What is added by the illustrations? What do they seem to imply about the contents of this novel, and how we should view it?
What do we learn from the preface? What does the narrator state has been his relationship to this book, and to his audience?
How do the 1850 and 1869 prefaces differ? Which do you prefer, and why?
How is the novel subdivided into parts? How does each section division bring closure or add suspence?
Chapter 1: I Am Born
What is meant by the narrator’s statement that we don’t yet know whether he will be the hero of his own life? What are other possibilities? Will he in fact be the hero of his own life?
How would you characterize this narrator? (irony, humor, overstatement, indirection; use of caricature) What does he think of the prophecies which attended his birth? What class of people does he imply are likely to believe in such portents?
What event has overshadowed his birth? (his father’s death) What do we learn about his one surviving relative and her objection to his mother? His parents’ marriage?
How does the narrator refer to his mother? (“my poor dear mother”) What do we learn about her from her opening conversation with Miss Betsey Trotwood? Are her fears that she will be a childish mother to be borne out by the narrative?
What do you make of the fact that Miss Betsey wishes him to be a girl? Why do you think the narrator includes this incident?
What had been Mrs. Copperfield’s prior life before marriage? Her relationship to her husband?
How much money had he left his wife? At what level could they have lived on this?
Why is the servant addressed by her last name?
From what point of view is the childbirth described? How do we know that childbirth was an ordeal? (cotton in ears, noises, agitation)
What contrasts have organized this chapter?
What are some associations evoked in the final paragraph?
Chapter 2: I Observe
What is the nature of the household in which David is first raised? What do we learn about the young David’s traits of character and personality? (sensitive child, 62)
In the narrator’s view, what childhood traits lead to an insightful adulthood? (bent for observation, 61)
What prompts Mrs. Copperfield’s remarriage? Were economic factors involved? What are we to infer about the nature of her choice from Peggotty’s remarks? (69)
How is Mr. Murdstone’s character described? (72) How does he treat David when with his friends? (72)
From what perspective does David remember his mother? (nostalgia, idealization, sadness, 74) If he needs to remember her in her innocent helplessness, what may this reveal about his view of her behavior?
What seems to have happened to her since? (she has died, her memory dependent on him, 72)
How is the matter of the mother’s remarriage handled? Is David told honestly what will happen? (sent away for wedding, 76)
What seems suggested by the fact that his mother cries at his departure? (76)
What are the implications of the suggestion of a fairy tale at this juncture? (76)
Chapter 3: I Have a Change
How does the narrator present events from a child’s perspective? Where do the Peggotty family live? (79)
What relation do the dwellers in Mr. Peggotty’s home have with one another? (Ham is Mr. Peggotty’s nephew, Emily his brother-in-law’s child, 83)
What are some instances of humor? Would you describe these as indirect? (appeal to unexpected, 83)
What role is served by the character of Mr. Peggotty? (comic relief) How does he behave toward Miss Gummidge?
How are the perceived class differences between David and Mr. Peggotty’s family indicated?
How do Little Emily’s tastes and character give some indication of what may be her later fate? (wants to be a lady, 85-86) What attitude does she take toward her position in the social hierarchy?
Why do you think the author includes the incident in which Little Emily leaps off a promontory into the water? (foreshadowing, 86)
What do you make of the relationship between David and Emily at this stage of their lives? Is it the usual relationship between playmates? (flirts, proposes, etc., 87)
How does the narrator look back on this early attachment?
In what tone does Peggotty convey the news of Mrs. Copperfield’s remarriage to David?
What do you make of the fact that she has delayed in telling him? That his mother left to her the task of letting him know something so crucial to his future?
What are some indications of Mr. Murdstone’s controlling temperament and attitude toward his stepson? (93)
The first part ended here. Can you see signs of care in designing the ending? What are we to anticipate of the future?
Chapter 4: I Fall Into Disgrace
What characterizes the relations between David and his stepfather? What does the stepfather threaten? (beats him, David even bites him, 108)
What plea does David make for kindness? Its outcome?
How is Miss Murdstone described? (metallic, 97)
What religion is practiced by the Murdstones? (Calvinist, 102)
What type of education is advocated by Mr. Murdstone, and what effect does this have on David? (103-105)
What are some signs of David’s intelligence? (reads and imagines, 105-106) To whose library does he have access?
What is important about the child’s affection for Peggotty? How will this help widen the plot? (111) How is she characterized? Are there stereotypical aspects to this portrayal?
Chapter 5: I Am Sent Away from Home
When David leaves for his education at Salem House, who performs the offices of a mother in kissing him goodbye? (112)
How is he cheated in his first restaurant dinner?
On his arrival, who meets him, and how is he characterized? What is Mr. Mell’s private solace? (flutist)
On what pretext is a placard placed on David? (Mr. Murdstone had requested it, 130)
What does this practice indicate about attitudes at the school? What effect does this have on David?
Chapter 6: I Enlarge My Circle of Acquaintance
In what way is his “circle of acquaintance” enlarged? What characterizes Mr. Creakle’s behavior towards his charges and the behavior of the boys toward one another?
In general what does the narrator see as the flaws of the education system of his time?
How is Steerforth introduced? (136) What is Steerforth’s social class and consequent position in the school?
What seems to be his character and relationship to David? (homoerotic overtones, 140) Is it significant that he compares David to a girl?
Is this the first instance in the plot in which David has been associated with a female alter ego?
Are there features of foreshadowing in the descriptions of Steerforth?
What incidents reveal his character, and why doesn’t David respond with suspicion or dislike to instances of bullying, cruelty, or appropriation of others’ property? (takes his money, 136)
How is the ending for this second part designed? What seems to be foreshadowed about the future?
