Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 39

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 39

Wickfield and Heep

  • Miss Betsey is worried about David's state of mind.
  • She sends him to Dover to check up on the cottage and to oversee the tenant's signing of a long-term lease.
  • Janet has gone into Annie's service, so David sees her regularly.
  • David is glad to go because he wants to spend a few hours talking to Agnes.
  • Doctor Strong is happy to give David three days off, and there's nothing very pressing going on at the law office.
  • In fact, business isn't so great without Mr. Spenlow to manage things energetically.
  • Mr. Jorkins actually isn't very capable, and he doesn't get much business.
  • David is really disappointed that he's stuck with this guy, and that Miss Betsey's thousand pounds is going to waste.
  • The cottage looks great, and David is pleased to see that the tenant is faithfully keeping the donkeys off the lawn.
  • David visits Mr. Wickfield's house, where he finds Mr. Micawber working where Uriah Heep used to.
  • Mr. Micawber is renting Uriah Heep's old house, and he would be happy to get a visit from David some time.
  • Micawber tells David that he appreciates Uriah Heep because he has been willing to advance Mr. Micawber's salary from time to time.
  • David is glad that Mr. Micawber is getting along all right.
  • He asks how Mr. Wickfield is doing.
  • Mr. Micawber comments that Mr. Wickfield isn't needed in the office much.
  • In fact, Mr. Micawber refuses to discuss the dealings of Wickfield and Heep with David any longer.
  • David tells Mr. Micawber that's fine, and they shake hands.
  • Mr. Micawber does really like Miss Wickfield, who seems superior and virtuous.
  • He's surprised that David isn't pursuing Agnes.
  • David has a strange moment of knowing exactly what Mr. Micawber was going to say before he says it.
  • He feels uncomfortable: Mr. Micawber's new job has put an unfamiliar distance between him and David.
  • David heads off to find Agnes.
  • He tells Agnes that, as his adopted sister, she gives him a sense of steadiness and self-reliance that he lacks without her.
  • David can rest when he is with Agnes, so he bursts into tears.
  • She comforts him.
  • Agnes reminds David that his reliance should no longer come from Agnes, but from Dora.
  • David tells Agnes about that evening when he came in to tell Dora of his poverty and she couldn't hear it without freaking out.
  • Agnes says that it's just like David to barge in on a timid and inexperienced girl like Dora.
  • David admires Agnes's kind, protective regard for Dora.
  • He asks Agnes what he should do.
  • Agnes suggests that David should not be secretive again: he should write to Dora's aunts about their relationship, and he should ask permission to visit sometimes.
  • David agrees happily.
  • He then goes downstairs to see Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep.
  • Mr. Wickfield asks if David will stay with them while he is at Canterbury.
  • David asks if there is room, and Uriah offers to give up his room to David.
  • Mr. Wickfield won't hear of that, and says there is another room.
  • After deciding to stay, David retreats upstairs until dinner.
  • He wants to sit with Agnes, but Mrs. Heep, Uriah's mother, insists on coming along.
  • Mrs. Heep wants to spend all of her time talking and worrying over Uriah Heep.
  • Uriah's mother absolutely never lets David and Agnes sit alone together.
  • David finally goes out for a walk by himself.
  • Soon, he sees Uriah Heep walking out behind him.
  • Uriah Heep catches up and asks to walk with David a while.
  • David confesses that he had wanted some time by himself.
  • Uriah Heep clarifies that David wants time away from Uriah Heep's mother.
  • David answers yes.
  • Uriah Heep tells David that all's fair in love, and he finds David a difficult rival.
  • Angrily, David replies that he thinks of Agnes as nothing more than a sister.
  • He tells Uriah that he is engaged to another woman, if that's any comfort to Uriah.
  • Uriah grabs his hand, thanks him, and promises to call his mother off from her guard duty.
  • Heep informs David that it's a pity that he has never liked Uriah the way Uriah likes him, or they could've cleared up this misunderstanding sooner.
  • David reminds Uriah that Agnes is worth a whole lot more than Uriah.
  • Uriah explains: humbleness has been drilled into his family by generations of schools and charities, because they have been so poor. The Heeps have learned that the only thing that gets people like them ahead in life is to be as humble as it is possible to be.
  • Suddenly, David understands. He had known that Uriah was malicious and cruel, but he now sees how much of Uriah's behavior is motivated by revenge for all of this humble pie he's been eating.
  • They walk back to Mr. Wickfield's house without saying much more.
  • After dinner, Uriah really acts out: while David is sitting with Mr. Wickfield, Uriah keeps offering Mr. Wickfield more drink.
  • Mr. Wickfield is aware of how weak he is being at drinking more and more (at Uriah Heep's suggestion) but he cannot stop himself.
  • It makes David sick to see Uriah Heep playing on Mr. Wickfield's drinking problem like this.
  • Finally, Uriah Heep makes Mr. Wickfield drink to Agnes.
  • Heep tells Mr. Wickfield that he adores her.
  • Uriah Heep says the h-word: husband.
  • At this, Mr. Wickfield cries out and jumps out of his chair.
  • Uriah Heep wonders if Mr. Wickfield has gone mad.
  • David tries to calm Mr. Wickfield down.
  • Finally, Mr. Wickfield points to Uriah and calls him a torturer, who has forced Mr. Wickfield to abandon his reputation and his happiness at home.
  • Uriah Heep reminds Mr. Wickfield that it's thanks to Uriah that he still has any kind of reputation.
  • Uriah warns David to shut Mr. Wickfield up: if he keeps talking, he'll say something he'll regret.
  • Mr. Wickfield begins to weep that he has ruined everything he touches with his weakness.
  • Agnes comes in, wraps her arm around Mr. Wickfield, and tells him to come with her.
  • David realizes that Agnes knows everything that has happened inside the room that evening.
  • Uriah tells David that Mr. Wickfield will think better of his words the next morning.
  • David asks Agnes if there is anything at all he can do for her? He loves her so much – as a sister!
  • Agnes's face has a strange look, but she tells David not to worry about her.
  • David has to leave Canterbury before dawn, but Uriah Heep is there to say a last word.
  • Uriah's already smoothed things over with Mr. Wickfield.
  • What's more, he may have been premature in trying to get permission to marry Agnes the night before, but the time will come.

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