Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 52

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 52

I Assist at An Explosion

  • The day that David is supposed to go and meet Mr. Micawber, he doesn't want to leave Dora. She's not doing very well.
  • But Dora won't hear of David staying behind, so finally she convinces both David and Miss Betsey to go to Canterbury.
  • Dora is excited because they'll come back with so much news.
  • So, the upshot is that Mr. Dick, Miss Betsey, David, and Traddles all go to Canterbury that very night.
  • David walks around the town revisiting old sights.
  • He sees the butcher who he used to fight so often, who now seems like a peaceful fellow with a baby.
  • David returns to the inn and they all sit waiting eagerly for Mr. Micawber.
  • Mr. Micawber arrives and warns the group that they shall soon have an explosion.
  • Micawber has been corresponding with Traddles, who has advised him how to go forward.
  • He asks the assembled company to present themselves at the Wickfield house in about five minutes.
  • Mr. Micawber won't say anything more, and Traddles refuses to explain.
  • After five minutes, the group of four heads over to the Wickfield house.
  • They find Mr. Micawber at his desk.
  • They greet Mr. Micawber, all the while pretending that they haven't seen him five minutes ago.
  • Mr. Micawber announces them to Uriah Heep.
  • Uriah Heep seems absolutely astonished to see them all, but he greets them humbly, as usual.
  • Uriah tells Mr. Micawber to inform Mrs. Heep and Agnes that they have guests.
  • Heep explains that he's fairly busy at present, what with having to pick up Mr. Wickfield's slack.
  • Traddles says something ambiguous: that if he had known Mr. Wickfield earlier, he might have called on Uriah Heep long ago.
  • This sounds threatening, but Uriah Heep clearly can't figure out if Traddles is trying to intimidate him. After all, Traddles is so innocent looking.
  • Just then, Agnes comes into the room.
  • Mr. Micawber and Traddles exchange a subtle signal, and Traddles slips out of the door.
  • Uriah Heep dismisses Mr. Micawber, but Mr. Micawber doesn't leave.
  • Heep tries to get rid of Mr. Micawber again, but Mr. Micawber calls him a scoundrel.
  • Shocked, Uriah falls backwards .
  • Uriah Heep's whole manner completely changes: gone is all of his talk of "umble" this and "umble" that.
  • He calls David scum and a puppy, he threatens to expose Miss Betsey's husband to the law, and he promises to ruin Mr. Wickfield if Agnes doesn't toe the line.
  • Traddles returns to the room with Mrs. Heep.
  • He tells Uriah Heep that he has the authority to act on Mr. Wickfield's behalf.
  • Mrs. Heep tries to say something, but Uriah stops her.
  • Uriah Heep turns on David and accuses him of bribing his clerk (Mr. Micawber) to work against him. He throws in some details about David's past on the streets that he presumably learned from Mr. Micawber.
  • Mr. Micawber takes this opportunity to launch into a letter about Uriah Heep's crimes.
  • Micawber claims that he himself was seduced into the criminal life by Uriah Heep's payment of his debts.
  • Mr. Micawber accuses Uriah Heep of three things:
  • (1) That when Mr. Wickfield's memory for business became poor, Uriah Heep deliberately made his work more difficult to confuse him. He managed to force Mr. Wickfield to sign withdrawal notes for sums of money for business dealings that were totally made up by Uriah Heep. But, he made sure that the withdrawal notes made it seem like the dishonesty started with Mr. Wickfield, and not with Uriah Heep. After that, Uriah Heep blackmailed Mr. Wickfield with these made up notes.
  • Uriah Heep demands that Micawber prove this accusation.
  • It turns out that Uriah Heep burned a notebook in his house, the same house that Mr. Micawber is currently living in.
  • So, Mr. Micawber does have proof of Uriah Heep's wrongdoing.
  • Mrs. Heep begs Uriah to negotiate some kind of compromise, but Uriah won't listen to her.)
  • (2) Uriah Heep has forged Mr. Wickfield's signature on a variety of documents.
  • (Again, Mr. Micawber has proof: in the notebook, he has found several practice signatures imitating Mr. Wickfield's own handwriting.
  • Mr. Micawber handed this book over to Traddles earlier that day.
  • Mrs. Heep again begs Uriah to negotiate for his freedom.
  • Uriah Heep demands that she shut up, because she's just feeding David what he wants to know.
  • But Mrs. Heep just wants to save Uriah by keeping him humble.)
  • (3) Mr. Micawber has a collection of Uriah Heep's falsified books and real notes. These documents show how Uriah Heep has been undermining and manipulating Mr. Wickfield for years.
  • The most recent document is one in which Mr. Wickfield gives up his share in the partnership, and even signs over his furniture to Uriah, in exchange for an annual allowance.
  • Apparently, even the rumors of Mr. Wickfield's terrible business dealings and borrowing of money at high interest were created by none other than Uriah Heep.
  • Agnes is weeping with both joy and sorrow.
  • Mr. Micawber folds up the letter and hands it to Miss Betsey.
  • Uriah Heep throws open his office safe and finds all of his books gone.
  • Mr. Micawber informs Uriah that he has handed them over to Traddles for safekeeping.
  • Miss Betsey sudden grabs Uriah Heep's lapel and demands her property.
  • Apparently, Miss Betsey really didn't lose her own money.
  • As long as she thought it was Mr. Wickfield's fault, she would never have told anyone, not even David.
  • But now she knows Uriah Heep's answerable for it, and she demands it back.
  • Mrs. Heep, meanwhile, is begging everyone to let her son go.
  • Uriah Heep sits his mother down and then asks David what he wants done.
  • Traddles demands that Uriah Heep hand over the deed relinquishing Mr. Wickfield's stake in the business.
  • He also insists that Uriah Heep must repay everything he stole.
  • And Uriah Heep must stay locked in his room and not speak to anyone.
  • Mr. Dick accompanies Mrs. Heep to find the deed of relinquishment.
  • Uriah Heep turns on David again, telling him that he's an upstart who has always been against Uriah.
  • David repeats that Uriah Heep has always been against the world.
  • Mr. Micawber invites them all to come witness his reunion with Mrs. Micawber and his children.
  • They would have gone, except Agnes needs to go see to her father and someone has to guard Uriah Heep.
  • So, Mr. Dick, Miss Betsey, and David go home with Mr. Micawber.
  • Mr. Micawber runs straight into the arms of his wife.
  • Ms. Micawber faints first because she is so happy to be back in the confidence of her husband.
  • Miss Betsey surveys the Micawber children.
  • Apparently, the oldest kid has become, basically, a lounge singer.
  • Still, it's not an ideal situation, definitely.
  • Miss Betsey asks if Mr. Micawber has ever considered emigrating elsewhere?
  • She suggests that, actually, it might be a good thing if Mr. Micawber decided to leave England around now.
  • Miss Betsey offers the Micawbers a gift of the money to travel with as thanks for Mr. Micawber's help with Uriah Heep.
  • Miss Betsey suggests that the Micawbers travel on the same ship with Mr. Peggotty, Mrs. Gummidge, and Emily.
  • Miss Betsey claims that Australia has the finest climate in the world, and there are plenty of opportunities for a man who is willing to work.
  • Mr. Micawber agrees that this sounds like a great idea.

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