Chapter 7: My “First Half” at Salem House
What do the other boys think of Mr. Creakle? How is Traddles treated? (persecuted, 143)
What is Steerforth’s role in the general ambiance of abuse? (permits David to suffer for him, 143)
What do you think of David’s character at this point?
Is there a distance between the narrator and the child he is observing? How does the narrator critique this situation in retrospect? (142)
What characterizes the relationship between Steerforth and David? (latter tells stories to him, 144)
What is Mr. Mell’s role in the school, and Steerforth’s attitude toward him? (mean, condescending, 147, encourages boys to tease him, 148, lies to cause trouble for him with Mr. Creakle, exposes his mother’s poverty and he is fired, 153)
How does Traddles respond to this incident? (153) What taunt does Steerforth give? (he is a girl, 153)
Is it possibly significant that David introduces Steerforth to Ham and Peggotty? (157)
Chapter 8: My Holidays. Especially one Happy Afternoon
When David returns home, in what condition does he find his mother? What do we infer from the fact that she begs Peggotty to stay with her until “the end”? (164)
In general, how is the mother represented? Does the narrator or the young David offer judgment?
What causes the mother to quarrel with Peggotty? (167)
What are the attitudes and characteristics of Miss Murdstone?
How is David’s time spent? (tedium and unhappiness, 174) What gulf opens between him and his mother?
Why is David forbidden to spend time with Peggotty? (173)
What is David’s final sight of his mother?
What circumstances in the lives of Victorian women have helped determine her fate?
Chapter 9: I have a Memorable Birthday
What makes his birthday “memorable”? Under what conditions does he hear the news of his mother’s death? (176) What is his first innocent reaction? (“feels distinguished at death,” 177)
What preparations for the funeral are necessary for a Victorian child? (taken to receive mourning clothes, 179)
Under what circumstances does he learn of the death of his half-brother? (while clothes are being fitted, 180)
What are some features of the funeral? What does he learn from Peggotty about his mother’s death?
What metaphors are used to describe her passing? (185) How does David wish to remember her? (as she had been, 185, with child on bosom)
How is the ending for this third part designed? Does it seem to close an epoch of his life?
Chapter 10: I become Neglected, and am Provided for
Why is Peggotty fired? What significance will this have for David?
How is the courtship between Barkis and Peggotty characterized? (comic, “Barkis is willing”) Is it romantic?
What do you make of the fact that Peggotty seeks David’s permission to marry?
What seems to be the relationship between David and Little Emily? Why cannot they be a future romantic/married couple? (kisses her, 199)
What is the significance of the choice of occupation for young David of Mr. Quinn’s counting house?
What ironies are latent in the chapter’s title?
Is there any significance or pattern to the use of capitalization?
Chapter 11: I begin Life on my own Account, and don’t like it
What conditions does David find in the warehouse of Murdstone and Grinby? What are his emotions on finding himself in such a position? (secret agony, 211, feels deserted, 214)
Is he able to form ties with the other youths in the factory? If not, what may this indicate? Why are the Micawbers by contrast more acceptable?
In what role does he meet Mr. Micawber and come to live with his family? (211)
What is Mr. Micawber’s situation? To what extent is it his own fault?
What is David’s financial situation? (often hungry, 215) How do others perceive him? (as a gentleman, 218)
What traits of the future novelist/writer does he display? (tells stories to others)
What services does David provide for Mr. Micawber? (pawns books and other items, 220)
Where does Mr. Micawber reside, and how does he respond to his situation? (imprisoned, remains cheerful, 221)
What comic exaggerations characterize the Micawber family?
Of whom does David borrow money, and for what purpose? (221) What anxieties does he feel about the future? (225)
Chapter 12: Liking Life on my own Account no better, I form a great Resolution
What causes the Micawbers to leave London? In what situation does this leave David, and what does he resolve?
Is this a suitable ending for a section?
Chapter 13: The Sequel of My Resolution
What are some incidents which befall him on his difficult trip to Plymouth? (theft of money and trunk, difficulties of pawning, tinker attempts to steal, aunt initially hostile)
What dangers does he learn to avoid? What image does he find consoling? Who helps him?
What role does Mr. Dick play in the decision to permit David to remain with his aunt?
What does Miss Trotwood’s relationship with Mr. Dick reveal about her character? (252)
What are some comic aspects of her initial reception of David? (swathes him in blankets, offers him various inappropriate liquids)
Chapter 14: My Aunt makes up her Mind about me
What seems to be Mr. Dick’s mental condition? Why does he reject the use of his full name?
What seems to motivate his preoccupation with the beheading of Charles I?
What reason does Mr. Murdstone give for his visit, and on what grounds does his aunt decide to keep him?
What information about his financial motives for taking David from school and placing him in the Murdstone and Grinby factory does Miss Betsey extract from him?
Could forethought have prevented the loss of Mrs. Copperfield’s small pension by her son?
How does Miss Trotwood behave toward Mr. Murdstone? (berates him) What is David’s response? (kisses her)
What change does she make in David’s name? Should she have asked his consent?
Chapter 15: I Make Another Beginning
What is David’s response to learning that he will be sent to school?
What purpose does Miss Trotwood believe schooling should serve? (to make a child happy and useful, 277) Is this a contrast with the goals of David’s former school?
With whom does he board while in school? (Mr. Wickfield and his daughter) What role does Agnes serve in Mr. Wickfield’s household? (housekeeper, 280)
What is the significance of the association of Agnes with a church window? (280)
By contrast, what do we learn of Uriah Heep? What are some of his unpleasant or suspicious features? (281)
How is Miss Betsy’s parting with her nephew described? What parting advice does she give him? (280)
Chapter 16: I am a New Boy in more Senses than One
How is Dr. Strong first described? (disheveled) What is unusual about his marriage, even for Victorian England? (relative youth of wife; he is nearly 62)
What are the intentions of Dr. Strong’s cousin toward his wife? What do we learn about Dr. Strong’s character from his response to Jack Maldon and his wife? (unsuspicious, trusting)
What aspects of his past trouble David? (his street knowledge, 285; feels an imposter)
How are Emily and Agnes contrasted in David’s mind? (Agnes represents good, 289) Will this distinction prove significant?
