Study Guide

David Copperfield Chapter 8

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 8

My Holidays. Especially One Happy Afternoon

  • David makes his way to an inn in London, where he catches the mail coach heading for Suffolk.
  • Eventually, he finds himself back on Mr. Barkis's coach.
  • David assures Mr. Barkis that he has passed on the message – "Barkis is willing" – to Peggotty.
  • Mr. Barkis replies that, anyway, nothing came of it. Peggotty never answered him. And he's not willing to go speak to Peggotty directly about the matter.
  • Mr. Barkis discovers that Peggotty's first name is not Peggotty, it's Clara (just like Mrs. Copperfield!)
  • Mr. Barkis suggests that David tell Peggotty that he, Mr. Barkis, is waiting for an answer.
  • David finds it very strange to be going home, where he remembers happy times with his mother and Peggotty that will never come again.
  • David comes in to his old house and hears the sound of his mother singing.
  • David enters the parlor to find his mother breast-feeding a baby: it is her new son.
  • In that moment, David is as perfectly happy and good as he has ever been.
  • Mrs. Copperfield embraces David, Peggotty comes running in, and everyone is overjoyed.
  • Mr. and Miss Murdstone have gone out, so they have the house to themselves.
  • They all dine together, and David tells Peggotty about Mr. Barkis's message.
  • Peggotty laughs and throws her apron over her face.
  • Peggotty tells Mrs. Copperfield that Barkis wants to marry her.
  • Mrs. Copperfield says it would be a good match, but Peggotty says she won't do it.
  • David notices that Mrs. Copperfield is looking thin, anxious, and tired.
  • Finally, Mrs. Copperfield reaches out to Peggotty and asks her not to leave Mrs. Copperfield. She says ominously: "Don't leave me, Peggotty. Stay with me. It will not be for long, perhaps" (8.57)
  • Peggotty promises that she will never leave Mrs. Copperfield, even though some might be pleased if she did.
  • David tells them about how awful Mr. Creakle is, and how good Steerforth is.
  • They are so happy and peaceful together that David can imagine the Murdstones had never come in to their lives.
  • Suddenly, Peggotty wonders whatever became of David's great-aunt (that would be Miss Betsey Trotwood, who we met in the first chapter and never heard from again).
  • Mrs. Copperfield tells Peggotty to put it out of her mind; it's not like they're likely to see Miss Betsey again (plot point!).
  • Peggotty thinks that Miss Betsey might leave David something in her will if she were to die. Miss Betsey might be willing to forgive David for being born a boy now that he's got a brother.
  • Mrs. Copperfield begins (kind of inexplicably) to cry. She tells Peggotty that she is being jealous and should go off and marry Mr. Barkis after all.
  • Peggotty answers that it would make Miss Murdstone happy if she did.
  • Mrs. Copperfield scolds Peggotty for her bad nature.
  • Mrs. Copperfield accuses Peggotty of insinuating that neither Miss nor Mr. Murdstone have good intentions.
  • Peggotty doesn't answer.
  • Finally, Mrs. Copperfield winds down and suggests that she and Peggotty shouldn't argue anyway, because Peggotty is Mrs. Copperfield's true friend.
  • Peggotty is quick to agree to this, and everyone seems happy again.
  • At around 10 o'clock, they hear coach wheels: the Murdstones are back.
  • David rushes off to bed before he can meet them.
  • The next morning, David creeps into the parlor. He sees Mr. Murdstone and apologizes for having bitten him all that long time ago.
  • Mr. Murdstone thanks David for his apology and shakes his hand – with the hand that David bit.
  • David greets Miss Murdstone, whose only reply is that she's glad that a day of David's holiday has already passed (so they'll be rid of him soon).
  • One day, David comes into a room where Miss Murdstone and Mrs. Copperfield are sitting with the baby.
  • David picks up his brother, and Miss Murdstone gives a scream.
  • Miss Murdstone has a huge fit because David has touched the baby. She insists that David can never be allowed to touch the baby again.
  • Mrs. Copperfield weakly agrees with Miss Murdstone's order.
  • On a later occasion, Mrs. Copperfield notices that the baby has the exact same eyes as David. She decides that their blue eyes must come from her side of the family.
  • Miss Murdstone takes huge offense at this, calls Mrs. Copperfield a fool, and insists that David and his brother are completely and totally different in all ways.
  • David continues to feel ashamed and excluded by everyone at the Rookery: those who like him are afraid to show it, and those who don't like him tell him so over and over again to his face.
  • Because they don't like him and he seems to make them unhappy, David decides to keep as quiet and out of the way as he can.
  • But he can't stay totally out of the way: the Murdstones make David sit with the family in the parlor in the evenings so that they can monitor Mrs. Copperfield's treatment of him.
  • One evening, the two Murdstones comment that David has a sulky, sullen manner.
  • For once, Mrs. Copperfield doesn't just go along with their bullying: she asks Miss Murdstone if she is sure that she understands David.
  • But Miss Murdstone immediately shames Mrs. Copperfield into agreeing, again, as usual.
  • And then the two Murdstones humiliate her further by calling into question her judgment: Mr. Murdstone calls Mrs. Copperfield "weak and inconsiderate" (8.139).
  • Mr. Murdstone turns on David again.
  • David says he hasn't meant to be sulky, and Mr. Murdstone calls him a liar with an attachment to "low and common company" (8.147) – in other words, servants like Peggotty. He forbids David from hiding away in his room or in the kitchen any longer.
  • So, David has to spend all of his time in the parlor trying to avoid being yelled at.
  • And so his holidays pass away.
  • Finally, David gets to go back to school. He's sorry to leave his mother and baby brother, but still he's glad to be getting away from the Rookery.
  • As David drives away with Mr. Barkis, he hears his mother calling.
  • He looks over his shoulder and sees her looking at him care with her eyes, holding his baby brother up for him to see.

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