- After Clara’s funeral David’s step-dad and the step-dad’s horrible sister don’t give a shit about him and are fine with his going down to Peggotty’s family for a while. They’ve fired Peggotty (though she’d like to stay with David, who she’s helped almost co-parent since his birth and who’s just lost his mother and brother), so it’s a one-way ticket on her part.
- Peggotty intimates that the time’s come to say yes to Barkis. It’s a practical sort of marriage, but she’s cheerful about the prospect. It’s a good situation, he likes her a lot, and she finds him funny.
- Oh my god, after his mom’s HORRIBLE second marriage changing everything between David and his mom, Peggotty is like, ‘David, would you be okay with it if I got married?” And David’s like, ‘would you still love me?’ Peggotty has to excuse herself to DIE OF FEELINGS.
- Young David is only consoled after his mother’s death by thinking about how gay he is for Steerforth. His friends are kindly going ‘there there, think of your great natural gayness David, this will soothe you in even the darkest hour—’
- David gets home and spends some months wondering what they’re going to do with him now, since they’re not interested in sending him back to school.
- Our ‘maybe the hero’ is then sent to child labour funtime sleepaway camp by his stepdad&step-aunt who’re like YEAH UR WELCOME FOR THIS GREAT BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY exposure!!
- In London, David lives with the Micawbers. Now, WHILE WE ALL LOVE THESE INSOLUBLE FUCKUPS, Mrs M is also like ‘hi David, nice to meet you, lemme start by saying we’re in a financial crisis and I never realised the promise of my youth. ‘ David: I am extremely 10. Pro tip: don’t involve children in your life crises. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- David’s earning less than a shilling a day: even in Victorian, these intern wages suck major ass. He’s also slaving away to benefit his shitty step-dad’s floundering business—his step dad who KNEW EVERYTHING!!, except 1. how to do his own fucking job, and 2. not mismanage Clara-now-David’s tiny inheritance.
- To be clear, I’m not sure how Clara’s remarriage affected that annuity and whether it passes to David. However I’m pretty fucking sure that by moral rights, any proceeds on his father’s small house are his. This fucker gets his inheritance snatched twice in the same novel! [A/N: More on the annuity question in a moment.] Anyway, David’s too young to advocate for himself or go ‘isn’t this my fucking house, could you leave?’ It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Murdstones have maybe-sort-of sent David off to die, because hey, free house? It’d certainly be convenient for them. Probably Betsey could take up David’s cause when she adopts him, but if she did, Murdstone might suddenly find he wanted to keep David. Besides, Betsey’s been through a messy Victorian divorce, so I doubt she ever wants to fuck with barrister-law again, everrrr.
- You may remember the devastating start of Sense and Sensibility, especially in the version so perfectly played by Harriet Walter/adapted by Emma Thompson/directed by sang Lee, where the heir of an estate and his wife whittle the man’s half-sisters out of their home and life by Reasonable degrees. Murdstone similarly excuses sending David to a shitty school, then excuses totally ignoring him for months, then excuses interminably sentencing David to something lower and more damaging than any legitimate internship. Murdstone sucks ass, but if you’d said this final step to him before his marriage, even he probably would have balked.
- It’s chickenshit of Orwell to suggest that the problem of David being shipped off to do child labour is purely that someone of David’s class status was put in this position—there’s a wealth of evidence to support that child neglect/labour being things that exist are CD’s . There are about two sentences which could be read as ‘this work is evil, but particularly unfit for David as a middle class boy’. Though you’d have to read ungenerously to get there, and to be honest, what’s that get you? Do you want a prize for pointing out that it’s hard for even a lower-class Victorian or modern person to entirely decouple conceptions of privilege and worth? Are you trying to say Dickens was uniquely culpable here? It’d be hard to do. If you just want to say look, I found traces of socialisation, well. What… of it? What does that mean for the novel’s project, or for the freedom-work, to invoke Keguro, of striving to unmake class? He Was No Angeling often works in the service of hegemonies.
- Katerina Ivanovna from Crime and Punishment, who I met first, back when I despised Dickens, and who impressed herself indelibly on me, is almost another angle on Mrs Micawber–the helpless exaggerated gentility of her lost life, the ridiculousness.
- The Micawbers are in debtors’ jail for living too large/aka just poor people things.
- The Micawbers are now out of jail for their many and varied fuckeries with small tradesmen, and off to find new small tradesmen to inconvenience in Portsmouth. ADVENTURE!!
- David has no one without them, and so he attempts to run away to his aunt, aka only living relative. He has a crappola time getting there, i.e. WALKING FROM LONDON TO DOVER ALONE AGE 10 WITH NO MONEY, and is harassed by like 8 chancers in a row. At one point he gets to stare up at the sky and think about how he’s gay for Steerforth again, but that’s about it.
- There’s a slight but affecting episode with a tinker’s abused wife, who cleverly tries to keep the tinker from harassing this unknown small child–only to get hit for her pains. Shades of Nancy.
- Betsey’s housemaid Janet is buying rice when David finds her. It’s like 1830, what is she eating rice with? Genuinely interested. UPDATE! Doctor Rachel Moss thinks it could be this 1861 savoury baked rice pudding, or indeed its forbearer. I’m inclined to agree because they then had a bird and ‘a pudding’ for lunch—perhaps the servant nipped out to get the rice for it.
- We are re-introduced to Betsey, and ah, the wait has been worth it. ‘Janet! Donkies!’ is the stuff of fucking legends.
- So basically David’s found his aunt, but said bitch has not forgiven him for being a boy yet.
- Betsey is the prime example of Dickens’ eucatastrophe with characters: someone is portrayed as possibly threatening or simply negatively, but they turn out to be great, so completely and convincingly it seems as if the narrative universe is changing its mind about them (though Dickens was mostly a thoughtful planner rather than a discovery-writer, and none of these about-faces feel retrospectively under-prepared-for). This is huge in Bleak House, for example, with Esther’s guardian and the disparity between that initial coach ride they share and her later meeting with him.
- ‘In which I realise I will never meet a badder ass’.
- Murdstone tells Betsey that Clara’s annuity ‘died with her’. The house was her property rather than David’s, and so his rather than her child’s. No one made a stipulation about this to protect David at the time of the marriage. Cool cool cool. Cool.
- I don’t think Murdstone is an out and out fraud, but would he be circumspect about the particulars if he were in straightened means (as he is) and things were otherwise, say if David’s inheritence were tied to his majority? Sure. And is it pretty fucking ridiculous and potentially very contestable that the house is Murdstone’s and not David’s? I suspect so.
- I’m just putting in the whole thing, because this is the most beautiful invitation to get fucked in English literature. Dover is conveniently near the sea and this dick is commanded to get in it.
- Betsey has adopted David, who feels that if he keeps up the good behaviour Betsey might like him as much as she would a girl!