Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 17

By Charles Dickens

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Book 1, Chapter 17

Nobody's Rival 

  • Arthur, Pet, Meagles, Henry Gowan, Doyce, Clarence Barnacle (Tite Barnacle's son from the Circumlocution Office)
  • The next morning Henry Gowan comes down to the Meagleses.
  • Arthur immediately hates him. Or he would, he tells himself, if he were in love with Pet. But since he's not, yay Gowan! To which we say, yeah right.
  • Gowan is a lackadaisical cool guy who just coasts through life without seeming like he wants to achieve anything.
  • He has an annoying habit of saying that good things are bad and bad things are good, making everything sound equal and valueless.  This seems like a totally strange thing, but the narrator tells us it's very common. So Shmoop is going to go ahead and guess that Gowan is part of the political economy brigade that wants to equivocate and take moral value judgments out of everything.
  • Of course, Pet is totally into Gowan.
  • Arthur is jealous. Or would be, he tells himself, if he were in love. Good thing he's not. Oh, boy.
  • Gowan invites Clarence Barnacle to dinner. Turns out the Gowans are distantly connected with the elite, super-fancy Barnacle family.
  • And so we get to see Meagles's main failing: he's a butt-kissing suck-up snob.  He is almost dancing with joy that this idiot Barnacle is having dinner with him.
  • Clarence Barnacle, meanwhile, is freaking out to see Arthur there. He still remembers him from the Circumlocution Office as the guy who asked questions and actually wanted answers.
  • After dinner Arthur and Doyce leave, and Doyce tells Arthur that the Meagleses aren't too psyched to have Gowan for a son-in-law, and that they keep taking Pet abroad to keep them apart. But every time they come back, Pet and Gowan get back together. Still, no formal engagement yet.
  • Arthur tries to play it off, like why would he care.
  • But clearly Doyce is onto him and his not-being-in-love-self-delusion.

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 17 Study Group

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