Is Mr. Wickfield presented as a possessive father? (289) What kind of education is Agnes permitted to receive? (home-schooled, 286)
What deep fear does Mr. Wickfield express? (he and his daughter will be parted by death, 291)
What seems the narrator’s view of ideal father-daughter relationships?
What does Mr. Wickfield imply in his remarks on Dr. Strong and Jack Maldon? (too unsuspicious, 286) Will he be proved correct? Why does he seek to find work for Jack? (283)
What seem to be elements of Jack’s character? What do we learn about him from his manner of speaking about Dr. Strong? (288)
What are some traits which make Uriah Heep offensive? (293) What seems to lie behind his prating of his “humbleness”?
What are some good qualities of David’s new school? (Dr. Strong kind, 294; boys are trusted and encouraged to learn) What kind of subjects is David taught? (classical languages)
What is Dr. Strong’s central research interest? (his Greek dictionary)
In what potentially dangerous habit does Mr. Wickfield engage? (drinking to excess, 291)
About what does Annie worry? (that Mr. Wickfield will discover her meetings with Jack Maldon, 296)
On what occasion do David and Annie in fact encounter Jack Maldon? How does the reader know that these meetings were planned? (296)
What is the effect of the repeated mention of her youth? (298; has married too young, 298)
What new and disturbing facts does her mother add in her account of the Dr. and Annie’s courtship? (298)
How does Annie react to Jack’s departure for India? (faints, 300) What emotion does David observe in her? (304)
What had happened to the red ribbon which had been on Annie’s bosom?
What is implied by Annie’s penitent response to her husband at the chapter’s ending? (304)
Chapter 17: Somebody Turns Up
What joke or allusion is embedded in the chapter's title?
When Mr. Dick visits him in Canterbury, what sinister information does David learn from him about Miss Trotwood? (mysterious stranger extorts money from her)
What role does Mr. Dick assume in the school? (watches games with child-like enthusiasm)
Does David enjoy his visit to the Heep home? What seem features of the Heeps’ home life, and the relationship between mother and son?
How does David encounter Mr. Micawber? What has brought him to Canterbury? (315)
What do we learn has since happened to the Micawber family? (has left Plymouth, in despair at debt)
What sentiments are included in his letter of farewell? (321) How does the narrative undercut these?
What characteristic of the Micawber family makes their plight seem less painful? (they leave cheerfully, 322)
Chapter 18: A Retrospect
Over time, how does David’s position in the school change? (becomes head boy)
Whom does David fight, and with what results? Why doesn’t he tackle someone from his own school?
For whom does he hold a romantic passion, and what suspends this attachment? (Miss Larkins, who is about 30 years old and soon marries) Do she and her fiancé behave well to him?
Chapter 19: I Look About Me, and make a Discovery
What difficulties does David feel in choosing a career? (no preferences, 330)
Whom does David seem to resemble, even in adolescence? (his mother, 332)
What advice is David given by his aunt?
Whom does he find that he misses? (333) In what terms does he praise Agnes, and what relationship does he seem to wish to have with her? (she is to be his counselor, 333)
What seems to be happening to Mr. Wickfield, and what causes his decline? (alcohol and Heep’s influence)
What news does Jack Maldon give of himself in his letters from India? How do his relatives react? (with sympathy and desire to help)
Who is the sole member of the group to view Jack and his missive with suspicion?
Why does David view the friendship between Annie and Agnes as ominous? What future outcomes may this imply? (339)
Whom does David meet in London en route to visiting Peggotty? How does he respond to the sight of Steerforth? (345) Steerforth to him? (346)
What is Steerforth’s current occupation and his attitude toward it? (has no desire to excell or learn at university, 345)
What changes is Steerforth able to make in David’s accommodation? (346)
Chapter 20: Steerforth’s Home
What do you make of the fact that Steerforth calls David “Daisy”? Is this a compliment?
When David visits Steerforth’s home, what does he learn of Steerforth’s family environment? How is the latter treated by his mother and Rosa Dartle?
What are some unusual features of Rosa Dartle’s character and manner? What has been Steerforth’s relationship to her?
How does he describe Rosa’s past and fortunes to David? Why are her financial fortunes so prominent in this account?
Chapter 21: Little Em’ly
On his visit to Steerforth, what does David find irritating/obnoxious about the behavior of Steerforth’s servant Littimer? What hint does the narrator provide that this might be significant?
How does Steerforth treat David? (like a plaything) Should this have indicated that something was wrong?
En route to Peggotty’s home, what gossip/allusions concerning Emily does David hear?
What does the narrative voice tell us about Steerforth’s relationship with the Peggottys and their circle? (merely playing with them, 368)
What event is being celebrated as the visitors arrive? How do the Peggottys respond to Steerforth? (all are charmed)
When Steerforth makes condescending remarks to him privately, what attitude toward the poor does David project onto Steerforth? (he understands and loves the poor, 377)
What is Steerforth’s response to this? (calls him good, wishes all were so) What might you infer from this? (he is already plotting to seduce Emily)
Chapter 22: Some old Scenes, and some new People
What do we infer from David’s mention that not all his time in Yarmouth was spent in Steerforth’s company?
What does David himself do? What future does he imagine for himself as he visits his parents’ graves? (378)
When David finds Steerforth brooding by Mr. Peggotty’s fire, what sentiments does Steerforth express? What does he wish he had had? (a good and judicious father, 378)
What does this indicate about his future, his self-knowledge, and the novel’s assumptions about male maturation? (that is, why doesn’t he mention a good mother?)
