Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Mr. Dombey is a stiff, dignified man who rarely shows emotion, but the birth of his infant son, who is named Paul, is cause for rejoicing. Mr. Dombey longed many years for a child who would become the Son of his mercantile firm of Dombey and Son. The fact that Mrs. Dombey dies shortly after the boy’s birth does not particularly concern him; his attention centers entirely on the little infant. Mr. Dombey also has a daughter, Florence, but she means nothing to him, for she cannot take a place in the firm.
Little Paul is first given over to a wet nurse, but the woman is considered unreliable and is dismissed. After her dismissal, little Paul is cared for by Mr. Dombey’s sister and one of her friends. Despite their vigilant care, however, the boy suffers from poor health. He is listless and never cares to play. At last, Mr. Dombey arranges to have him sent to a home at Brighton, together with his sister, to benefit from the sea air.
Paul loves his sister very much, and they are constant companions, but Paul’s love for Florence only makes Mr. Dombey dislike the girl. He resents the fact that she is healthy when his son is not, and he feels that his daughter is coming between him and his son.
One weekend while Mr. Dombey is visiting at Brighton, Walter Gay, a young clerk in his firm, comes to the inn where Mr. Dombey and his children are dining. Some time before, the clerk rescued Florence from an old thief. Now his uncle is about...
(The entire section is 1216 words.)
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Chapters 1-4 Summary
Mr. Paul Dombey, a dignified but prideful gentleman, at last welcomes a son to be named Paul after himself. He has a daughter, six-year-old Florence, but she is not valued in a firm named Dombey and Son. Fanny, his wife, is attended by the family physician, Mr. Pilkins, as well as by the noted obstetrician, Doctor Peps.
The doctors warn Mr. Dombey that Mrs. Dombey is weakening and must put some effort into recovering. Mr. Dombey’s sister, Mrs. Louisa Chick, arrives to encourage her brother. She has brought her friend, Miss Tox, with her. As the doctors call Mr. Dombey out, Louisa asks Miss Tox her opinion of her brother and Miss Tox admits that she admires him greatly. They are interrupted when Mr. Dombey returns, looking pale. Fanny is weakening. The three go upstairs, where Florence is holding on to her mother. Louisa scolds Fanny, telling her that she must make some effort into getting better. With Florence in her arms, Fanny dies.
Miss Tox aids Louisa, who is in charge of finding a wet-nurse for baby Paul, by bringing the Toodle family to the Dombey residence. Polly Toodle has a six-week-old baby, along with four other children who will be cared for by her unmarried sister, Jemima. Mr. Dombey tells her that during her time with the Dombeys, she will have as little contact with her own family as possible and after her services are no longer needed will have no contact with the Dombeys. As the Toodles are poor, Polly agrees to this as well as to giving up her name to be called Richards instead. She tearfully says good-bye to her family. Louisa and Miss Tox are sure that the new Mrs. Richards is grateful to be connected to such a great family as the Dombeys.
After several weeks, Florence returns home from staying with her aunt. Mrs. Richards takes her to her heart and tells her a story of a good lady who died and went to heaven, where her daughter will be with her some day. Mrs. Richards suggests to Mr. Dombey that little Paul would benefit from the company of other children. Mr. Dombey thinks she means her own children and reminds her that she is to have little contact with them during her time as a wet-nurse. However, Mrs. Richards means Paul’s sister Florence, and Mr. Dombey gives instructions that Florence is to be with Paul whenever Mrs. Richards wants. This does not sit well with Susan Nipper, Florence’s nurse.
Solomon "Sol" Gill, a nautical instrument maker, runs an unsuccessful shop....
(The entire section is 516 words.)
Chapters 5-7 Summary
Miss Tox is in constant attendance to Paul, causing Mr. Dombey to see how invaluable she is in the service of his son. He asks his sister Louisa for her ideas of a way to express his gratitude. She suggests that any token he should give her would be greatly valued, plus it might be a good idea to make Miss Tox Paul’s godmother. She hints at something of greater significance, but Mr. Dombey says that he has no intention of remarrying, for he and his son are enough to keep the firm of Dombey and Son going.
On the day of the christening, Mr. Dombey does not light the fires, although it is a cold day. All the members of the family insist that they are warm enough, although the food at the christening dinner is abysmally cold. In gratitude to Mrs. Richards, Mr. Dombey tells her that he has secured a place for her eldest son in the Charitable Grinders School. Mrs. Richards is grateful but becomes weepy on thinking of her first-born in school clothes going off to be in the great world. She thinks of going to see him one day when she is out walking with Paul, but Susan Nipper warns against it. Still, Mrs. Richards will not give up the idea.
Mrs. Richards finally decides to visit her family, taking Paul, Florence, and Susan Nipper with her. She is overjoyed to see her family but misses her son Biler (named by his father after the steam engine he stokes), who is at school. She goes around by the school to catch him on the way home and rescues him from bullies.
Florence becomes separated from Mrs. Richards and is kidnapped by an old woman, who takes her clothes and almost her hair. Florence manages to escape and is discovered by Walter Gay, who takes her to her uncle’s home for a rest. Walter and Sol return Florence to her home, where Mr. Dombey promises him a reward. Mrs. Richards is discharged for the danger in which she put Paul; Mr. Dombey is grateful for Florence’s kidnapping because it revealed Mrs. Richards’ untrustworthiness. Both Paul and Florence cry all night over the absence of Mrs. Richards, now simply Polly Toodle once again.
