Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 54

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 54

Mr. Micawber's Transactions

  • After a time, David's grief becomes so intense that he begins to think that he will never be happy again.
  • David associates this terrible time with Agnes, who is the first person he sees when he wakes up from his faint.
  • He and his friends decide that it would be best for David to go abroad.
  • The only thing David is waiting for is the final fate of Uriah Heep.
  • Traddles invites David, Miss Betsey, and Agnes back to Canterbury. They all meet at Mr. Micawber's house.
  • Miss Betsey asks the Micawbers if they've given any thought to her suggestion that they move to Australia.
  • Mr. Micawber agrees that they would like to move.
  • He then launches into a long outline of his preparations for the move, which all basically boils down to an agreement on how much money the Micawbers will need to move to Australia.
  • Mrs. Micawber adds that the initial break between Mr. Micawber and her family has probably arisen as a result of their suspicions that Mr. Micawber would need to borrow money.
  • Because Mr. Micawber is about to embark on a new career as an Australian, Mrs. Micawber would like to repair the relations between him and her family.
  • Mr. Micawber has no interest at all in hanging out with Mrs. Micawber's family – he describes them as ruffians and snobs.
  • Mrs. Micawber says that's not the case, it's just that they have never understood Mr. Micawber and he has never understood them.
  • Still, on the whole, Mr. Micawber wants to leave England without meeting them. But he will if Mrs. Micawber insists.
  • Traddles apologizes to David for getting him involved in business, but he thinks it will be a good distraction for David.
  • David tells Traddles he's a bit worried about Miss Betsey, who has been going into London for long periods of unexplained time.
  • Miss Betsey tells David not to worry about it; it will all be explained in time.
  • Traddles compliments Mr. Micawber, who, he says, has never done much for himself but will work endlessly for other people.
  • Traddles explains that Mr. Dick has also been working wonders, with his untiring dedication to watching after Mr. Wickfield.
  • Mr. Wickfield's health has improved since Uriah Heep has been removed from his life.
  • Traddles has found that Mr. Wickfield's affairs can be settled without any loss of honor or damage to his investors.
  • However, once all of the accounts have been settled, he doesn't have very much money left to live on.
  • So, Traddles suggests that Mr. Wickfield stays in business, with the advice of his friends (e.g. Traddles, David, and Agnes herself).
  • Agnes decides that this would be a very bad idea. All she wants is for Mr. Wickfield to be free and retired.
  • She has decided that the best thing for her to do would be to rent out Mr. Wickfield's house, to start a school, and to support Mr. Wickfield.
  • Traddles moves on to Miss Betsey's property next. Originally, she had 8,000 pounds invested with Mr. Wickfield.
  • He has only been able to find 5,000 pounds in her name.
  • Miss Betsey admits that that's all there should be by now – Miss Betsey used a thousand to pay for David's apprenticeship, and she has kept aside two thousand for a rainy day.
  • Miss Betsey didn't tell David of this extra two thousand to see how he would rise to the challenge of supporting his family.
  • Traddles is relieved to hear that they have recovered all of Miss Betsey's money.
  • Having been deceived by Uriah Heep into thinking that he had (accidentally) stolen Miss Betsey's money to cover other debts, Mr. Wickfield wrote a letter to Miss Betsey accusing himself of robbery.
  • To protect Mr. Wickfield, Miss Betsey burned the letter and never mentioned his involvement to anyone.
  • Now, with all of Mr. Micawber's evidence against him, Uriah Heep has had no choice but to produce the money again.
  • Uriah Heep also confesses that he didn't really need Miss Betsey's money. He just wanted to steal it to hurt David.
  • Traddles informs the group that Uriah Heep has left London with his mother.
  • Traddles is sure that Uriah Heep will fall into crime once more, even though he must have a fair amount of money at hand.
  • David and Traddles agree that, as for Mr. Micawber, he did right by the end. His patience is what has brought all of this evidence to light against Uriah Heep.
  • One of Traddles's worries about poor Mr. Micawber is that he is due to be arrested any day for writing I.O.U.s he's never paid.
  • All told, Mr. Micawber still owes about 103 pounds (about U.S. $11,000 in today's money).
  • So, they all agree to give Mr. Micawber the money to pay his debts and to pay for his family's trip to Australia.
  • David also decides to ask Mr. Peggotty for help.
  • David will give Mr. Peggotty a hundred pounds and, if Mr. Peggotty thinks it's a good idea, Mr. Peggotty can give the money to Mr. Micawber.
  • So that Mr. Micawber will be inclined to befriend Mr. Peggotty, David thinks it will be a good thing if he tells Mr. Micawber a little bit about Mr. Peggotty's personal history,
  • The issue of Miss Betsey's husband is the final point that Traddles brings up. He asks if everyone remembers Uriah threatening Miss Betsey's husband, which they do.
  • Traddles has been unable to find any more information about this person and his relationship with Uriah Heep.
  • Miss Betsey's eyes overflow with tears, but she absolutely does not want to talk about it, and she asks Traddles and David not to mention him again.
  • David's aunt calls Mr. and Mrs. Micawber back into the room and explains the financial terms of their travel.
  • The Micawbers are extremely excited.
  • Miss Betsey advises Mr. Micawber never to write out I.O.U.s ever again.
  • Mr. Micawber agrees that it would be better to put your hand in the fire than to go into debt.
  • With that, the evening ends.
  • Miss Betsey asks David to come with her on a journey the next morning at 9 AM. David agrees.
  • David drives with his aunt to a hospital.
  • There is a hearse sitting next to the hospital.
  • The driver recognizes Miss Betsey.
  • David realizes that Miss Betsey's husband has died.
  • Uriah Heep's threat was in vain: Miss Betsey's husband died the night before the confrontation with Heep in Canterbury.
  • This day is the thirty-sixth anniversary of Miss Betsey's wedding.
  • Miss Betsey bursts into tears and exclaims that her husband was a good-lucking man when they got married, but he changed terribly.
  • Soon, Miss Betsey pulls himself together.
  • They return to Miss Betsey's home in Highgate.
  • They find a note from Mr. Micawber.
  • The note speaks once more of disaster: Mr. Micawber has been arrested because of some unpaid debts.
  • But then, right at the end, there is a postscript.
  • Traddles has paid all of Mr. Micawber's debts in Miss Betsey's name, and Mr. Micawber is happy again.

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