Is Steerforth shifting responsibility? What does Steerforth regret that he is unable to do? (can’t settle to anything, 380)
What may the reader assume about Steerforth’s future?
What expensive present has Steerforth bought for Mr. Peggotty? Is its name significant?
What seems suggested by the fact that a woman is seen following Ham and Little Emily?
Who does she turn out to be, and is it significant that Ham is reluctant for Emily to speak with her?
How do others behave toward Martha? (now an outcast, they behave with caution, 399) How would you describe Martha’s attitude toward her own lapses? (abject)
What seems to be Miss Mowcher’s role in the story? What is her occupation? What does she reveal about the lives of those she treats?
What topics does she wish to learn about? With what information do David and Steerforth provide her?
What do we learn about Emily’s attitude before her marriage? (restless, moody, 400) About what does she weep? (her own lack of goodness, 399)
Do these responses bode well for her married life?
How does she behave toward Ham? (clings to Ham in guilt and fear, 400)
Chapter 23: I corroborate Mr. Dick, and choose a Profession
Does it seem odd that Steerforth leaves Mr. Littimer behind after he and David return from Yarmouth?
What confession of regret does Miss Betsey make? (could have helped David’s family earlier, 407) What restitution does she plan?
What occupation does she suggest for him, and how much will this cost her? To what firm is he articled? (Spenlow and Jorkins) What do we learn about the respective characters of these men?
Whom does Miss Betsey seem alarmed on encountering? How does she behave, and why do you think she gives money to this mysterious stranger? (409)
What does David learn about the relationship between Mr. Spenlow and Mr. Jorkins? (Spenlow uses Jorkins as a front for refusing requests, 410, 411)
What advice does his aunt give David on her departure? (be firm) What kind of rooms does she engage for him?
Whom does he write as soon as he is settled?
Chapter 24: My First Dissipation
Under what circumstances does David engage in his “first dissipation”? What may this reveal about his character? Are others also responsible?
Whom does David toast at this convivial event, and in what terms? (420) Whom does he meet at the theater? (423)
What emotions does David feel on awakening the next day? (424)
Chapter 25: Good and Bad Angels
In his interview with Agnes in the home where she is staying, against what does she warn him? (Steerforth, 427)
How does he respond? (reasserts need for her to come to like and respect Steerforth)
Which other of David’s character traits does she mention? (habit of forming sudden effusive attachments to women, 428)
Why do you think the author includes this hint shortly before David’s meeting with Dora Spenlow?
What does she reveal about her own situation? What are implications of the fact that Uriah Heep wishes a partnership with her father? (429) Does she question Heep’s honesty?
Whom does she blame for her father’s problems? Does this make sense? Does David attempt to dissuade her from this view?
Had his judgment been clearer, are there ways in which David could have helped her at this juncture?
What do we learn indirectly of Agnes’s feelings for David? (430)
During his dinner with Agnes, whom does he meet? What opinions are expressed by the dinner guests? (praise for aristocracy, 434)
What emotions does David feel when hosting Uriah Heep? (439) What confession does Uriah make, and with what effect on David? What seems ominous about Uriah’s demand to stay the night?
Chapter 26: I Fall into Captivity
What do you make of the fact that David fails to warn Agnes that Mr. Heep wishes to marry her? What reason does he give? Would a warning have helped?
What type of literature does David write? (poetry 446)
On his visit to Mr. Spenlow’s house, what account does Mr. Spenlow give of the advantages of becoming a proctor? Based on this account, is this a likely suitable occupation for David?
How long does it take David to fall in love with Dora? (450) How is she described?
What person from his past does he encounter at the Spenlows? (456) Do you think Miss Murdstone would be a likely ladies’ companion for Dora?
What is the advantage of reintroducing her into the plot?
What relationship to David does she wish to preserve, and does he concur? What do you think may be her motive in advocating secrecy about the past?
What do he and Dora discuss on their first meeting? (she dislikes Miss Murdstone, 456)
What problems does David experience with his housekeeper? What personal subject does she discuss with him? (discerns that he is in love)
Chapter 27: Tommy Traddles
What does David learn about Traddles’s past and prospects? How has he been enabled to study for the law? (466)
What is his personal situation? (466) How are he and his fiancé preparing for marriage? (saving for furniture)
Who does it turn out is Tommy Traddles’s landlord? What is Mr. Micawber’s ostensible present occupation, and how successful has this endeavor been?
Do all enjoy the meal? What does David learn about the Micawbers from their conversation over dinner? (Mrs. Micawber is pregnant)
Chapter 28: Mr. Micawber’s Gauntlet
What change in tone occurs on the entrance of Mr. Lattimer? What has been the occasion of the latter’s visit? Does this seem ominous?
Against what does David warn Traddles as they depart? Is his advice needed? What has Traddles already lent Mr. Micawber?
On Steerforth’s arrival, what news from Peggotty does he bring?
Why doesn’t David start off right away to provide help or comfort? What may be Steerforth’s motive in delaying David’s trip?
What is Mr. Micawber’s present financial situation? (is being evicted for non-payment of rent)
Chapter 29: I visit Steerforth at his Home, again
During David’s visit to Steerforth’s home, what does he notice in Rosa Dartle’s manner and speech?
Under what circumstances does she play the harp? What remarks anger her?
What symbolism is observed in the changing coloration of the gash on her face?