Miss Tox’s neighbor, Major Joey Bagstock, has taken an interest in her and has long tried to attract her attention. He believes that he has done so and is annoyed when she begins to appear with a baby and its nurse. Miss Tox, in the meantime, continues to hope that Mr. Dombey will notice how much attention she puts into his son and thus find her indispensable....
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Chapters 8-10 Summary
As Paul grows older he remains sickly, especially after the departure of Mrs. Richards. Mrs. Wickam becomes his nurse, but she is not as loving as Mrs. Richards and is focused more on pity for herself and for others. When he is five years old, Paul asks his father what money is. When he is told that money can do anything, he asks why it could not save his mother. He also asks why money cannot make his as strong as Florence. He complains of being tired and of his bones aching. Mr. Dombey tells him that boys are always tired at the end of the day, but Paul says that he is tired during the daytime, and Florence sings to him to ease his pain.
Mr. Dombey consults Louisa and Miss Tox, who suggest that he go to the seaside boarding school of Mrs. Pipchin, advising him to send Florence with him since Paul has become very attached to his sister. Florence and Mrs. Wickam accompany him, and Mr. Dombey visits on weekends. Although he and Mrs. Pipchin get off to a rocky start, the two become an odd pair as Mrs. Pipchin is fascinated by his outlandish questions. Florence often takes Paul out in a wheelchair. He is fascinated by the waves, asking Florence what they are saying. He looks out over them as if he is looking at an invisible vista far away.
Walter notices that Uncle Sol is very down because of the lack of customers. Mr. Brogley, a loan broker, meets him on his way to work and tells him that his uncle has missed payment on his debt and has lost possession of his shop. Uncle Sol tells Walter to go to Captain Cuttle, who might know what to do. The captain does not have much money, but he collects what he has and tries to give it to Mr. Brogley; the amount is over three hundred pounds. Captain Cuttle says that their last resort is to ask Mr. Dombey for the money. Terrified, Walter is reluctant but goes to Brighton with Captain Cuttle to find Mr. Dombey, who is visiting Paul at school.
Major Bagstock befriends Mr. Dombey so that he may form a closer acquaintance with Miss Tox. He follows her to Brighton one weekend, where she accompanies Mr. Dombey on a visit to see Paul. At dinner, Walter arrives with Captain Cuttle and explains his need for money to pay off his uncle’s loan. Mr. Dombey asks Paul what he would do if he were in charge of Dombey and Son. Paul immediately says that he would give them the money. Mr. Dombey revises "give" to “lend,” and he arranges for repayments according to Sol Gills’s present...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Chapters 11-13 Summary
After a year, Mr. Dombey decides that Paul is healthy enough to attend school. He informs Mrs. Pipchin, who agrees that children’s education must be forced on them. She suggests Doctor Blimber’s school, which is next to her own. This will give Paul a chance to make the break with Florence, to whom Mr. Dombey feels he has grown too close. Mr. Dombey, Paul, and Mrs. Pipchin deliver Paul to Doctor Blimber, who introduces them to his wife, who takes care of the housekeeping, and daughter Cornelia, who tutors in the “dead” languages and in whose care Paul will be while he is at school there. Doctor Blimber calls for Toots, the school’s head boy who is in charge of all the boys. Mr. Dombey reminds Paul that, at seven years of age, he is close to manhood and so must make an effort to catch up with the education of other boys. Paul promises to do so, but he looks weakly at Mrs. Pipchin.
Paul is taken up to his room, where his roommates are Briggs and Tozer. At mealtime, he is so small that he Toots must lift him up into his chair. No one speaks at the table except Doctor Blimber, who talks about the Romans. One boy named Johnson has coughing and choking fits and so is punished by being required to quote the first chapter of Ephesians in Greek the next morning at breakfast.
After dinner, the boys are let outside, where they walk arm in arm but do not play. Cornelia Blimber tutors Paul in Greek and Latin, but he is overwhelmed. When he visits Florence, who still resides at Mrs. Pipchin’s, she suggests that she buy copies of Paul’s school books and help him by studying them herself. This helps Paul to some extent, but he does not make any friends as he is viewed as odd by the other boys. He looks out the window every evening and watches for Florence, who walks by his window so that they can at least see each other.
In his office, Mr. Dombey is told that there is a need for someone from the company to go to Barbados to work in the offices there. He discusses this with James Carker, his manager, and suggests Walter, who always reminds him negatively of Florence. Mr. Carker also does not like Walter, who has tried to befriend John Carker the Junior, who is the older brother of James Carker. Mr. Dombey and Mr. Carker break the news to Walter, who is shocked at this exile. He approaches Mr. Carker the Junior, with whom he has tried to be friends. Mr. Carker the Junior tells him that he is in disgrace at the firm...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Chapters 14-16 Summary
The end of the first term is fast approaching, and Paul dreads it since it means that Florence will be returning to London. He sits with Cornelia Blimber as she gives him his end-of-term analysis. While he generally good in his studies and his behavior, she says that he is so old fashioned that the others at Doctor Blimber’s school do not like him as much as they might wish. This makes Paul unhappy, for he has been trying so much to make people like him. He steps up his efforts, but he soon falls ill. The physician comes to examine him, but Paul can barely hear his comments that his health in general is not at all good. After that, Paul is excused from the rest of classes, and he notices that people go out of their way to be kind to him. He is looking forward to the end-of-term party, to which Florence has been invited.
