Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 56

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 56

The New Wound, and the Old

  • Having seen Steerforth's drowned body, David remembers the last thing Steerforth said to him: "Think of me at my best!" (56.1).
  • David can't help but do that, even now.
  • The fishermen bring Steerforth's body to the same room in which Ham's body has been laid, but they decide that's kind of wrong.
  • So, they move Steerforth's body to the inn where David is staying.
  • Needing to break the news to Steerforth's mother himself, David calls on Joram to help him transport the body to London.
  • David arrives at Mrs. Steerforth's house and knocks on the door.
  • The parlor-maid answers and asks if David is all right? He looks sick.
  • David admits that he is tired.
  • He asks if Mrs. Steerforth is at home.
  • Mrs. Steerforth receives David. She is not well.
  • Next to Mrs. Steerforth sits Miss Rosa Dartle.
  • Mrs. Steerforth notices that David is dressed all in black.
  • David replies that he is in mourning for his wife.
  • Mrs. Steerforth offers her condolences.
  • From the look on David's face, Steerforth's mother guesses that something is wrong with her son.
  • Miss Dartle has already put two and two together: she clearly knows that Steerforth is dead.
  • But David has to clarify for Mrs. Steerforth.
  • Mrs. Steerforth asks Miss Dartle for help, but Miss Dartle immediately starts to quarrel with her.
  • Miss Dartle points to the scar on her lip and asks Mrs. Steerforth if she remembers how Miss Dartle got it (i.e., from Steerforth himself).
  • Miss Dartle blames Steerforth's bad temper on the way Mrs. Steerforth spoiled him.
  • David tries to stop Miss Dartle, but she refuses to be quiet.
  • Miss Dartle screams that she has always loved Steerforth better than his mother has.
  • After he disfigured her face, neither Mrs. Steerforth nor her son ever really believed that Miss Dartle had true feelings.
  • Miss Dartle blames all of Steerforth's faults on his mother.
  • David replies that, if Miss Dartle can't forget his faults even at this moment, at least she should help his mother.
  • Miss Dartle kneels next to Mrs. Steerforth and curses David.
  • David leaves the house and brings Mrs. Steerforth the body of her son.
  • Mrs. Steerforth is comatose; she doesn't respond to her doctors at all.
  • David finds the house completely silent and death-like except for the occasional cry from Mrs. Steerforth.

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