Chapter LIX: Return
On Davids return to England, he goes to visit Traddles. He asks a waiter at an inn near Traddless office whether he knows an up-and-coming lawyer of that name. The waiter does not, and loses interest when David says Traddles has only been practicing for three years. David reflects that England, with its rigid, pompous, and ancient traditions, is a hard place to rise in. He feels that here, Traddles has little hope of success.
David finds Traddless office. Traddles is overjoyed to see David, and tells him that he is married, and happily so. At that moment, Sophy comes out from behind a curtain, where she has been hiding. Traddles and Sophy are living in his office to save money, because he is still poor. Sophys sisters are staying with them, as they wish to see London.
At a coffee-house, David runs across Mr. Chillip, the doctor who delivered him as a baby. Mr. Chillip tells him that he lives near the Murdstones. They are cruel to Mr. Murdstones latest wife, and have quite destroyed her spirit.
Chapter LX: Agnes
David visits Betsey, who reports that Mr. Micawber is happy in Australia and has begun to pay off his debt to her. Mr. Dick is still doing his copying work, which keeps all thoughts of King Charles I out of his head. Mr. Wickfield has recovered his former contentment, and Agnes is prospering with her school. David asks whether Agnes has a lover. Betsey replies that she suspects that she does love someone, though she does not say whom.
Agnes greets David with her usual serene happiness. She tells him that she and her father have regained their home and that she loves her work. David tries to lead on to the subject of her sweetheart, but Agnes seems uneasy, and he lets it go.
Mr. Wickfield tells David about Agness mother, who married against her fathers wishes. He renounced her, and it broke her heart; she died of grief when Agnes was two weeks old. Mr. Wickfield says that since then, Agnes has been everything to him.
David recalls that on the night Dora died, Agnes came downstairs and pointed upwards. She was indicating Dora, but David tells Agnes that he feels the gesture symbolically showed that she always leads him to higher things. He tells her that he will always love her and view her as his guide.
Chapter LXI: I am shown two interesting penitents
David is living with Betsey in Dover and is a successful writer. Traddles and Sophy are blissfully happy, and Sophy is working as Traddless clerk.
Since David became famous, he has received a letter from Mr. Creakle, who is now a magistrate. Mr. Creakle writes that he has developed a reliable way of reforming prisoners – solitary confinement. He invites David to the prison to see it in operation.
David and Traddles go to the prison, where Mr. Creakle greets them as if he has always been fond of them. As Mr. Creakle leads them through the prison, it becomes clear to David that the prisoners that Mr. Creakle believes to be in solitary confinement are often free to interact. David questions the prisoners and finds that many of them profess penitence without sincerely meaning it.
David meets the first of two Model Prisoners, as Mr. Creakle describes them. Mr. Creakle approves of this prisoner because he reads a hymnbook and writes loving letters to his mother. David discovers that it is Uriah Heep. Uriah has resumed his old act of being humble and claims that he likes being in prison because it enables him to see his past follies. The other Model Prisoner turns out to be Littimer. Littimer says he attributes his past follies to allowing himself to be led into weaknesses through his service to young men. He hopes that David too may repent of all the wickedness and sin, to which he has been a party.” Littimer asks David to convey to Little Emly that he forgives her and calls her to repentance. Uriah says that he wishes everyone could go to prison, as they would improve their souls. Uriah reminds David that he, David, was once violent to him, and struck him in the face, but says he forgives him. David learns that Uriah was convicted of defrauding the Bank of England. Littimer robbed his master and was apprehended by Miss Mowcher. Littimer cut her face and beat her, but she kept hold of him.
David reflects that it would have been pointless to tell Mr. Creakle that Uriah and Littimer are unchanged from what they always were: “hypocritical knaves.”
Chapter LXII: A light shines on my way
David asks Betsey if she knows anything more about Agness mysterious sweetheart. Betsey says that she believes that Agnes is soon to be married. David cannot bear not to know whom Agnes loves, and asks her. She will not say, and bursts into tears. David guesses that he is the one she loves. He takes her in his arms and tells her that he has always loved her, and that he hopes that she will agree to be his wife. Agnes confesses that she has loved him all her life.
David brings Agnes to see Betsey, and tells Betsey that they are to be married. For the first time in her life, Betsey goes into hysterics, out of joy. The wedding takes place two weeks later. Afterwards, Agnes tells David Doras deathbed wish: that no one but Agnes should become Davids wife. Agnes and David are blissfully happy.