At the party, Paul is too ill to take part much, but he sits on a sofa and watches the others, especially Florence, dancing. Everyone makes an effort to talk to him, being very solicitous of his health. Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles are quite taken with both Paul and Florence. Toots finally carries him up to bed. The next day, Paul leaves Doctor Blimber’s, with everyone one coming out to say good-bye. He begs Toots to take care of Diogenes, the dog who had been his friend for these past months. Since he is too ill to go all the way to London, Paul and Florence stay for several days with Mrs. Pipchin. At last, Paul returns home and is carried upstairs. He asks Florence if that was his father he saw, going into his own room and crying.
Walter cannot bring himself to tell his uncle of his assignment to go to Barbados. At first, he wonders if Mr. Dombey was serious and decides to talk to Captain Cuttle about it. He explains that he worries that Uncle Sol will wither away without his nephew. He asks Captain Cuttle to tell his uncle about the expected departure, which will most likely mean the last time that Walter sees his aged uncle.
Captain Cuttle decides first to discuss the matter with Mr. Dombey in hopes that he may change his mind. Walter walks with him to the house and then walks on further. He is overtaken by Susan Nipper, who is trying to find Polly Toodle since Paul has asked to see his old nurse. The Toodle home has been demolished to make way for the railroad, but their new abode is soon found. Polly returns to the Dombey home along with Susan and Walter.
Paul does not rise...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
Chapters 17-19 Summary
Because of Paul's death, Captain Cuttle comes home from Dombey’s without talking to Mr. Dombey. Walter returns to his uncle’s and sees that Captain Cuttle has not yet broken the news to him about Walter’s impending departure. Walter tells him, and Uncle Sol is sure that Walter is happy to go. Walter is upset, thinking that his uncle believes that he wants to leave, but Uncle Sol tells him that he meant simply that Walter will do his duty. Uncle Sol is clearly morose about Walter leaving.
Captain Cuttle goes to Dombey’s firm to talk to Mr. Carker the Manager about Walter’s prospects. Mr. Carker agrees to all of the captain’s questions about Walter making his fortune in Barbados. Captain Carker accepts all of Mr. Carker’s remarks at face value, believing him to be sincere. He also hints as to Walter’s prospects with respect to Florence, with which Mr. Carker also agrees. Satisfied, Captain Cuttle leaves, and Walter also prepares to leave as his orders of departure are due the following day.
Paul is buried by his mother, and Mr. Dombey orders a memorial tablet to be placed in the church. He gives the sculptor what he wants written on it, that Paul is his “beloved and only child.” The sculptor suggests that the word “child” be substituted with “son.” Mr. Dombey agrees, although seemingly reluctantly.
Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles send their condolences and invite Florence to visit them, but Florence feels the need to stay with her father for now. Florence waits outside her father’s bedroom door each night, wishing that she could go in and feel his love for her, but the door remains closed. She watches the family next door, with a father and four daughters, and envies the love that the father shows his girls. Florence receives an unexpected visitor from Doctor Blimber’s: Toots. He brings Diogenes for her as a gift.
Susan tells Florence that Mr. Dombey is leaving the next day. That night, Florence goes once again to his bedroom door, but this time she finds it open. She goes in, startling her father, who sends her back to her room.
The time has come for Walter to leave. He asks his uncle to let him know how Florence gets on. Soon Florence herself, accompanied by Susan Nipper, shows up at Uncle Sol’s shop to bid Walter good-bye. She asks Walter to be her “brother,” which he agrees to do, despite the state of his feelings for her. She gives him a gift, which...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Chapters 20-22 Summary
Mr. Dombey goes on a holiday with Major Bagstock, the man who is infatuated with Miss Tox. As the two men dine together at the Major’s home, Mr. Dombey tells him that she has been useful in the Dombey home since Mrs. Dombey died. Major Bagstock tries to cheer Mr. Dombey up, but the grieving father is still cold and silent.
At the train station, they are confronted by Mr. Toodle. Mr. Dombey, who associates him with his wife and thus with Paul, assumes that he has come to ask for money. Mr. Toodle assures him that he has no need of money, as he is now a stoker on the very engine that will take them on their trip. He tells them that he and his wife have had four new babies since “Mrs. Richards” left the Dombeys, although one died three years earlier. Mr. Dombey initially assumes that the death referred to Paul and resented the insinuation that he was Mrs. Toodle’s child.
Mr. Toodle confesses that Biler, the boy for whom Mr. Dombey had arranged a position in the Grinders Charitable School, has fallen in with bad company. Mr. Dombey and the Major leave Mr. Toodle and board the train, which Mr. Dombey associates as a symbol of death. He thinks of Florence’s face from the previous evening and wishes that she had died instead of Paul. He feels that if Paul were an only child, his death would have been easier to bear than to think that Florence had been left behind instead of taking Paul’s place in death.
When they arrive at their destination at the resort town of Leamington, Major Bagstock and Mr. Dombey encounter an old friend of the major, Mrs. Skewton. She is accompanied by her widowed daughter, Edith Granger. Mrs. Skewton invites the major and Mr. Dombey to visit them. Major Bagstock explains to Mr. Dombey that Edith had been married for two years when her husband died. She had one son, who drowned when his governess took him out in a boat. At Mrs. Skewton’s lodgings, Edith entertains the gentlemen by playing the harp and singing. Mr. Dombey is enchanted, and he does not recognize the song as the same one that Florence used to sing to Paul.
In Mr. Dombey’s absence, Mr. James Carker the Manager is in charge. He receives a letter from Mr. Dombey requesting him to keep Walter from leaving England, but his ship has long sailed. James's brother John (Carker the Junior) speaks to him of their sister Harriet, to whom James has not spoken since she took John’s side in his disgrace. Biler...
