Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 9

By Charles Dickens

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Book 1, Chapter 9

Little Mother

  • Arthur sleeps badly, wakes up early, and gets the heck out of Dodge – um, Marshalsea – as soon as possible.
  • Then he decides to speak to Little Dorrit again and leaves her a message saying to meet him at her uncle Frederick's house.
  • He waits in Frederick Dorrit's disgusting little room just outside the prison and realizes that the family takes Little Dorrit and all her various services totally for granted.
  • Finally she arrives, and they go out for a walk.
  • First Arthur tries to get some more info about his mom, but Little Dorrit had never heard of her before going to work at the Clennam house.
  • Little Dorrit also tells him about Plornish, a plasterer she met while he was in Marshalsea and who is now her friend.
  • Then Arthur starts to get fatherly type feelings about her, trying to protect her.
  • Little Dorrit is onto him, though, and busts out with a speech about not feeling sorry for her and not judging her dad too harshly for how he has turned out because "He has been there so long! I never saw him outside, but I can understand that he must have grown different in some things since" (1.9.55).
  • So basically there's a whole lot of denial, enabling, and general awfulness going on. Get these people into family therapy, pronto!
  • Arthur wonders if there's a way to get Dorrit out of prison, and Little Dorrit says she remembers some high-up government official named Tite Barnacle. But then she immediately freaks out at the idea that Arthur is going to try to fix things and tells him not to even bother trying.
  • Odd, no? Almost like she likes the situation the way it is.
  • In any case, they run into Maggie. Maggie is a 28-year-old mentally disabled lady who calls Little Dorrit her "little mother." Little Dorrit has taken her under her wing and taught her to read and write a bit, and Maggie is now able to earn her own living as an errand-runner.
  • Arthur loves how proud Little Dorrit is of Maggie's accomplishments. Eventually he walks them back to the prison.

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 9 Study Group

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