As David leaves Steerforth, what does the narrator foretell? (will never see him again)
Chapter 30: A Loss
What news does Emily’s employer, Mr. Omer, report of her recent moods? (unsettled)
At Mr. Peggotty’s home, how does Emily behave towards her uncle? (clings to him, seems distressed)
What is her behavior toward Ham? (shrinks, 504)
Under what conditions does Barkis die? (goes out with tide, 507)
Chapter 31: A Greater Loss
What has Mr. Barkis left in his will? Is this more than might have been expected from someone of his occupation?
How has he bequeathed it? Does it make sense that he should leave money to David in addition to his wife and his wife’s niece?
What effect is created by the narrator’s expression of fear and pain at recounting what comes next? (508)
What news does Ham bring to Mr. Peggotty’s house? (512)
What does he wish for Emily, and is his motivation for this more than anger? (that she die rather than be disgraced, 513)
What are the contents of Emily’s letter? (514) Does she seem happy to be taking the path she has chosen? What emotions does she express? (fear, self-pity, guilt)
Whom does she seem to think of most in her departure?
Does Ham connect David with the events which have happened?
How do Mr. Peggotty, Ham and Miss Gummige respond to the news? (513) Whose grief is most emphasized?
How does David respond to the news? (weeps) Does he blame himself?
Chapter 32: The Beginning of a Long Journey
Whose will be the long journey of the chapter’s title?
What emotions does David feel for Steerforth on learning that the latter has eloped with Emily? (feels love, 516) Why do you think he doesn’t feel anger?
What changes occur in Miss Gummidge’s behavior? How do Emily’s former employers react to the news of her elopement?
How is Miss Mowcher introduced? What action does she now regret? (has conveyed Steerforth’s letter to Emily)
Do her manner and/or speech seem changed from that of her earlier visit? From what charges does she defend herself? (triviality, lack of feeling, 523) Why has she needed to affect good cheer? (523)
How had she interpreted the statements regarding Emily expressed in her earlier interview with Steerforth and David? (525)
What do you think of Dickens’ intentions in this portrayal of a dwarf?
What is shown by Mr. Peggotty’s intention of visiting Mrs. Steerforth? Is the visit successful?
What do we learn about her views of her son’s actions, and her opinions on the suitability of a match between Emily and her son? (530)
What does she demand that Mr. Peggotty do? Is this realistic? (531)
How does Rosa Dartle respond to the news that Steerforth has taken Emily as his mistress? (rage and hate)
What is Mr. Peggotty’s aim as he leaves the Steerforth residence? (534)
Chapter 33: Blissful
To what does the title refer? Does it imply any qualification of David’s new romance?
What behaviors does David exhibit when in love? Are there ways in which the narator undercuts David, Dora, or their romance?
Whom does David meet in Mr. Spenlow’s office, and what has brought him there? (Mr. Murdstone is about to remarry, 538)
What characterizes David’s descriptions of Dora? Why do you think he is so effusive? Do he and she have anything in common?
What views of business are expressed by Mr. Spenlow? (of the narrowest kind)
How do David and Dora become engaged?
What do we learn of the narrator as he reflects on his present? (has a daughter, 550) What attitude does he take toward his own past? (smiles at foolish, tender past, 551)
Are there any ominous signs for this engagement? Is David believable when he claims that he saw no harm in keeping his engagement secret? Why does Dora desire this?
Chapter 34: My Aunt astonishes me
To whom does David first relay the news of his engagement? (Agnes, 552)
What has happened to Twaddles since David has last seen him? (has lost the money lent to Mr. Micawber)
What news does Miss Betsey bring on her visit to David? (560) Under what circumstances has she lost it? (speculated, advised by Mr. Wickham)
Chapter 35: Depression
How does Miss Betsey respond to her situation? For whom is she most concerned? (566)
What are her views on David’s engagement to Dora and to marriage? Do these views seem reasonable? (feels he needs to marry someone earnest, 565)
How may these views reflect her private judgment of David’s character?
What attempt does David make to lessen his Aunt’s financial difficulties? Why are these unsuccessful? (attempts to have articles cancelled)
When Agnes visits, how do she and Miss Betsey get along? (571)
What change has occurred in the Wickham’s living situation? (Heeps have moved in)
Whose failure to advise her correctly has caused Miss Betsey to lose her investment money?
To what do you ascribe Mr. Wickham’s negligence and/or incompetence?
Should a woman as strong-minded as Miss Betsey have known better than to invest in mining stocks and foreign securities? Is her ignorance of such matters gender based?
What job is proposed for David? (part time secretary to Dr. Strong) Would this be congenial?
What changes does David notice when Mr. Wickham visits, accompanied by Uriah Heep? (much reduced, 578)
Who seeks to comfort David? How does Agnes respond to Dora? (speaks well of her, 582) What condition does the narrator ascribe to his earlier self? (blind)
Chapter 36: Enthusiasm
What does David observe when he passes the Steerforth home? (Rosa Dartle paces restlessly, 583)
Under what conditions does Dr. Strong employ David? Is this generous and reasonable? Can David live on this?
Who has begun to hang around the Strong residence? Is this ominous? (Jack Maldon, 587)
What skill does David start to learn, and to what end? (shorthand)
What has happened to Mr. Dick? (591)
Whom does he visit before their departure? What gift does he give Tommy Traddles?
Chapter 37: A little Cold Water
What news is David forced to tell Dora? How does she respond? What does he suggest that she must learn?
Chapter 38: A Dissolution of Partnership
On whom does he practice his stenography skills? Who declaims Parliamentary speeches to him?
What is Mr. Spenlow’s reaction when he learns that Dora and David are attached to one another? (attempts to separate lovers)
What sudden event alters the situation? (Mr. Spenlow dies, 620) Is this convenient for the plot?
What emotions does David feel at this event? (jealous of Dora’s comforters, 621)
In what state has Mr. Spenlow left his affairs? Does this seem plausible? Has he left a will?