(The entire section is 584 words.)
Chapters 23-25 Summary
The Dombey house becomes decrepit looking with only Florence and the servants living there. Florence wanders the rooms, especially those of her mother and brother. She leaves little gifts in her father’s room but awakes in the night and removes them lest he return home and become angry. She wonders about Walter, since there has been no news from the ship in a long time.
She goes with Susan to Uncle Sol Gills’s home but finds only Rob there. They decide to ask Captain Cuttle and walk to his lodgings, where they encounter his unpleasant landlady, Mrs. MacStinger. Captain Cuttle greets them warmly and tries not to appear concerned about Walter’s silence. He explains that he was going to visit Sol the day before but that Mrs. MacStinger had not allowed him to leave. They slip by her and go down to the wharf to discuss the matter with Cuttle’s friend, Captain Jack Bunsby, who says it is possible that the ship has been lost. He keeps putting his arm around Susan, who pushes him away. They return to find Uncle Sol returned. He says he is glad to see Florence again before he—then he stops. Captain Cuttle invites him to have some dinner with him, but Sol says he does not have time. Captain Cuttle walks Florence and Susan home and returns to Sol’s home, anxious about him. He is relieved to see Sol sitting at his table, writing something.
Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles renew their invitation to Florence, who finally accepts. Sir Barnet enjoys introducing people to other people, so he has a constant flow of guests, especially children, running through his house. Florence observes the children, trying to see how they show their love so that she might learn to do so to her own father. She overhears a lady explaining to her niece that Florence is to be pitied because, even worse than an orphan, she is an outcast from the love of a living parent. She watches a poor man with an unpleasant daughter, yet even this child is loved by her parent. Mr. Carker the manager passes by and asks her if she has any message to give to her father. After ascertaining that there is no more news about Walter, she tells Mr. Carker to give her father her love.
The next morning, Captain Cuttle is awakened by Rob with the news that Sol Gills has disappeared. He left his keys and his will, which asks the captain to keep the shop open as a home for Walter. Captain Cuttle must sneak out of his lodgings since Mrs. MacStinger will not let him...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Chapters 26-28 Summary
Mr. Carker the Manager comes to Leamington to discuss some business affairs with Mr. Dombey. He gives his employer Florence’s message of love; Mr. Dombey greets this message with silence and a red face. Mr. Dombey confesses to Carker that he regrets sending Walter to Barbados, which Mr. Carker says is a little late.
Since Mr. Carker is going to stay in Leamington for a few days, Mr. Dombey introduces him to Mrs. Skewton and Edith. While Mr. Dombey and Mr. Carker discuss business, Major Bagstock and Mrs. Skewton discuss the possibility of arranging the marriage of Mr. Dombey and Edith. Mrs. Skewton says that Edith has been sad since her husband’s death, and Major Bagstock points out the Mr. Dombey would be a good catch, although Mrs. Skewton accuses the Major of being mercenary. Major Bagstock and Mr. Carker learn to enjoy each other’s company, playing backgammon while Mr. Dombey sits and watches. At night, Major Bagstock sends his servant, known only as the Native, to light Mr. Carker’s way to his bedroom.
As he is out walking, Mr. Carker comes across Edith, sitting on a bench and crying. An old woman smoking a pipe comes up and offers to tell her fortune. Edith says that she already knows her fortune, so the old woman warns that, unless she is given money, she will make the fortune come upon her. Mr. Carker interrupts and gives the fortune teller money to make her go away. The old woman tells Edith, “One child dead, and one child living. One wife dead, and one wife coming.”
Mr. Carker continues to compliment Edith to bring her and Mr. Dombey together, since the latter is so cold in manner. Carker requests that she play the piano, then the harp, and then sing, all of which she does. One evening, Edith breaks down in front of her mother, telling her that she feels that she has no voice in her future, that she has been bid upon at an auction and is going to the highest bidder.
Florence and Susan discuss Mr. Carker, whom both remember as having come frequently to the house. Florence never liked him and thinks that perhaps this is why her father has denied her his love, as Carker is his friend. As Florence and Susan return home, they are surprised to find scaffolding around the house, where a major redecoration is going on. Mr. Dombey introduces her to Mrs. Skewton and Edith, who he says will be Florence’s new mother. Florence clings to her and cries. Edith promises her that she will try to...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Chapters 29-31 Summary
Louisa Chick visits Miss Tox early one morning. She announces to her friend that her brother has returned home from his holiday. Miss Tox is glad to hear that he is feeling much better. Louisa begins to talk of the requirements of a second wife for Mr. Dombey, such as a woman who has beauty, family, dignity, and connection. Miss Tox believes she is talking about her. Louisa mentions also that Florence has returned as well. She speaks of “her” being a credit to the Dombey name. Miss Tox believes that she is speaking of Florence. When Louisa says that she is speaking of her brother’s second wife, Miss Tox stands up and furiously begins to tend to her flowers. Louisa rattles on about Edith and her lack of essential qualities while Miss Tox says nothing.
All this time, Major Bagstock is watching through his eyeglass from next door. His servant, the Native, walks in on the two ladies, and Miss Tox takes the opportunity to faint into her arms. When she is revived, Louisa proclaims that she is shocked that Miss Tox could ever have thought that she herself could be the second Mrs. Dombey. Miss Tox counters with the evidence that Louisa had been in favor of the idea, which Louisa rejects. She leaves and returns home to her husband, who had also thought his wife was trying to join her brother and Miss Tox. Louisa says that she is done with Miss Tox forever.
