- Betsey says that shockingly, Micawber has been paying her back money on the sum she gave the family to enable them to move to Australia, which Micawber insisted should be a loan rather than a gift. She and David are both bemused by this.
- Betsey hints that Agnes is interested in someone, and it’s reciprocated; David doesn’t get that she means him. RomCom shit. David goes to visit Agnes. Their Thing works better in these pages than anywhere else in the book. Dickens works really hard here to make this a marriage of equals who better each other. In the moment he does well, but if you pull back and think of it at all, their union offers an unchallenging, sterile conception of ‘bettering.’ Agnes as we know her isn’t a very dynamic person, capable of depth or growth. David tells Agnes she ‘makes him better’, but we as readers don’t ever actually see that. David’s sense of moral responsibility and ambition come very much from him, though he attaches such traits to his idea of her. He tells Agnes she made him, but there’s an important difference between a person and your internal idea of their representational signification (and if David doesn’t know that, then he’s a bigger Boy than I thought him).
- There’s no productive friction here? It makes me think of Keguro Macharia’s thoughts on friction/frottage in terms of both eroticism and generative complication. Does David want Agnes here, or is he yearning for simplicity, solace, to return to childhood or at least the part of his that was safe and happy, because he still feels lost or insecure? There’s a lot to be said for morality and safety, but should a satisfying literary, romantic marriage (or even a real one) be a homily or a security blanket?
- Mr Wickfield spends all his time gardening in an allotment now. He’s sober? Yay? He’s not thriving, though. David thinks he looks like the shadow of his portrait on the wall. Eesh.
- David’s still resigned to never being with Agnes, and tells himself that maybe they’ll love one another Differently in heaven . So static, sterile and after you are LITERALLY DEAD, bra? U need therapy and less Jesus. I am full Ronnie the Bear here, I reject the eternal death of paradise, I will go no further than my mortal flesh will carry me.
- Traddles and Sophie go on dates where they show each other the expensive jewellery and homewares they’d buy one another if they could afford them. While practicing law, Traddles doodles the judges as wigged skelletons. They are the best.
- David gets a letter from he and Traddles’ terrible old school master Creakle. There’s a big dash where David called him something unprintable. Shit is Pure David:
- You can lose sight of the degree to which this novel’s POV–all the jokes, observations and self-reflexivity–are David’s. It’s a common problem with narrator-characters (the Jam Watson reading).
- Treadles and David visit the model prison Creakle now runs. This reads bizarrely to modern audiences who lack the then-contemporary context of Dickens’ long-standing, complex and highly situated critique of the emergent prison industrial complex. The first time I read this novel I did not know about that. The other day I saw someone’s full-ass academic book Read this section, without any of that context, as ‘Dickens loves prisons smug conservatism make u think I decadence’. It was so embarrassing I wondered why no one had loved him enough to stop him? But idk, as a decadence scholar he possibly deserved this.
It’s a stunning failure of scholarly process, though. This is the sort of thing you’d make a note in an undergrad paper about, it’s like if someone cavalierly assumed Swift was a lobbyist for baby meat farms. It’d have been different to argue that, underlying Dickens considerations of economic justice, there’s a fundamental unwillingness to declare Dombey a bigger criminal against society than Carker, who ought to face greater consequences. That’d be something to explore. And it’s no problem that this guy didn’t have this information initially. But to PUBLISH A BOOK OF ASS-TALKING is typical decadence bullshit, wherein those scholars are very ready to claim and exploit an apolitical, fetishised form of Otherness (‘I’m queer because I’m into waterspouts, my kink is ‘deep dicking!’ ’ libertarianism.).
Perhaps we need a more rigorous academic conversation about the cardinal importance, when you disagree with historical materials, asking yourself whether you’re certain you understand them. Sometimes we meet the past with condescending assumptions of mastery. Authors are too often treated as Sage Authorities on Everything by virtue of existing, but in this case, Dickens visited every new style of prison in the country, interviewed men imprisoned for Sodomy and scheduled for execution, and ran a halfway house and skills training program for imprisoned sex workers for two decades with his friend Angela Burdett-Coutts. He was also motived by his personal experience of his parents’ incarceration. So you’re stepping into a really dedicated activist practice and just assuming you can gauge Discourse 150 years on? Like. Ooookay. I wouldn’t do that with a slightly different field than my own on Twitter right now, but go on, show your entire ass if you fancy.
- Remember when I said sis was in maximum security prison? I think you already know what time it is.
- So Uriah Heep leaves the narrative pretty much as he came, putting on a giant drag show for David’s benefit and bitchily wishing David was in prison with him. He’s getting deported to Australia. But wait… that means Uriah, the Micawbers (who he swore vengeance against), the extended Peggotty Clan (including Martha and Mrs Gummidge), Steerforth’s former servant Littimer and even David’s well-liked old school master Mr Mell are all in the same place (and given settlement patterns, very likely in the same area of the country, re settlement patterns), and at liberty (that’s often the policy for model prisoners–Uriah is working towards a purpose, here) at the end of the book? What a bizarrely fun sequel set up Dickens never takes advantage of?? (Trollope would.)
- Littimer is very much the ‘and Peggy!!’ of this chapter. He tried to abscond to America with a gentleman employer’s money. He almost did it, except Mowcher spotted him, ‘ran betwixt his legs to upset him and hung onto him like grim death’. Everyone’s like, damn. Fair: Mowcher is a motherfucking boss.
- Gotta write a fic called Unsound Hobby now:
- This scene is doing real emotional work I’m kind of feeling, but overall auuuuugh, it’s the absolute fucking worst???? I SEE MY DEAD INFANTILISED WIFE IN YOUR FAAAAACE.