What arrangements does Dora make after his death? (moves to Putney)
What new position in relationship to Dora does her loss of wealth place David? How will this affect the plot?
Chapter 39: Wickfield and Heep
When David visits the firm of Wickfield and Heep, who does he discover is now employed there?
What does Mr. Micawber feel about his present employer Heep?
What observations does Mr. Micawber make on David’s relationship to Agnes? (feels Agnes should be the object of David’s attachment, 630)
What relationship does David claim with her? (she is his adopted sister, 431)
What does Agnes advise David to do re: his engagement? (to consult with Dora’s guardians) Is this good advice?
Who is now courting Agnes? What virtues does he proclaim to have? (humbleness, 639)
Does Mr. Wickfield approve? (641) Of what does he accuse Heep? (of torturing and blackmailing him, 642)
What would have given Heep the power to blackmail Mr. Wickfield? For what does Mr. Wickfield blame himself? (642) Are these self-reproaches justified?
What does David implore Agnes not to do? (not to sacrifice herself, 654) What term of relationship does she use for him? (her brother)
Chapter 40: The Wanderer
To where does Mr. Peggotty follow Little Emily? Does this surprise you?
What is contained in the letters has Emily sent him? Is she happy in her new situation? For whom does she seem to feel most concern?
Who quietly observes him, and what is her present situation? (Martha is now a prostitute)
Chapter 41: Dora’s Aunts
When David visits Dora and her aunts, what views do the latter seem to take of their proposed marriage?
Does Dora seem to understand the realities of her new financial situation? (670)
What does David disapprove of in the aunts' conduct towards Dora? Does she agree?
Chapter 42: Mischief
What new qualities of concentration and work does David claim to have achieved? What does he claim to have been his bent of character? (thoroughly in earnest, 672)
On a visit by Agnes and Mr. Heep to Dr. Strong, of whom does Mr. Heep profess himself “jealous,” i. e., suspicious? (673) Why does this concern him?
What seems to be his motives for interfering in Dr. Strong’s personal life? What attitudes does he think Annie may harbor toward him, and if so, why does this matter? (Annie might disapprove of his marriage to Agnes)
What prompts Mr. Wickfield to express his own doubts to Dr. Strong? (Heep insists that he do so)
What relationship is established between Dora and Agnes upon their meeting? (Agnes in mentor role, receives confidences of lovers, 679) How will David continue to hear news of Agnes?
What insecurities does Dora seem to manifest toward her future husband?
Whom does she hint he might have chosen as opposed to herself? Why do you think the author includes this suggestion at this point in the narrative?
What does Agnes promise David will never happen?
What prompts David to strike Mr. Heep? Is this incident to his credit? How does Mr. Heep respond?
What unexpected report of Mr. Micawber does Mrs. Micawber send?
What advice does David return? Do you think making an effort to reclaim him “by patience and kindness” is the best she could do? (could ask him why he has changed)
Chapter 43: Another Retrospect
What is David’s new occupation? (parliamentary reporter) In what endeavor does he engage on the side, and is he successful in this? (authorship)
How is the wedding of Dora and David described? What role in the event is played by Agnes?
Chapter 44: “Our Housekeeping”
What domestic or marital problems trouble the young couple? Whom does the narrator blame for their household disorder?
How does Dora respond when David points out to her ways in which they could save money? Are there ways in which he also might have helped?
How does Miss Trotwood respond when David seeks her intervention? Do you think she is wise?
Which aspects of her past does she seem to regret? (706) What opinion of his marriage does she seem to have formed?
What are some ways in which the young couple are cheated by their servants? (maid pawns their clothes, for example) Are some of these humorous?
Would Dickens’s audience have identified with an account of wayward servants?
What liberties are taken by Jip? What flaws in serving food does David note? (Dora doesn’t make tea right, serves oysters incorrectly)
Whom does Dora wish could have instructed her? (Agnes) What help does she try to offer? (holds his pens, copies)
How does Miss Betsey respond to Dora? Is this surprising?
Chapter 45: Mr. Dick fulfils my Aunt’s Predictions
What intention toward Miss Trotwood does Mr. Dick reveal? (saves his money for her)
In favor of whom does Dr. Strong make his will, and what does this reveal about his character?
What group assembles to watch the scene between Anne and her husband? What part does David play in the scene? (relates previous scene of accusations by Heep)
How does Annie respond to the news of her husband's generous actions? For what does she beg forgiveness, and in what situation? (has been humiliated by sense that her mother and others are trading on her marriage)
Does she still wish to become Jack’s partner? (729) (sees his unsuitability)
Is her expression of regret at Jack's behavior entirely consistent with her prior behavior and apparent regret at his departure?
What does this scene suggest to David’s mind? (incompatibility of his own marriage, 733)
Chapter 46: Intelligence
On visiting the Steerforth home, what news does David learn from Rosa Dartle? (Emily has run away, 735) What has prompted this act?
How had she been treated by Steerforth? What marriage had he attempted to arrange for her, and how did Emily respond to this?
Is Littimer still employed by Steerforth, and if not, what has occurred? What presumably has happened to Mr. Peggotty’s letter to him?
What does David learn from his conversation with Mrs. Steerforth? In what tone does she bid him farewell? (praiseful)
How has David learned of Martha's whereabouts? (has observed her listening to the conversation of Mr. Peggotty and David?)
Where do they find her? (near Blackfriars Bridge)
What prompts David to visit Mr. Peggotty, and what news does he bring? What account does Mr. Peggotty give of Ham's state of mind?
Whom do the two men seek, and why? (Martha, 745)
Chapter 47: “Martha”
As the men follow her, what does Martha seem intent on doing?
How does she respond when accosted, and why? To what does she compare herself? (the river)
What memories does Martha hold of Emily? (grateful for her past kindness, 751) Against what charge does she wish to defend herself?