When Edith comes to the house a week before the wedding, Florence asks her if she could have Paul’s old room, since the whole house is being redecorated. Edith willingly agrees and asks Florence to come live with her until the wedding. Florence eagerly accepts and packs her things immediately. Mrs. Skewton welcomes her and announces that Mr. Dombey is coming for dinner. When he arrives, she hides Florence under her shawl and surprises him. He is surprised but not pleased, which causes Florence to rush from the room.
The three adults discuss the legal preparations necessary before the wedding, but Edith says that Mr. Dombey and Mrs. Skewton can decide between the two of them. On the night before the wedding, Edith tells her mother that she wants Florence to go home after the wedding, while she and Mr. Dombey are in Paris. She does not want her mother corrupting the girl who she has come to love. When Mrs. Skewton objects, Edith warns her that if she does not, she will refuse to be married right in the middle of the ceremony and humiliate all of them. She begs...
(The entire section is 495 words.)
Chapters 32-34 Summary
Captain Cuttle hides in the shop as much as possible to avoid Mrs. MacStinger. Fearing “kidnapping” by his former landlady, he arranges a set of signals to be used with Rob if this should happen. Toots, accompanied by a friend to whom he refers as “the Game Chicken,” comes to the shop, confusing Captain Cuttle with Sol Gills. He shows the captain the newspaper article in which it is reported that the Son and Heir, the ship on which Walter had gone to the Barbados, was sunk during a hurricane with all on board lost.
Captain Cuttle is overcome, feeling that his last connection with the world has been lost. He goes to Dombey and Son’s offices to determine if this news is true. Mr. Carker assures him it is, regretting the loss of money and lives. Cuttle confronts Carker with Walter’s belief that he was being shipped to Barbados to get rid of him for personal rather than business reasons. Carker becomes incensed, accusing Cuttle and Sol Gills of being involved in some plot against the firm. He throws Cuttle out, and the captain returns home to grieve Walter.
James Carker (the Manager) sits in his grand house on one side of London, looking at a portrait of a woman who looks very much like Edith. On the other side of the city, in a modest cottage, live John Carker (the Junior) and his sister Harriet. One morning, a man comes to see Harriet and offers to help her brother resume his place in the family and the firm of Dombey and Son. Harriet refuses his aid, saying that her brother’s repentance is all that has been necessary to return his honor to him.
After he leaves, Harriet notices a travel-worn woman standing out in the rain. She invites her in when she sees how cut and bloody her feet are. The woman explains that she is returning to England after many years overseas, having been transported as a convict. Harriet, in pity, gives the woman some money.
The woman goes to the home of Mrs. Brown, the old woman who had taken Florence many years before when she was coming back from the Toodle home. The woman is Mrs. Brown’s daughter, Alice Marwood. Mrs. Brown tells Alice that she has seen James Carker (she was the old woman who offered to tell Edith’s fortune) and that Mr. Dombey was marrying Edith Granger.
Alice gives her mother the money that Harriet gave her, but when she discovers who her benefactress is, she takes her mother and returns to Harriet’s home, curses her...
(The entire section is 469 words.)
Chapters 35-38 Summary
Mr. Dombey and Edith return home, proclaiming that Paris was dull. Mrs. Skewton chides them for this opinion. Mr. Dombey is pleased with the remodeling of the house. Florence wants to be near her father but is afraid he will reject her. She asks Edith to show her how to gain the love of her father, but Edith says that she is the last person who can teach anyone to love.
That night, Florence dreams that she sees Paul and Walter coming toward her. Edith seems to be moving in and out of every scene in the dream and eventually leads Florence to a grave in which Edith herself lies. Florence cries out and seems to see Edith holding and comforting her. The next morning, she finds herself alone and wonders if Edith’s presence had been part of the dream.
The Dombeys hold a party at their home, inviting friends from both sides of the family. Mr. Carker, of course, is present, as is Edith’s Cousin Feenix. As the Dombey side is taciturn and the Edith side is talkative, the two sides do not interact. After the party, Dombey reproaches his wife, in the presence of Carker and Mrs. Skewton, for not doing her duty in making his guests welcome. The only answer Edith gives is to twice point out that there are people present listening to him berate her. Mr. Carker asks to be excused and Mrs. Skewton also leaves. Edith goes off to bed, first checking on Florence.
The next morning, Mr. Carker comes to see Edith, who at first says that she is going out and not available. Mr. Carker insists and is therefore admitted. He apologizes to her for not interfering in the situation between her and Mr. Dombey the evening before, but he is merely an employee. He informs her that Walter has drowned, but Florence already told her this. He warns her that if she allows Florence to continue her association with Captain Cuttle, it will influence Mr. Dombey to take stern measures against both her and Florence.
After he leaves, the maid comes running to say that there is something wrong with Mrs. Skewton. When Edith enters her mother’s room, she sees that her mother has had a stroke. According to the doctor, she will recover. Edith goes out, which infuriates her mother.
Miss Tox, feeling cut off from her former associates, decides to visit the Toodle family so that she might talk about Mr. Dombey with Polly. At the home, she is swarmed with children and offers to teach the Toodle boys and girls something, thus making...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Chapters 39-41 Summary
Captain Cuttle spends the year after Sol Gills’s disappearance in a self-inflicted retirement, comparing himself to Robinson Crusoe. He sells no instruments, as when Sol lacked customers, but he makes note of when people come into the shop and feels that business is picking up. The only person with whom he has contact is Rob, who one day tells him that he is leaving. This makes Captain Cuttle even more morose, feeling that everyone has left him.
