Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 8

By Charles Dickens

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Book 1, Chapter 8

The Lock

  • Arthur's stalking has paid off and he gets to the gates of the Marshalsea.
  • As luck would have it, he runs into Frederick Dorrit, who explains some of the deal about Little Dorrit and how her dad is supposed to be kept in the dark about her working.
  • They go into Dorrit's room, where he is about to eat dinner.
  • Dorrit acts like a king in his kingdom, all patronizing and condescending to Arthur.
  • Then he hits Arthur up for money, telling him a long story about how everyone who meets the Father of the Marshalsea likes to give him a little something.
  • Little Dorrit is totally embarrassed but also seems proud of daddy dearest.
  • Fanny and Tip come by to pick up clean clothes – Little Dorrit apparently does their laundry.
  • The bell starts ringing and everyone hurries Arthur to get away – the bell means the gate is about to close for the night.
  • Arthur slips some coins to Dorrit, then chases after Little Dorrit to tell her that he wants to be her special friend. No, not like that! Get your minds out of the gutter. He just wants to be some kind of protector to her.
  • Then Arthur asks how his mom found her in the first place, and Little Dorrit tells him that she put up some ads and Mrs. Clennam contacted her through one of them.
  • Oops, too long talking with Little Dorrit – the gate has been locked and Arthur is trapped for the night in the prison.
  • Tip takes him to the "Snuggery" – the prison bar and inn – where they make him up a bed.
  • Oh, wait – this might be the moment for Shmoop to tell you that if you're picturing the prison as a modern jail, with cells and bars, you've got it all wrong. It's more like a medieval castle town: there's a tall wall all around, but inside it's a bunch of little houses and shops. It has its own little economy: the bar has a waiter and a bartender, and there are messengers and clerks (non-prisoners). On top of that, any prisoner who knows a trade seems to practice it (there's a doctor, for instance, and some tailors).
  • Anyhoodle. Arthur goes to sleep wondering if his mom knows something about Little Dorrit that's making her act nice to her. Is she doing a kind of voluntary prison sentence in her room to somehow make up for Little Dorrit's imprisonment with her dad?

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 8 Study Group

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