Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 2, Chapter 30

By Charles Dickens

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Book 2, Chapter 30

Closing in

  • OK, here we go with the meat of the mystery plot. What mystery plot? Yeah, we know, we know, it's kind of gotten lost in the rest of the novel. But yes, the mystery of Mrs. Clennam and Amy that Arthur was trying to figure out in the beginning of the novel – it's back! And it's about to be really confusingly explained!
  • So, a week later, Pancks and Cavalletto bring Blandois to Mrs. Clennam's house.
  • Mrs. Clennam immediately dismisses them, since she needs to have a private convo with Blandois.
  • Pancks tells her that he's the one who got Arthur sucked into the whole investment thing. To which she is all, meh.
  • Then Flintwinch recognizes Cavalletto as the guy who's been going around asking questions about Blandois, which Cavalletto acknowledges.
  • Before they go, Pancks walks over to Affery and says that if Arthur were here, he'd say "Affery, tell your dreams!"
  • Flintwinch goes to beat up Affery as usual, but this time she fights him off and threatens to call the police and wake up the neighborhood if they don't let her stay.
  • They let her stay.
  • Blandois starts his thing. The first time they met, he was nice. The second time, he was not as nice and demanded a thousand guineas; now he's asking for two thousand.
  • OK, guys, Victorian British money was ridiculously complicated. Like, beyond unreasonable. But we'll try to work it out a little bit. A person could live pretty well on 200-300 pounds a year. That would make you solidly upper-middle class if you were single. There are twenty shillings in a pound. There are twenty-one shillings in a guinea (see what we mean about unreasonable?) so a thousand guineas is just over a thousand pounds. Blandois could live for almost ten years off of two thousand pounds.
  • Um, OK, where were we? Oh yes, blackmail.
  • So, Mrs. Clennam says, what exactly is Blandois threatening to expose? She doesn't have the kind of money he's asking for, but even if she did, she needs to know what he's got in the first place.
  • So Blandois launches into the story.
  • Arthur was a sad, weak, beaten-down boy, who was raised in a crazed, super-strict religious house.
  • His uncle, Gilbert Clennam, was forceful and strong. Gilbert demanded that Arthur's father marry a specific woman – the future Mrs. Clennam.
  • At this point Affery pipes up to say she's heard all about Arthur's father and his crazy uncle.
  • Blandois continues that soon Mrs. Clennam finds out something shocking.
  • Affery confirms, and remembers a fight where Flintwinch said that Mrs. Clennam wasn't even... before being shut up.
  • Blandois makes Mrs. Clennam complete the sentence. It turns out that Mrs. Clennam isn't even... Arthur's mother!
  • OK, this novel just completed step one of turning into a soap opera.
  • Mrs. Clennam flips out at this point. She tells them about her own horrible and repressive childhood, and says that she thought Arthur's dad grew up the same way. So when she found out that he'd married another woman before her and they'd had a child together, she totally lost it.
  • Mrs. Clennam has lived her life thinking that she was meant to discover the affair and that she was supposed to exact punishment for her husband's sin. As in, she was appointed by God to do this.
  • Oh, did we mention that she is totally crazy?
  • The punishment she made up was this: Arthur's mom gave up the baby and never saw him again. Arthur's dad went away to China and never saw Arthur's mom again. And Mrs. Clennam raised Arthur as her own and became a prisoner of her own house.
  • As she is telling the story, Mrs. Clennam is moving her arms for the first time in many years.
  • So yeah. All's well that ends incredibly terribly, right?
  • Not quite.
  • Blandois says, OK, but what about the stolen money?
  • Mrs. Clennam continues. It turns out that Uncle Gilbert felt bad about the whole thing in his old age and wrote a codicil to his will (an addition, basically), leaving a thousand guineas to Arthur's mom's patron.
  • That patron? Frederick Dorrit, who apparently was nice to her at some point.
  • Mrs. Clennam shrieks that this would have rewarded sin. Um, how, exactly? It's not like old Fred slept with Arthur's dad.
  • Through some convoluted nonsense, the money was supposed to go to Little Dorrit. Instead, Mrs. Clennam kept the codicil hidden in the house, and eventually destroyed it (she thought). She also says that upon her death, she would have left the thousand to Little Dorrit.
  • Blandois then explains how he came to know all this stuff.
  • Affery bursts in to say that she saw Flintwinch and his twin brother at the house one night exchanging documents.
  • Blandois laughs and says he knew the twin Flintwinch at the end of his life in Amsterdam. When he died from his alcoholism, Blandois took the papers.
  • Flintwinch then tells his part of the story, and why he betrayed Mrs. Clennam.
  • He'd been working for her for a long time, but the longer they were together, the more she wanted everything to always go her way. Eventually Flintwinch became resentful.
  • Flintwinch was no big fan of Arthur's father, but he was angry that Mrs. Clennam made Arthur think his dad had committed some kind of wrong or robbery.
  • Also, Flintwinch wanted Mrs. Clennam to destroy this codicil all along. But when Mrs. Clennam finally decided to do just that, Flintwinch switched papers and gave the real codicil to his twin brother to take away to Amsterdam. He was worried that Arthur would find out something and wanted to have the documents safe and out of the way.
  • So that's the story. Yeah, we know: huh?
  • In any case, Mrs. Clennam asks again for more time.
  • Blandois says, nope. He also says that he gave Little Dorrit and Arthur copies of the documents to be opened that night if he doesn't come back to retrieve them. So they'll know the whole horrible story if he doesn't get his money.
  • Mrs. Clennam freaks out and jumps up out of her chair (whoa, she can stand!).
  • Affery asks if all this time Arthur's mom has been kept in the house. Mrs. Clennam is like, what? No! She's been dead a long time.
  • Affery says, oh, then it must be her ghost that's haunting the house and making all that crazy noise.
  • Mrs. Clennam then runs out of the room and out of the house (whoa, she can walk!).
  • Affery runs after her.
  • Flintwinch goes after them.
  • Blandois stays in the house, smoking, and looking at a giant beam over his head in the ceiling.

Little Dorrit Book 2, Chapter 30 Study Group

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