Mr. Toots comes to see him and confesses that he is in love with Florence. Captain Cuttle is surprised one day when Captain Bunsby arrives. Together they open the letter that Sol had left. There is a letter addressed to Captain Cuttle, telling him that he left to go to Barbados to find Walter without telling Cuttle lest he should try to dissuade him. He enclosed his will, leaving everything to Walter, or to the captain if Walter should not appear. As they are discussing this, Mrs. MacStinger arrives along with all of her children, demanding to know when Captain Cuttle is returning. He manages to get rid of her. Captain Bunsby moves his things to the shop, although he returns to his ship.
Mr. Dombey realizes that he hates Florence. He never has had any affection for her, but now she has come between him and Edith; his wife spends more time with Florence than she does with her husband. Mr. Dombey tells Edith that he is sending Mrs. Skewton to Brighton for her health and that Mrs. Pipchin will be coming to fill the position of housekeeper. He also demands that Edith show him more deference. He complains that her tastes are too expensive.
Edith calmly tells him that she has never loved him, as he has known all along, nor does he love her. She refuses to change. He reiterates his demand. Mrs. Skewton and Edith leave for Brighton. As they walk, they encounter Good Mrs. Brown and Alice, who seem to be shadows of their former selves. Mrs. Skewton stops to talk with them, telling Mrs. Brown that she can tell she is a good mother. She gives them money, but Alice, looking at Edith, whispers to herself that neither good looks nor pride will save her.
Mr. Toots encounters Florence in Brighton and tells her that he loves her, but she begs him not to, fearing that they will lose the friendship she relies on. Mrs. Skewton begins to fail. One night, she tells Edith that she sees a stone arm ready to strike her; indeed, she has another stroke, rendering her speechless and...
(The entire section is 471 words.)
Chapters 42-45 Summary
No longer working for Captain Cuttle, Rob is now in service to Mr. Carker, who warns him that he will tolerate no blabbing. Mr. Dombey comes for breakfast and asks Carker to accept responsibility for getting Edith to be more deferential to her husband since he has had no success. Mr. Carker willingly accepts.
As they ride their horses back to the Dombey home, Mr. Dombey’s horse trips, knocking Mr. Dombey off and into the street, then falling on top of him and kicking his head as he gets up. Carker takes him to a nearby pub and sends for surgeons. It is determined that no major bones are broken but that he will need a carriage to be carried home.
Mr. Carker goes to the Dombey house and tells Edith and Florence of the accident. Florence is upset and wants to go to her father at once, but Edith takes the news calmly. Mr. Dombey is brought home and carried to his separate room. As Mr. Carker leaves, he kisses Edith’s hand. When she goes to her own room, she strikes that hand on the mantelpiece, cutting and bruising it.
During the night, Florence goes into her father’s room and looks at him asleep, wishing that he would wake up and really look at her. She kisses him and then goes to Edith’s room. She confesses that she is upset, and Edith also wishes that she could bring some comfort to Florence. Noticing Edith’s hand, Florence becomes even more upset until Edith takes her back to her bed and sits by as she sleeps, whispering to her that she is her only hope still left.
Susan decides that she is going to confront Mr. Dombey. Finding him alone, she goes into his room and tells him how devoted Florence has been to him all her life. Enraged, Mr. Dombey calls for someone to take Susan away. Mrs. Pipchin arrives and Mr. Dombey tells the housekeeper that she knows what must be done. Mrs. Pipchin tells Susan that she is discharged with a month’s warning. Susan says that she will not stay another hour and packs her bags.
Toots arrives and Florence asks him to take care of Susan until she boards the coach. Toots agrees, and as he helps Susan into the carriage, he asks if she thinks Florence will ever grow to love him. Susan assures him that she never will, and Toots accepts this reluctantly.
Mr. Carker delivers a message from Mr. Dombey to Edith. He warns her once again that she must submit to her husband, which Edith refuses to do. He also tells her that she must not show any...
(The entire section is 483 words.)
Chapters 46-48 Summary
Good Mrs. Brown and Alice spy Mr. Carker when he is riding his horse; he's followed by Rob. They do not want to speak to him and know that he would not speak to them as he sees them as mud beneath his horse’s hooves. They stop Rob, however, and learn that Mr. Carker is living in town to be near Mr. Dombey’s house. Mrs. Brown begs Rob to give her a shilling, which he does; but Alice forces her to give it back, saying that she does not want any of Carker’s money.
At the office, John Carker approaches his brother, telling him that none of the clerks of the firm has any respect for Mr. Dombey and want to see him brought low with his pride broken. Mr. Carker the Manager calls them hypocrites, fawning over a man just because he is rich. He goes to the house and thinks about the last time he saw Edith. He knew that the hand she gave him to kiss was injured, which is why he held it just a bit longer as a sign of his ability to manipulate and hurt her.
Edith and Mr. Dombey continue ignoring each other; the only communication between the two is through Mr. Carker. Florence, sensing that Edith has distanced herself from her, asks her what she has done wrong. Edith assures her that although she loves her as much as ever, this is how it must be.
At their two-year anniversary, Mr. Dombey tells Edith that he is having a dinner and that she will attend. She refuses coldly and calmly. He orders that she will not humiliate him in front of his friends. She refuses to discuss it further with Florence and Mr. Carker present, but Mr. Dombey will not leave until she says she will attend the dinner. Edith tells him that she wants a separation. Mr. Dombey is shocked, saying that this is impossible. He appeals to Mr. Carker, who turns on him, stating that the only reason Mr. Dombey has him in his house is to humiliate his wife.
