Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 48

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 48


  • David is working hard at a book.
  • He doesn't plan to make many references to his fictional works; they speak for themselves.
  • David has been married for about a year and a half (which would make him about twenty-two and half now), and they have given up their housekeeping lessons.
  • Instead, they have an extremely awful page.
  • David is worried that they'll never get rid of the boy.
  • Fortunately, he gives them a way out: the boy steals Dora's watch and pawns it.
  • The page keeps confessing, bit by bit, all of the things he has stolen.
  • David feels completely embarrassed by what a victim he has become: he really can't keep order in his own house.
  • Meanwhile, Dora goes to visit the boy in prison.
  • But she's so freaked out by being in jail that she faints.
  • David uses this as an opportunity to note that their poor household management has gotten so out of hand that it's now messing up other people.
  • Dora scolds David for being cross.
  • David tells her to put Jip down.
  • He tells Dora sternly that they are wasting money by not being careful, and they're also spoiling all of their servants by giving them opportunities to turn bad.
  • Dora thinks David is accusing her of stealing gold watches.
  • David didn't mean this at all, but Dora sobs that David is comparing her to the thieving page boy.
  • David asks Dora to be reasonable.
  • But she can't: she wonders why David didn't send her to India (where Miss Mills went) instead of marrying her.
  • David thinks the only thing there is left to do is to educate Dora's mind.
  • So, when Dora is being childish, David turns serious.
  • He tries to read Shakespeare to her, which makes her tired.
  • Whenever Traddles comes by the house, David starts instructing him in practical wisdom in the hopes that it will trickle down to Dora by proxy – which it doesn't.
  • Eventually, after several months, David notices that he's having no effect. It looks like Dora's mind is set.
  • David decides that he's going to be satisfied with her from now on out, and he buys her some presents.
  • Dora is very pleased with the gifts.
  • David apologizes that they haven't been good company lately.
  • Dora knows that David has been trying to make her wise.
  • She tells David it's no use – she's his child-wife. Sometimes she thinks it would have been better if —
  • But Dora doesn't finish her sentence and won't explain.
  • David tells Dora that he loves her as she is, and won't try to change her anymore.
  • Dora is delighted and kisses David.
  • This was David's last effort to try and change Dora.
  • David feels a general unhappiness, which he can't pinpoint: he loves Dora, but something is missing.
  • What David wants is a real life partner – something that he knows he could have had.
  • David knows that Dora is truly proud and fond of him.
  • But he also knows that, if his heart had been careful when he first met Dora, he would never have fallen for her.
  • David is all too aware that he and Dora have wildly different minds and goals.
  • Eventually, David comes to terms with the fact that he has to adapt himself to Dora, to make her life as good as he can.
  • But he notices that Dora seems weaker in that second year of marriage than she was in the first.
  • She becomes pregnant, but the baby does not live.
  • After the pregnancy, Dora can't walk or run.
  • Dora tells Miss Betsey that she wants to make Jip race: he is getting slow and lazy.
  • Miss Betsey breaks the news to Dora that Jip is growing old.
  • Dora starts to worry over Jip; even worse, she grows afraid of the future.
  • She grows happy and cheerful again, but she still can't walk or run.
  • David carries her downstairs in the morning and upstairs at night.
  • Miss Betsey nurses Dora.
  • Mr. Dick carries the candles up and down the stairs after her.
  • But David starts to feel a kind of dread at how light Dora is getting in his arms.

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