What does she feel about her present condition? What mission does she agree to undertake?
Why does she refuse all offers of payment from Mr. Peggotty?
What conversation does David overhear between Miss Betsey and her former husband?
What does she later tell David about his and her past? (757)
What has motivated her to continue to support him over the years?
Chapter 48: Domestic
What has happened to David in the meantime? (has become author, 758)
What continues to happen in the Copperfield home? (a series of petty thefts by servants)
What does David regret? (unable to “form [Dora’s] mind,” 763
What physical event is delicately alluded to, and what effect does it have on Dora's health? (miscarried, 767; falls ill, 768)
Chapter 49: I am Involved in Mystery
What is the mystery of the chapter’s title?
What messages come from Mr. and Mrs. Micawber to David and Tommy Traddles respectively?
What news does Mr. Micawber convey when they meet him in town? What opinions does he express of Uriah Heep and of Agnes? (778) Of what wrongs does he charge Heep? (780)
Chapter 50: Mr. Peggotty’s Dream comes true
What are we supposed to think of Mr. Peggotty's search for his niece?
Who guides David to Emily’s location? (Martha) What events take place when they finally arrive at Emily’s dwelling?
Who berates Emily, and with what does she threaten her? (788, 790) How does Emily respond? What reason does she give for her elopement?
Why does this anger Rosa Dartle? What aspect of the affair seems to have most bothered her? (Emily's low station)
Why do you think David and Martha fail to intervene?
Who finally leaves with Emily? (791) In what state is she when he carries her off? (unconscious)
Chapter 51: The Beginning of a longer Journey
What do we learn has happened to Emily? (deserted, ill, alone in foreign country) Who has protected and harbored her? Under what conditions has she become a servant?
On whom do the repentant Emily’s thoughts turn? (Mr. Peggotty, not Ham, 797)
Who has warned her to flee the house where she is first employed when reaching Londn? (Martha, 796)
What future is planned for Mr. Peggotty and Emily? (emigration to Australia 798) Why do they need to travel so far?
What debt incurred by Emily does Mr. Peggotty wish to repay?
Why doesn't David visit Emily? (805) Are his reasons convincing?
What message does Ham send to Emily? (he asks forgiveness for pressing his affection on her, 805)
What ominous presentiment does David feel as he nears the Peggotty home? (feels Steerforth near, 807)
Who wishes to accompany the emigrants? (808, Mrs. Gummage, the Micawbers, Martha, etc.)
Chapter 52: I assist at an Explosion
Who continues to be ill? How serious is this illness expected to be?
What change has enabled the visitors to search Mr. Wickfield's papers? (Traddles has power of attorney for Mr. Wickfield, 816)
When David and Mr. Micawber visit Wickfield’s office, what do they learn from the documents filed there? (Heep has stolen from Mr. Wickfield, has stolen money with the latter's signature, and then blackmailed him with "his" theft, has forged his signature on a pretended loan to himself, 823, has falsified accounts, 825)
What range of sums seem to have been involved? What particular amount is given for one of these thefts? (12,614 pounds)
Whom does Mr. Heep threaten, and with what? (816) What does he confess? (817)
What qualities of manner and behavior make Uriah Heep so peculiarly obnoxious?
What role does Heep's mother play in this scene? (824) Is she aware that her son has engaged in criminal acts?
What punishment do the others inflict on him? (Micawber raps him on hand, 819; prevented from escape)
What had Mr. Heep demanded that Mr. Micawber do, and against whom? (to commit fraud against Mr. Wickfield and others, 820)
What sum has Mr. Heep stolen? Would this be a very large one? How has he accomplished this? (forgery)
How had he removed Mr. Wickfield from the partnership?
With what does Traddles threaten Heep? (jail, 828)
What does Miss Betsey reveal about the circumstances under which she had lost her money? (826) What had been her motives for not complaining of her loss?
Is Miss Betsey able to regain her lost assets? (yes, all of them, 826)
What suggestion does Miss Betsey make on meeting the Micawber family? (that they should emigrate) Who pays for the Micawbers to emigrate to Australia?
What seems to be the view of Australian emigration taken by the novel's characters?
Chapter 53: Another Retrospect
What happens to Dora? (fades away) Who does she want to see before her death? What attitude does she express toward her impending death? (better as is, 838)
Is her death sudden? What fate awaits her dog Jip? (dies at same time, 838)
Who is the last person to see her before she dies? (Agnes) Is this significant? How will this affect the narrative?
Has Dora’s death been prepared for within the narrative? Does it seem too convenient?
Chapter 54: Mr. Micawber’s Transactions
What plans does David make after Dora's death? Whom does he praise for her good influence throughout his lifetime? (839)
What turns out to be Mr. Wickfield's financial situation when all is adjusted? (able to pay his obligations) What will Agnes turn to for a living?
What turns out to be Miss Betsey's financial situation after all has been settled? (has her 5000 pounds but 2000 more, yielding a 350 pounds per annum revenue)
How does Miss Betsey respond to the death of her husband? (853) From what form of harrassment does this free her? (853)
How do the others deal with Mr. Micawber's debts?
Chapter 55: Tempest
Why does no one seem to think that Ham and Emily might reconcile? (no thought of reunion, 856)
When David tries to deliver Emily's letter to Ham, what situation does he find?
What seems ominous to David about the tempest? Why aren't those on shore able to rescue the shipwrecked passengers?
What does Ham do to try to help? Does he succeed? (killed by wave, 865)
What indications are there that the lone man on the wreck might be Steerforth? Why do you think he has returned to Yarmouth?
How is the death of Steerforth described? Is it ironic--or fitting--that Ham has died trying to save the life of the man who has blighted his own?
