Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 36

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 36


  • David is starting to perk up a bit. He's got a new goal in mind: he is going to repay Miss Betsey for all of her kindness to him in earlier days.
  • What's more, he's going to make enough money to marry Dora.
  • David travels to Highgate to see Doctor Strong.
  • David is an hour early, so he gives in to curiosity and goes across to Mrs. Steerforth's house first.
  • He peeks in through an open door to see Miss Dartle pacing back and forth like a trapped animal.
  • The sight freaks him out, and he heads back to Doctor Strong's home.
  • Doctor Strong looks exactly the same as he always does.
  • He greets David warmly, and tells him that both Annie and Mr. Jack Maldon will be happy to see David.
  • Jack Maldon has come back from India because he hates the climate.
  • Doctor Strong is happy to hire David, but he wants to make sure that David can't do better.
  • David assures him that he doesn't want to do better – he's really committed to this, and he hopes that he can be of service to Doctor Strong. He's grateful for the work!
  • Doctor Strong admits that his papers are kind of out of order; he tried to employ Jack Maldon as a secretary but Jack Maldon sucked at it.
  • Having agreed to take on David as an employee, Doctor Strong brings him to see Annie.
  • Just then, a man comes walking up to the house leading a horse: it's Jack Maldon himself.
  • Maldon seems totally lazy and uninterested – except when he's talking to Annie.
  • The lazy man has heard news of hunger in the north of England and a murder in the city, but he doesn't seem to care at all.
  • He has only come to invite Annie out to the opera that evening.
  • Doctor Strong encourages her to go, but Annie says she would rather not.
  • She changes the subject right away and asks David about Agnes.
  • Even David can finally see what's going on, but Doctor Strong is so good-natured that he's blind to the fact that Jack Maldon is trying to steal his wife from under his nose.
  • Annie keeps to her resolution not to go out with Jack Maldon, and David wonders if Agnes has been influencing Annie for good the way she has been influencing David.
  • David has yet to tell Dora his news; he's going to wait until she is next visiting Miss Mills.
  • Still wanting to do more, David goes to Tommy Traddles with Mr. Dick.
  • Mr. Dick has begun to fret because he doesn't have anything useful to contribute. David worries that Mr. Dick will make himself sick with all the worrying, so he wants to find something for Mr. Dick to do.
  • Traddles welcomes David, and they talk over plans.
  • David wants to do some reporting on the debates of Parliament to add to his income.
  • Traddles warns David that he'll need to learn shorthand.
  • David promises he will, and Traddles is amazed at his determination.
  • Mr. Dick then tells Mr. Traddles that he would do anything – play the drums, blow a flute, anything – to help.
  • Traddles asks how Mr. Dick's handwriting is.
  • It's excellently neat, but the problem is that King Charles the First keeps cropping up in all of Mr. Dick's manuscripts (witness the Memorial).
  • Traddles wonders if Mr. Dick might have an easier time writing out a manuscript that's already been finished.
  • The two men decide to try it out: they bring Mr. Dick to Traddles's law office the next morning.
  • They hand over some legal documents that need to be copied several times.
  • They instruct Mr. Dick to put his Memorial next to the legal documents he's copying.
  • They tell Mr. Dick that, every time he feels even the slightest inclination to talk about King Charles the First, he must reach over and put that in his Memorial.
  • Otherwise, he should copy the documents exactly as they appear on the page.
  • Traddles pays Mr. Dick by the page for this copy work.
  • By end of the week, Mr. Dick has earned 10 shillings and 9 pence (about U.S. $60 today; see this website).
  • Mr. Dick is incredibly proud and happy.
  • Traddles is also extremely pleased to have been able to help Mr. Dick.
  • Tommy delivers a letter to David from Mr. Micawber.
  • The letter has the (extremely surprising) news that Mr. Micawber has found a job.
  • He's going to a rural town to work in "one of the learned professions" (36.77). (What that profession might be, he doesn't specify).
  • David is relieved that it looks like Mr. Micawber really has found a job at last.
  • Traddles and David set off to see Mr. Micawber.
  • The whole Micawber family is there: the twins are napping in the living room, and Master Micawber (now around 12) is fidgeting around. Miss Micawber, the eldest daughter, is also present.
  • David congratulates Mr. Micawber on the move.
  • Mrs. Micawber renews her promises that she will never leave Mr. Micawber.
  • Mr. Micawber seems annoyed: no one expects that Mrs. Micawber will leave him, after all.
  • The Micawbers are heading back to Canterbury (where David went to school with Doctor Strong).
  • Believe it or not, Mr. Micawber is going to be working as a clerk for none other than Uriah Heep.
  • That newspaper ad Mrs. Micawber suggested seems to have paid off: Uriah answered the ad, and here is Mr. Micawber with a job.
  • Mrs. Micawber insists that Mr. Micawber use this job as an opportunity to rise to the heights of law: maybe a judgeship.
  • Traddles tries to explain that this just ain't going to happen, but Mrs. Micawber seems undeterred.
  • David tells Mr. and Mrs. Micawber about his aunt's bad luck, and they seem quite happy with this news.
  • They drink a number of toasts (as usual with the Micawbers).
  • Mr. Micawber hands Traddles an I.O.U. for his debts, with the claim that he's going to pay them back.
  • Mr. Micawber seems to feel that this I.O.U. is basically the same as actually paying Traddles back.

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