- Calm. Still. Tranquil. Winter. Frost. Hard-frozen snow on dead fields. Silent. Quiet. GOD. Eternal. Are you getting married or being buried?
- Agnes is always accompanied by images of stars, shining celestial bodies, reflection and removal. There’s nothing human&close until the oblique intimacy of their hearts beating together, and then she’s subsumed in an embodiment that refuses her specific personhood.
- I really appreciate what Dickens is trying to do here, but the whole conceit is so grim, sad and not-quite-workable. For Agnes to be ‘the source of every worthy aspiration I had ever had; the centre of myself, the circle of my life’, she would have to be more her own person, with her own quest that he changed her on as well. UR DEAD WIFE SAID I SHOULD SCHTUPP U. Yeah okay sure.
- It’s like being stuck in a conversation where a friend you love defends their terrible relationship at length, with all their passion and rationalisation brought to bear on a bad conceit. What this justifying semi-autobiography obliquely implies about Dickens’ marriage is pure extract of yikes.
- David and Agnes are married now, and she’s not destined for an early death. I guess you could say that, in the end of this 900 page harem anime dating SIM, Agnes Wickfield has won, the Game of Bones.
Let’s take a look back to honour all the fallen combatants in The Thirst Games:
– get low with Spenlow
– Legally Blonde
– can’t math won’t math
– too susceptible to death by Victorian literary cliche
– in it to win it
– 2 calm 2 furious
– homebody/not allowed to leave
– enjoys recreational dusting
MISS LARKINS (Eldest)
– marry a prosperous dealer in hops&yeast byproducts, get dat bread
– gave David the Cold Shoulder/did not wrap up warm
– a fucking adult, so not into moony 16 year old David
– no less than 6 bastard children in Europe
– grease-proofed against any form of commitment
– bisexual disaster that happens TO you, like a tsunami
– speaking of
– rock u like a hurricane (sorry)
– the spiciest take
– voted most dangerous gay in Kent for 7 consecutive years running
– inarguably the contestant most obsessed with David
– ugly-hot, or ugly-thot?
– knew he was never gonna win; tried to take the bildungsroman genre down with him
– not to be discounted
– has only ever bottomed for Steerforth
– David has absolutely murmured ‘step on me mommy’ in his sleep while dreaming about her and Agnes has been like ‘why would he want his dear departed mother to–‘
– Everyone else wishes they’d been played by Jacqueline Pearce.
– only Robert Graves ships this
– that’s right, the ‘I, Claudius’ guy
– for some reason
– the only way to win is not to play
– Tommy MVP Traddles did not come to play.
I’m not including Murdstone’s weird Lolita fixation on David (why does he always want David in the drawing room, under his eye?), which is creepily rounded off by his subsequently marrying a girl David’s age, because I respect myself. He was once played very well by Gareth Thomas, and still, I respect myself.
Miss Shepard cut herself out of the running early by rejecting David’s weird little gifts and objecting to his staring moonliy after her (they were like, 12 at the time).
- This chapter jumps ten years on (which would make David about 36). David and Agnes have 3+ kids. Mr Peggotty comes back to see England one last time, and to visit Ham’s grave and bring Emily back a bit of the earth her brother-figure rests in. Since they last saw one another, Martha’s gotten married to a man who knows about and accepts her past. Emily has either found peace and dignity or is traumatised by Ham’s death and Steerforth’s bullshit forever. It is tough to tell.
- ‘Because Agnes had never enjoyed anything hitherto in the whole of the book—’
- Mr Mell, the teacher Steerforth got fired, is now running an Australian school called Colonial Salem House. WHO RUNS SALEM HOUSE NOW, BITCH?? Bless this petty mess, I’m glad he’s thriving.
- Micawber is now a Magistrate in Podunk, Australia. Yet he is still… very Micawber.
- We’re doing a final big ‘where are they now?’ montage. Rosa and Mrs Steerforth are mired in a horrible, frozen-in-time gothic Grey Gardens vision of hell. So that’s nice.
- The close is very sweet and well-done. And that’s it! You survived!! That’s THE END!!
- If you’re looking for fic to read, this fandom unfortunately is sadly underdeveloped, as is most of the Dickens canon. This is a crying shame and a sheer accident of timing and fate.
- There’s a SelenaK fic, Selkie Bride, which is Emily-focused. I haven’t read it (it’s very Yuletide in its framing, and I’m not into that). I’m sure it’s competent. She always is.
- There are five well-executed and fun David/Steerforth fics. Though the pairing doesn’t Send me, I think they’re all fairly emotionally true to the text. No one’s written the big reconciliation work that negotiates Steerforth’s failings, digs in and commits to this pairing?
- There’s criminally little Rosa/Anyone fic, like one drabble. Honestly, if anyone is having bizarre, intense entanglements, it’s absolutely Rosa.
- There’s hardly a damn thing for Agnes and Dora, save one tepid Agnes drabble. While it’s what that relationship deserves, you hate to see it. (That’s Agnes or Dora with David, not with each other–that could either be a Tour de Force, or Very Yuletide.)
- David/Uriah has a good turnout, but that’s something of a False Flag because it’s like two writers working overtime, not A Developed Ship. Of these, I think What’s An Apology? is a careful, satisfying, meaty negotiation with the end of the book that does a good job exploring key Dickensian themes of reconciliation.
- Lastly, there is nothing at all for Clara/Clara, no shameful Creepy Mudstone kinkmeme fill, not a word for wondrous Betsey–a woeful underdevelopment and waste of the material, I must say!