Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 41

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 41

Dora's Aunts

  • David gets a reply from Dora's aunts: they ask him to come and meet them, and to bring a friend.
  • He replies that it would be an honor and invites Traddles.
  • David is disappointed because his old confidant, Miss Mills, has gone to India with her father.
  • He worries endlessly over what to wear.
  • David feels a little annoyed (though he loves Traddles) that his companion for the day keeps brushing his hair so weirdly.
  • Traddles apologizes: his hair just won't stay down.
  • Traddles's hair has given him a lot of trouble: his girlfriend, Sophy, doesn't mind it, but her oldest sister, "the Beauty," does.
  • Sophy is so necessary to her family that, when Traddles asks her parents if he can marry Sophy, Sophy's mother (Mrs. Crewler) faints.
  • Finally, her father (the Reverend Horace Crewler) agrees.
  • But Sophy's sister Sarah (who has some sort of problem with her spine) eats nothing but toast and water for two days at the news.
  • They've all become resigned to it, but they all resent Traddles for taking Sophy away from them.
  • Traddles and David arrive at the home of the Missses Spenlow.
  • David feels like he's on display.
  • He looks around for Dora, but doesn't see her – though he does hear the sound of Jip somewhere.
  • The two Miss Spenlows are older than Mr. Spenlow was.
  • The younger of the two, Miss Clarissa, addresses David – she thinks – but she's actually looking at Traddles.
  • David corrects her mistake, but he feels weird right off the bat.
  • The older of the two sisters, Miss Lavinia, is supposed to be experienced in the ways of the heart.
  • This experience arises from a (possibly imaginary) relationship Miss Lavinia had long ago with a Mr. Pidger.
  • Dora's aunts acknowledge that, with their brother's death, Dora's position in the world has changed.
  • They also agree that David seems genuinely to love Dora.
  • (There's a little digression about the source of the quarrel between Lavinia, Clarissa, and Mr. Spenlow: apparently, the issue was that Mr. Spenlow's wife didn't find room for the Dora's aunts at a dinner party long before.)
  • (Miss Clarissa adds that it was no problem at all if Mr. and Mrs. Spenlow wanted to have their own friends; she and Lavinia could make do on their own, she's sure.)
  • Miss Clarissa and Miss Lavinia are both undecided about what to do with David, since young love is so uncertain.
  • David and Traddles both chime in to talk about how honest and faithful David has been with his love for Dora.
  • The Spenlow sisters seem impressed with Traddles because he is a lawyer.
  • Miss Lavinia asks Traddles to confirm that David's love is the real thing.
  • She then tells Traddles that they want to put these feelings to the test by getting to know David.
  • Still directing her attention to Traddles and not David, Miss Lavinia clarifies that these visits will be to Miss Lavinia and Miss Clarissa, not to Dora.
  • Dora's aunts don't want an official engagement between David and Dora yet.
  • Traddles agrees that this is reasonable and considerate, and David chimes in positively.
  • Miss Lavinia also makes David promise that he won't try to contact Dora secretly outside of these visits.
  • David promises happily.
  • But Miss Lavinia insists that David talk over these conditions with Traddles for fifteen minutes before he agrees.
  • So, they leave David and Traddles alone for a quarter of an hour, they come back, and David still agrees to all of their terms.
  • Miss Clarissa invites David to come to dinner at 3 PM every Sunday, and to tea twice a week at 6:30 PM.
  • They would also like to meet Miss Betsey Trotwood.
  • Miss Lavinia guides David into the house to see Dora, who has been listening at the door.
  • Dora tells David that she's frightened of his friend and wants him to leave – she's talking about Traddles, and she thinks he has no business being there.
  • David pleads that Traddles is the best guy around.
  • He also tells her that Miss Betsey will be visiting soon, but Dora doesn't want to meet her either.
  • The two of them play with Jip and (as usual) avoid practical matters.
  • David suggests that Dora come and meet Traddles, but she runs off to her room and locks herself in instead.
  • Traddles congratulates David: he's sure that David will be married long before Traddles himself will.
  • Miss Betsey is pleased to see David so happy, but David notices that she paces back and forth in her room almost until dawn.
  • David also writes to Agnes to thank her for advice, and she replies happily.
  • He gets even busier than usual, with lots of work and now these extra visits to Highgate.
  • David is relieved to see that Miss Betsey seems to be getting along with the Spenlow sisters, even though they think Miss Betsey is a bit eccentric.
  • Sadly, Jip hates Miss Betsey, and growls whenever he sees her.
  • The one thing that does worry David is that everyone seems willing to treat Dora like a toy or a doll.
  • He brings it up with her one afternoon, telling her that, after all, Dora isn't a child.
  • David tells her that she could still be happy and treated as an adult.
  • Dora starts to cry and tells David that he shouldn't find fault with her.
  • Dora eventually asks him to show her that cookbook he wanted her to learn.
  • But she gets a headache from reading the cookbook, and trying to learn to add and subtract makes her cry.
  • David asks her, if they were married and he wanted an Irish stew for dinner, if she would know what to do.
  • Dora answers that she would ask the servant for one.
  • So, David and Dora go back to being happy with playing their guitar and songs and painting flowers.

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