Edith leaves and goes to her room. When she comes down and sees Florence, she tells her not to touch her and not to call her “Mama.” She leaves the house to go to her former home, where she meets Mr. Carker. She has left everything behind. Florence reaches out to her father but he hits her. She at last sees him as he is and realizes that she has no father. With no clear idea of where to go, she leaves the house. As she runs, she discovers that Diogenes has followed her. They go to Uncle Sol’s shop and discover Captain Cuttle living there. He puts Florence to bed, overjoyed that she is safe....
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapters 49-51 Summary
Florence awakens and finds her chest bruised from her father’s blow. She tries not to think of him, counting herself as having no earthly father. She and Captain Cuttle discuss Walter, with the captain mentioning repeatedly throughout the day that Walter is drowned.
Florence must buy some clothing, since she left without anything. Captain Cuttle tries to give her some money, but she insists she has at least a little money of her own. The next evening, Captain Cuttle tells her a story of a ship that went down in bad weather. Three of the men escaped, but only two of them survived and were picked up. Florence realizes that he is talking about Walter, who enters the room to surprise her. He had been the man Toots saw, but he went to lodge with Mr. Brogley, the loan broker, because he feared that the sight of someone whom they believed to be dead would be too much of a shock. Since Florence is staying in his room, he will return to Brogley’s to spend the night. That night, Captain Cuttle dreams that Sol Gills has been kidnapped and held prisoner by Mrs. MacStinger.
Walter and Captain Cuttle discuss the need of a female companion for Florence for the sake of propriety. Susan Nipper is the obvious choice, but they do not know where she is now. The captain says that Mr. Toots would be the only one who would know her location, and just at that moment, Mr. Toots arrives. Introduced to Walter (whom he calls “Lieutenant Walters”), Mr. Toots asks to speak with Captain Cuttle alone. He tells the captain that Florence has disappeared but is overjoyed to find that she is alive and in that very building. He resigns himself to the fact that Walter is his rival and most likely will be successful. Walter tells Florence that he will soon be leaving to find some way of earning money. Florence expresses her love for him, no longer as a sister. Captain Cuttle is overcome when he learns that they are to be married.
Mr. Dombey refuses to discuss the departure of his wife, assistant, and daughter to anyone. Major Bagstock and Cousin Feenix are not able to find out any news or any plans from him. Miss Tox disguises herself and comes to the Dombey home to talk to Mrs. Pipchin. The housekeeper, however, is glad that Edith is gone and has no use for Miss Tox’s sentimentalism. At the Dombey and Son office, the clerks discuss who will take Carker’s place.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapters 52-54 Summary
Good Mrs. Brown stops Mr. Dombey on the street and asks him to come to her home if he wants to hear news about Edith and Mr. Carker. Reluctantly, Mr. Dombey does so and even agrees to give her some money, if the news should be substantial. Mrs. Brown says that she is expecting a visitor who will tell him what he wants to hear.
When Rob Toodle arrives, Mr. Dombey hides so that he can overhear the conversation. With a great deal of effort, Mrs. Brown gets Rob to talk about Mr. Carker. Rob says that Edith came to Mr. Carker’s house, but the two did not leave together. Rob went with Edith to Southampton, from where she departed to go to the continent. Mr. Carker left separately and gave Edith a note containing the location where they would meet. Rob saw the name and writes it down for Mrs. Brown. Mr. Carker and Edith are to meet in Dijon, France. After Rob falls asleep, Mr. Dombey enters the room, gives some money to Mrs. Brown, and silently leaves.
Mr. Perch, the messenger from Dombey and Son, delivers a letter to John Carker from Mr. Dombey, stating that because of his brother’s actions, he was now dismissed. Harriet remembers the man who came to the house and offered assistance. She describes him to John, but he does not know who it is. Soon, the mysterious stranger comes to the door; he is Mr. Morfin, a clerk from Dombey and Son. He tells them what he knows about James using the firm to his own advantage, though he never stole anything outright.
Later, Alice comes to the house and asks Harriet simply that she be believed. When Alice was young, her mother forced her into prostitution. One of her “clients” was James Carker. When Alice was arrested for being an accomplice in a robbery, James refused to help her, seeing her transportation as beneficial to him. This is why Alice threw the money back at Harriet when she discovered who she was. She tells Harriet now that James is in Dijon.
Mr. Carker and Edith register as man and wife in an apartment in France. When Carker approaches her, however, Edith grabs a knife and threatens him with it. She explains that she used him to humiliate Mr. Dombey, even if that meant humiliating herself. She tells Carker that she saw her husband in a carriage that very evening. The doorbell rings. Edith, knowing it is Mr. Dombey, escapes, followed by Carker.
(The entire section is 424 words.)
Chapters 55-57 Summary
Having escaped from Dombey, Mr. Carker tries to decide where to go into hiding. He had thought that he and Edith could go to Italy or Sicily, but now those places are unlikely since it is so easy for someone to hire assassins. He decides that the best thing to do is return to England and hide out in the country.
He travels by train north to the Channel, unable to sleep at all. When he reaches the English coast, he boards a train for a distant rural spot. Again he cannot sleep. When he reaches his intended destination, he looks out over the landscape and then back to the station, where he sees Mr. Dombey exiting. The two of them lock eyes. In terror, Carker backs away, falling off the platform into the tracks. He feels the vibration but is unable to move. The locomotive strikes him, tearing him from limb to limb. Dombey swoons; when he looks again, he sees men carrying a covered burden on a board, with dogs sniffing at the blood on the tracks.