Chapter 56: The New Wound, and the Old
Who announces Steerforth's death to Mrs. Steerforth? (867) Does this seem appropriate? What does it enable David to observe?
How does Rosa Dartle respond to the news of his death? Whom does she berate? (his mother, 871)
What emotions does Rosa retain toward Steerforth? What account does she give of their prior relationship?
How does Mrs. Steerforth respond to the news of her son's death?
Chapter 57: The Emigrants
What legal events threaten Mr. Micawber’s departure, and how are these settled? Who is responsible for constraining Mr. Micawber for debt? (Heep, 882)
What messages is David able to bring and receive from Mr. Peggotty and Emily before they depart? Who accompanies them? (Mrs. Gummage and Martha)
Does David bid farewell to Emily? (waves) What reason does he give for refraining?
Why do you think the novel does not include a reconciliation between Ham and Emily?
Chapter 58: Absence
Where does David travel to escape from his sorrow over Dora’s death, and to reflect? (Alps, 887) How has he been able to afford this trip?
What is the content of Agnes’s letters to him?
To what kind of writing does he turn, and who helps him publish his new book? (Traddles) What reception does it bring?
What does he now realize are his feelings for Agnes? Why does he neither tell her this, nor return home? (890)
How many years does he remain away? How has he been able to afford this trip?
Chapter 59: Return
What has now happened to Traddles and his wife Sophy? (all her sisters live with them, 899-900)
What does he learn from Mr. Chillip of the fate of Mr. Murdstone’s second wife? (905, similar to that of David's mother) What form of religion is associated with his step-father?
Chapter 60: Agnes
When David returns from his European sojourn and visits Agnes, by what terms do they call one another? (brother and sister, 915-17)
What does David learn about Agnes's prospects, and how does he react? Does she seem happy? Is he content to think that she might marry someone else?
Chapter 61: I am shown Two Interesting Penitents
What brings David to the prison? (Mr. Creakle writes to invite him.) Who are these "interesting penitents"? By what strange logic have both Mr. Heep and Mr. Littimer ended up in the same prison?
What has each done? (Heep had committed bank fraud, 929; Littimer had stolen from an employer, 929)
How do they respond to their incarceration? What forms of hypocritical piety does each now express? How does Littimer attempt to reframe his relationship with Emily?
Of what do they accuse David?
Who has been responsible for the capture of Littimer? (Miss Mowcher)
Why do you think Dickens included this scene?
Chapter 62: A Light shines on my Way
Who suggests to David that Agnes may have an attachment? Does David perceive her meaning accurately?
Why won't Agnes tell David the state of her mind? (935) What confidences does he press on her? Does this seem intrusive?
Why is she reluctant to answer him? What causes them to come to an understanding?
Whom do the engaged couple first tell of their happiness, and what is her response? (aunt is delighted, 938)
Chapter 63: A Visitor
Who is the visitor? (Mr. Peggotty) After how long an absence has he returned? What has happened to David in the meantime? (David now has children of his own, 939) What has happened to Emily in Australia? (442) To Martha? Mrs. Gummage?
How has Mr. Micawber altered in character or situation? (pays his bills, 943) Does this seem plausible?
What seems to be the prevailing view of the prospects for Australian settlers? Of the types of emigrants suitable for settlement there?
Why do you think Dickens sends his characters to Australia rather than, say, the United States, Canada, or even another part of the British Isles?
Chapter 64: A last Retrospect
What does the now older author recall in his final retrospect? What has now happened to his aunt? To Rosa Dartle and Mrs. Steerforth? (trapped in time) To Mr. Peggotty and Mrs. Barkis?
Have the good been rewarded and the evil punished?
What are some features of Dickens's style throughout the novel?
What are some of the novel’s basic themes? Its assumptions about class, morality, family life, appropriately gendered behavior, or other issues?
Which features of David Copperfield are affected by its status as a serial publication? Do these improve or undermine the narrative?
What effect is created by the novel’s use of coincidence? By the repeated reintroduction of characters which had appeared in an earlier episode, such as the Micawbers, Tommy Traddles or Miss Murdstone?
What significance do letters play throughout the novel? May some things be conveyed epistolarily more fully than in speech?
What is the significance of the many cases of "overhearing" throughout the novel? Are they necessary to preserve the first-person narrative viewpoint? What effect do they have on the scenes presented?
What do you make of the fact that so many of the novel’s characters lose or gain money suddenly? Would this have reflected conditions in an age of unsecured bank accounts?
How are the themes of marriage and money intertwined throughout the novel? Does the narrative suggest that pecuniary considerations will be rewarded?
What do you make of the frequent deaths throughout the novel? Would these have been realistic for the time? Which seem most plausible, and which merely convenient? (Mr. Copperfield, Mrs. Copperfield, Barkis, Mr. Spenlow, Steerforth, Dora, etc.)
What are features of the novel's portrayal of erotic and sexual themes? Which of these would have been expected by Dickens' audience?
Would you say that the persons represented in the novel are clustered in groups of good and bad characters? If so, how does this affect the novel's plot and structure?
Why do you think David’s relationship to Agnes is emphasized throughout? Why is the novel designed so that their romantic relationship is deferred?
Which of the novel's scenes would you descripe as theatrical? Melodramatic?
According to the evidence of the novel, what social and economic fate awaited "fallen women"? Prostitutes? How does Dickens's treatement of a seduced and abandoned woman compare with that of other novelists of the time? (e. g., Gaskell in Mary Barton)
How would the novel's audience have responded to its careful description of places and journeys within London? Its descriptions of homes, apartments and rooms?
What are some of the novel’s merits? Which qualities seem to you primarily/quintessentially Victorian, and which occur in a novel of any century?
What are some patterns in the novel’s presentation of women?
Page numbers from Penguin edition, 1985.