- David takes the break up hard.
- David loves Dora, adult!Steerforth, and even, to some extent, Rosa not just after a short acquaintance, but because he doesn’t really know them. He’s spent so little time with these three–less than you might think if you were reading quickly, given all that happens. (Admittedly his actual engagement to Dora is more sane and extensive.)
- In contrast Agnes and Uriah, who also have large presences in David’s emotional landscape, and people he knows well (yet not fully–he doesn’t know Agnes would like to marry him, and he constantly knows and yet doesn’t know what Uriah’s capable of&up to).
- It’s cool that Dickens gives Mrs Gummidge of all people, who’s sat in the corner the whole of the book thus far just saying ‘I AM DEPRESSED!!’, a great, helpful role to play when Emily leaves.
- Mowcher the hairdresser pops up, and like Gummidge she’s unexpectedly a badass. Dickens often makes people who are difficult or annoying also great for reasons connected to exactly why they’re exasperating. I find Mowcher’s comments on disabled performativity really striking.
- Peggotty, Mr Peggotty and David all head back to London. The men go visit Steerforth’s mom, who’s like ‘lolol I will never let them make this ok by getting married, it would ruin his career! Do you want like, idk a fiver for your kid? As compensation, or something?’ (What career? Steerforth is all potential, no follow-through.)
- ‘I will forgive him if he fixes his mistake, comes crawling back and begs me, because I’m owed that!’ It’s not really that Mrs Steerforth doesn’t love her son. He is, as she says, her entire life. But class has deformed their relationship to the point that she can’t imagine acting in a manner consistent with Mr Peggotty’s self-denying forgiveness.
- Rosa Dartle pops up to literally be like ‘if I saw that bitch in the street I’d skin her for shoe leather.’ David’s like WTF THAT IS SO UNNECESSARY WHY DO YOU JUST SAY? THINGS?
- David’s markedly graver from this point on, and a few other events will exacerbate this. The tragedies he experienced as a child are in some way less troubling to him than the ones he feels he played an active and aware part in, even if he’s not culpable and acknowledges that.
- At this point the fantasy of loving Dora, who David’s properly met for literally one weekend and said like ten words to since, becomes about restoring a functional model of romance in the face of the collapse of the idea of Steerforth, and about escaping an increasingly serious and unappealing world.
- David likes Dora more because he’s dealing with some shit. Dora, in contrast, has never even fully comprehended the idea of dealing with shit, much less done so.
- Who should pop up getting his marriage license sorted in town but the hideous Mudstone? He’s getting hitched to a pretty girl with money, who’s so recently come of age that the lawyer comments that the couple must have been waiting for that. What a fucking creep??? Peggotty’s just like, ‘god help that child’.
- We get a two page digression where Dickens I mean David gets really pissy about poorly-organised legal document storage and refers to some pertinent parliamentary reports about this!!
- Right in Front of my Salad: David gets invited to Dora’s Birthday Party
- After two actual meetings. TWO. two meetings. these idiots are engaged. The flurried courting that follows is such a pantomime of the idea of courtship.
- It’s funny, but also sad that when David writes to Agnes, he doesn’t think this sort of emotional tumult is something she’d be able to participate in. Because he DOES look back on this as perhaps the fondest, tenderest time in his life? (For all it’s fucking ridiculous and absolutely should not lead to these 17 year olds getting married.)
- Peggotty’s family in Yarmouth has broken up, her husband’s died after a long illness in which she was the caretaker, and she’s looking for something to do. Hanging around in London taking care of David a bit is grounding her, and he’s still of an age where he kind of needs a mom.
- Class shit prevents David and Peggotty from acknowledging that as much as Betsey is his second mom, Peggotty clearly also is. Between them Betsey and Peggotty cared for David from his from birth to near-adulthood.
- Betsey and Peggotty will eventually go off to live together, reprising the Peggotty-Clara dynamic. Platonic-lesbian/all-female constructed families are a weirdly overlooked thing in these texts. Rosa and Mrs Steerforth will end up being the widowed daughter in law that never quite was, caring for her ageing mother.
- The Micawbers’ house got repossessed, so Traddles can’t live with them anymore. In the process, the bailiff’s carried off Traddles’ ‘saving up for marriage!!’ coffee table and flower pot. Peggotty and David must pose as Random Buyers at the pawn broker to save the pot.
- After they succeed, Traddles carries the flower pot off in triumph.
- Meanwhile Peggotty and David’s crappola landlady are engaged in pitched battle over David-minding duties. Crupp doesn’t even want these, she just doesn’t want called on her copious bullshit by Peggotty, who’s more capable of advocating for David than he is for himself.
- Crupp is planting lots of pitchers on the stairs to try and trip and kill Peggotty, who refuses to die. She will live and throw shade forever.
- The greatest Old Lady Boss Battle is undoubtedly the one in Tale of Two Cities: a throw down straight out of wuxia. I cannot tell you how Dickens communes with Chinese novelists on the spirit-plane, I can simply assure you that it happens.
- The titanic Betsey shows up out of nowhere to be like ‘yo we don’t have any money anymore, suck it the fuck up, we’re poor as hell.’ *sips tea*