Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 61

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 61

I Am Shown Two Interesting Penitents

  • David spends some time finishing up his book at his aunt's house.
  • Sometimes David travels in to London to see Traddles, who is managing his business affairs.
  • It turns out that Sophy has been training as a copy clerk to keep up with Traddles's work.
  • David compliments Traddles and Sophy as being two of the happiest people in the world.
  • Traddles agrees: he can't believe how happy he is.
  • However, Traddles admits, the other day while he was in court he went back to his boyhood habit of drawing skeletons.
  • This reminds David that he has received a letter from old Mr. Creakle, his headmaster.
  • Apparently, Mr. Creakle is now a magistrate – which is like a local, small-time judge.
  • Mr. Creakle has invited David to come and see prison discipline in action.
  • David suggests that Traddles accompany David to see Mr. Creakle.
  • Mr. Creakle is very kind to his prisoners – much kinder than he ever was to anyone else under his power.
  • The ex-schoolmaster welcomes David to his prison as though they were great friends, and he does the same to Traddles.
  • The secret Mr. Creakle relies on in his prison is total isolation, which leads the prisoners to repent their evil deeds.
  • Despite Mr. Creakle's claims, when they actually walk through the prison as part of a tour group, David is pretty sure from the design of their cells that the prisoners get to speak to each other.
  • One model prisoner is Number 27; a second is Number 28.
  • Number 27 is very pious and holy, and frequently writes to his mother.
  • Mr. Creakle leads David to Number 27, who is patiently reading hymns.
  • Number 27 is, of course, Uriah Heep.
  • He asks how David and Traddles are.
  • Uriah Heep tells them that he is very humble today.
  • Heep claims that he is much more comfortable in prison than he ever was outside.
  • Uriah tells the tour group that he deserves to be in prison as a consequence of his behavior, and that he must bear his punishment without grumbling.
  • The tour group is very approving.
  • They're next led to Number 28, and who should it be but Littimer!
  • Littimer claims to be troubled by memories of his past deeds and sins.
  • He says that he is perfectly happy.
  • Littimer tells the group that he sees a gentleman among their number who he used to know. That gentleman should repent of his bad behavior before it's too late.
  • You'd think that "gentleman" would clearly be David, but David notices a number of men in the group hiding their faces guiltily.
  • Littimer then clarifies that the "gentleman" should tell the "young woman who fell into dissolute courses" (61.68) – i.e. Emily.
  • He forgives her for leading him astray, before wishing them all a good day.
  • They return to Uriah Heep.
  • Mr. Creakle asks if he needs anything.
  • Uriah Heep wants to write to his mother; he is afraid that she is not safe.
  • Heep wishes his mother had come to prison; in fact, he thinks everyone would be better off in prison.
  • Uriah Heep promises Mr. Creakle that he is a changed man.
  • Uriah then reminds David of his own violent impulses – why, he struck Uriah on the face once!
  • (The whole tour group looks angrily at David.)
  • But Uriah Heep claims that he forgives David, and he hopes that David and the Wickfields all repent.
  • Uriah Heep has been sent to prison due to bank fraud.
  • Littimer robbed a man he was working for, but he was turned in by a little person – Miss Mowcher!
  • He injured Miss Mowcher quite badly, but she wouldn't let him go.
  • David and Traddles both realize that there is no point in telling Mr. Creakle that Littimer and Uriah are lying hypocrites.
  • They leave the pair of them to the prison system.

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