walks up and addresses David.
  • She scolds him for bringing Mr. Peggotty here.
  • Miss Dartle looks absolutely furious.
  • She tells David that she knows that James Steerforth is a liar and a betrayer, but she doesn't give a d--n about Mr. Peggotty or "his common niece" (32.132).
  • Miss Dartle calls the Peggottys depraved and worthless, and she claims that she would have had Emily whipped.
  • Mr. Peggotty walks out the door at this.
  • David tells Miss Dartle she ought to be ashamed of herself.
  • Miss Dartle is filled with rage and passion: she detests Emily and wishes her the worst.
  • David walks out the door after Mr. Peggotty.
  • Mr. Peggotty plans to leave that evening to look for little Emily.
  • David, Peggotty, and Mr. Peggotty all eat together that evening, and Peggotty hands Mr. Peggotty some money.
  • With that, Mr. Peggotty walks out into the night.

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