Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 2, Chapter 25

By Charles Dickens

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Book 2, Chapter 25

The Chief Butler Resigns the Seals of Office

  • There's a party at Physician's house. Merdle didn't want to go to it with Mrs. Merdle, which is why he went over to the Sparklers' instead.
  • Physician is taken seriously by everyone, since he's seen more of the human condition than most of them. He's also seen almost everyone there naked.
  • Bar is trying to get Mrs. Merdle to admit that Merdle is about to get a title, but she is being all coy about it.
  • After everyone goes away, there's a knock on Physician's door.
  • A messenger gives him a piece of paper found at the public baths – it's got his name and address on it in a familiar handwriting.
  • Physician immediately hurries to the baths and finds... Merdle in a bathtub, wrists slit, blood everywhere, pen knife in hand. He's dead.
  • Physician leaves the body to be dealt with and goes to tell Bar.
  • Bar kind of figures it out from the time of night and from Physician's face.
  • They go together to the Merdles' so that Physician can tell Mrs. Merdle the news.
  • While Mrs. Merdle is getting ready to come downstairs, Physician tells the Merdles' Chief Butler about Merdle's suicide.
  • The butler has no reaction besides saying that he wants to hand in his notice. Physician is all, dude, that's cold.
  • But the butler says, "Sir, Mr. Merdle never was the gentleman, and no ungentlemanly act on Mr. Merdle's part would surprise me" (2.25.57). Slam! (Yep, suicide was seen as "ungentlemanly.")
  • Physician tells Bar that Mrs. Merdle doesn't know the whole story yet but is taking it pretty well.
  • Meanwhile, rumors are swirling around the city.
  • First – that Merdle is dead. From a horrible disease, from exhaustion, from stress? Stress is a big winner for the gossips, since it seems to explain a lot.
  • Second – that Merdle's wealth is actually going to end up being way less than expected.
  • But finally – that he had killed himself. And that he had no money at all. In fact, he was deeply in debt and had actually defrauded and bankrupted everyone in the whole freaking country!

Little Dorrit Book 2, Chapter 25 Study Group

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