Chapter LXIII: A visitor
David has been happily married to Agnes for ten years, and they have children. One day, they have a visitor. It is Mr. Peggotty, who looks strong and healthy. Mr. Peggotty reports that he and Little Emly have a farm, and though they have had to work hard, they are prosperous. Little Emly has received many proposals of marriage, but has refused them. She devotes herself to doing acts of kindness for the poor and needy. Martha has married a farm laborer. Even Mrs. Gummidge received a marriage proposal from a cook, but her reply was to put a bucket over his head, from which Mr. Peggotty had to extricate him. Mrs. Gummidge is no longer “lone and lorn,” but works willingly and no longer thinks about her dead husband.
David asks after Mr. Micawber, who has paid off all his debts in England. Mr. Peggotty reports that Mr. Micawber too has worked hard on the land, but is now a magistrate and a distinguished person in the community.
Mr. Peggotty stays with David and Agnes for a few weeks, and then returns to Australia. They never see him again.
Chapter LXIV: A last retrospect
David reflects on his life at the time when he finished writing his story. He sees himself and Agnes surrounded by their children; Betsey, over eighty years old but still active and upright; and Peggotty, still doing her needlework just as she did when David was a child. Betsey, who for so long compared David with his non-existent imaginary sister, Betsey Trotwood, is now godmother to a real Betsey Trotwood, one of David and Agness daughters. Rosa Dartle is still quarreling with Mrs. Steerforth. Julia Mills is married to a rich man and thinks of nothing but money. Jack Maldon continues to sneer at Dr. Strong. Dr. Strong is working on his dictionary and still happily married to Annie. Traddles, now a successful lawyer, lives in marital bliss with Sophy and as many of her sisters as are visiting. David ends his story with a prayer that his dear Agnes may be with him all his life.
Analysis of Chapters LIX-CLXIV
Even in this final section of the novel, Dickens does not abandon his habit of keen observation of social problems. Davids visit to the prison is a masterpiece of satire that retains its resonance even today. It points out the delusions of those reformers who, out of vanity, blind themselves to the failure of their theories; and highlights the problem (still struggled with by modern prison psychologists) of prisoners who have worked out what certain elements of the prison authorities want to hear, and who faithfully deliver the desired message. Mr. Creakle is perhaps unable to see the hypocrisy of his fake penitents because his own hypocrisy blinds him to that quality in others, and because his vanity demands to be fed by the belief that he is reforming corrupted minds.
This section provides resolutions for many of the characters, who receive their just deserts in line with the simple moral structure of the novel. Betsey, Mr. Peggotty, and Peggotty, who are good-hearted characters, enjoy a strong and robust old age. Betsey and Peggotty are much loved by David and his family, just as they have loved him. The self-centered Rosa Dartle and Mrs. Steerforth have failed to get over Steerforths death and have condemned themselves to bitterness and quarreling. Mr. Creakle once ran a school like a prison and now is in charge of a real prison. Uriah and Littimer are mentally trapped within their dishonest natures just as physically, they are trapped in prison. Similarly, the Murdstones, once again engaged in destroying the spirit and happiness of an innocent, are disliked in their community and undergo a continual punishment; for they are turned inward, to feed upon their own hearts, and their own hearts are very bad feeding.”
The honest and loyal Traddles is successful and happy in his marriage. Little Emly and Mrs. Gummidge have transformed themselves through their sufferings and are rewarded by becoming useful and prosperous members of society. Mr. Micawber, who performed a selfless service to humanity in exposing Uriah at the expense of his own employment, is rewarded with prosperity and honor in his adopted community.
The most deserving character is Agnes, who has loved David steadfastly and selflessly since she first knew him. She has stood by him as a friend even when he married another woman, given him wise advice in troubled times, and never complained or indulged in self-pity when her love was not returned in kind. At last, David is mature enough to deserve Agnes.
Critics have commented that the recent fates of certain characters represent certain qualities that contribute to Davids final maturation during his time of mourning and reflection in Switzerland. The deaths of the childish Dora and the frivolous Steerforth mark the end of Davids enslavement to his own immature, frivolous, undisciplined emotional impulses, and marks his readiness to receive Agness quieter love. Hams death is an act of heroic selflessness that is reflected in Davids new consideration of Agness needs and desires over his own. Mr. Peggottys tireless search for Little Emly shows the steady devotion that David will apply in his new life with Agnes and their children.
Chapter LIX: Return