Although he had difficulty tracing her whereabouts, Mr. Toots returns with Susan. She is maid to Florence once again and suggests that Mrs. Richards take the place as housekeeper for Captain Cuttle. Mr. Toots tells Florence that although his love for her is still strong, he wishes her and Walter joy, asking only to remain their friend. Walter and Florence are going to China for a year, and Susan announces to Florence that she will go with them, not accepting any wages.
Florence asks Walter if, before they go to the church to be married, they could make one stop. Knowing that she means the graves of Paul and her mother, Walter agrees. On the eve of the wedding, the party is gathered together and is surprised when Sol Gills returns. He asks Captain Cuttle why he never answered any of his letters, waiting to hear from him in his search for Walter. When Sol explains that he sent the letters to his address at Mrs. MacStinger’s, Cuttle explains that he no longer lives there and has been hiding from his former landlady.
Walter and Florence are married without much ceremony, only their friends standing by them. After they leave, Captain Cuttle, Sol, Mr. Toots, and Susan gather in the shop and contemplate having the last bottle of Madeira in honor of the happy couple. After reading the letter that Walter wrote to Mr. Dombey announcing his and Florence’s wedding, Sol decides it should wait.
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Chapters 58-60 Summary
A year after Florence and Walter’s wedding and departure for China, the firm of Dombey and Son goes bankrupt. Mr. Dombey isolates himself from everyone, rarely leaving his house. Harriet Carker visits Mr. Morfin, who is one of the few who feels genuinely sorry for his former employer. Harriet learns from him the full extent of Mr. Dombey’s poverty. She tells Mr. Morfin that she and her brother John have inherited James Carker’s fortune, since he died without a will. It is their desire that an annuity be given to Mr. Dombey from that fortune. Mr. Morfin is touched by this kindness and asks to walk Harriet home. She says that she has other business to attend but invites him to call the next day.
Harriet goes to the home of Alice and Mrs. Brown, where Alice lies ill. Mrs. Wickam, who had taken Mrs. Richards' place as Paul Dombey’s nurse, takes care of her. Alice bids her mother to tell Harriet their history. Mrs. Brown knew Edith’s father and brother when they came to London many years before. She had a short-term affair with Edith’s uncle, and Alice was a product of that union. She points out that Edith and Alice, aside from resembling each other in appearance, also both carry the same stubbornness. Before she leaves, Harriet reads to Alice from the Bible, especially the accounts of Christ healing the sick and forgiving sinners. Whispering the name of “Jesus,” Alice dies.
The Dombey home is broken up. The servants depart one by one, leaving only Mrs. Pipchin. Polly Toodle (Mrs. Richards) comes to act as housekeeper as the furnishings are auctioned off. Louisa Chick, Dombey’s sister, feels that her brother did not make enough of an effort. Miss Tox brings Mr. Dombey some food. Mr. Dombey walks the empty rooms at night. He at last realizes what he has lost in rejecting Florence. He falls on the floor and thinks how long it would take for blood to flow out into the hall for people to see.
In the midst of his despair, Florence returns, embraces him, and asks for his forgiveness. She tells him that she has a baby, a son whom she and Walter have named Paul. She begs her father to come back with her for the sake of his grandchild. Wordlessly, Mr. Dombey goes with Florence, while Mrs. Pipchin and Miss Tox rejoice in their reunion.
Doctor Blimber retires and leaves the care of his school to Mr. Feeder, who will marry Cornelia Blimber. Mr. Toots comes to the farewell celebration and introduces...
(The entire section is 509 words.)
Chapters 61-62 Summary
Now living with Florence and Walter, Mr. Dombey sinks deeper into his illness. While he recognizes people and names, his mind wanders back into time. Sometimes he thinks that Paul has just died, and he often asks where Florence is. He thinks back to the night when Florence left and mentally counts the steps she took on the stairs. He wants to see Susan, who is in service to Florence as before. Mr. Dombey tells her that the night that she came to speak to him of Florence’s devotion, she was right. He tells Walter that he is glad that he will look after Florence after he himself is dead. Florence sings him the song that she used to sing to Paul, but he stops her, unable to bear it. The next evening, however, he asks her to repeat it.
Walter tells Florence that a gentleman wants to speak to her. She is at first fearful, but Walter reassures her. It is Cousin Feenix, who (after much rambling) tells her that he wants her to go with him to see someone, although he will not say whom. Walter reassures her and goes with them.
Florence is unsettled when they drive up to Edith’s home. When she enters, she finds Edith unchanged. Edith tells Florence that, although she is guilty of much, she did not commit adultery with James Carker. Florence begs her to come see her father, who is ill and has been humbled. Edith says that she cannot do that, even to ask for forgiveness. She tells Florence that she loves her but that they will never meet again. Cousin Feenix regrets that this interview did not turn out peacefully for Florence.
Mr. Dombey (now recovered from his illness), Captain Cuttle, and Sol Gills decide that it is time to drink that last bottle of Madeira. They drink to the health of Walter and Florence. Captain Cuttle and Sol have gone into business together, renaming the shop “Gills and Cuttle,” although there is no more business than before.
Mr. Toots arrives to announce that Susan has given birth to a baby girl. Over time, Florence also gives birth to a girl who is the joy of Mr. Dombey’s heart. He is glad that little Paul is strong, unlike his namesake. He is especially careful that little Florence should never feel left out, although she often asks why he cries when he kisses her. Mr. Dombey and his two grandchildren, along with old Diogenes, are often seen walking along the beach together.
(The entire section is 425 words.)