Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 55

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 55


  • The time is coming quickly for Mr. Peggotty, Emily, and the Micawbers to sail to Australia.
  • David often sees Peggotty and Mr. Peggotty together, but he never sets eyes on Emily.
  • He changes his mind about sending a letter to Emily as she departs Britain with her uncle.
  • David wants to give Emily a chance to reply if she wants to.
  • So, David writes to Emily with the message Ham gave to him (that Ham is doing fine, and that he has not been too wounded by Emily's actions). He passes on this letter to Mr. Peggotty.
  • Feeling unwell, David doesn't wake up the next day until Miss Betsey comes to tell him Mr. Peggotty wants to see him.
  • Mr. Peggotty is carrying a letter from Emily to Ham.
  • If David thinks it's okay, he should pass the letter on to Ham himself.
  • David asks if Mr. Peggotty has read the letter. He has.
  • The letter thanks Ham for his comforting words.
  • Emily hopes that they will meet again in another world where she can be forgiven.
  • David tells Mr. Peggotty that he will bring the letter with him to Yarmouth.
  • Worried about Ham, David sits there all alone; he thinks it will be a kindness to Ham to hand-deliver the letter.
  • Mr. Peggotty tries to persuade David not to, but he insists.
  • As David takes the coach to Yarmouth, he notices that the sky is growing dark: there's a storm on the way.
  • After spending the night in Yarmouth, David wakes to a stronger wind than he has ever seen there.
  • David walks out to the sea, where he sees sailors and women mourning for missing fishermen.
  • He can't find Ham among the people on the beach.
  • David spends the day searching and worrying.
  • When he returns to the dock, David finds a man who laughs and tells him no one born on the coast would have sailed on a day like that.
  • Even so, David keeps worrying about Ham's safety – and he starts feeling some nameless fear he can't figure out.
  • Finally, David goes to bed. He dozes a bit but then springs awake.
  • Feeling restless, he eventually gets dressed and goes downstairs.
  • He finds several people waiting for news clustered in the inn kitchen.
  • David sits and waits for several hours before going back to his room.
  • Finally, a knock on his door calls him out of his room.
  • There's a wreck near the shore that could go down at any minute, a boat from Spain or Portugal that is filled with wine and fruit.
  • David runs towards the beach where he sees it, a broken-masted ship with its sailors struggling to keep it afloat.
  • He sees Ham running across to the ship.
  • David tries to prevent Ham from getting to the boat for fear that he'll kill himself.
  • Not to worry, Ham tells David: if it's time for him to go, he'll go, but he's not trying to die.
  • Ham does his best to haul the boat to land.
  • He is injured: there's blood on his face.
  • Ham keeps trying to rescue the boat, but he's finally overcome by the strength of the waves.
  • David sits by Ham's bed watching his body.
  • A fisherman who knew David and Emily when they were children asks David to come back to the beach.
  • A body has washed ashore.
  • The body is James Steerforth's.

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