Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Amy Dorrit, who is better known as Little Dorrit, was born in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison. Although her mother died soon after, the little girl and her older brother and sister have continued to live in the prison with their bankrupt father; he is the only member of the family not permitted to leave the prison. As she becomes older, Little Dorrit works as a seamstress. One of her clients is Mrs. Clennam, a widow who is also a businesswoman, although she has been confined to her room by illness for fifteen years. Mrs. Clennam’s forty-year-old son, Arthur, had gone to the East twenty years earlier to join his father, who looked after the company’s business there. After his father’s death, Arthur Clennam returns. He tells his mother that he will take his part of the inheritance and fend for himself; he does not want to remain in the business with his miserly, grasping, and rather inhuman mother. Mrs. Clennam thereupon takes her old clerk, Flintwinch, into partnership with her.
While he is staying at his mother’s house, Arthur notices Little Dorrit and is struck by her retiring disposition and sweet appearance. He learns that she lives in the Marshalsea prison, and he goes there and tries to help the Dorrit family. When he raises the possibility of getting Mr. Dorrit out of prison, everyone thinks such a thing is impossible, for Mr. Dorrit’s affairs are in hopeless confusion; some of his debts are owed to the Crown through the Circumlocution...
(The entire section is 1012 words.)
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Part 1, Chapters 1-4 Summary
In a prison cell in Marseille in southern France lie two prisoners. John Baptist Cavalletto is awaiting his trial on smuggling. He listens uneasily to the pronouncements of his cellmate, Monsieur Rigaud. The prison guard brings them their noonday meal. Cavalletto looks enviously at Rigaud’s fine dinner while he eats his dry bread. The guard tells Rigaud that he is to be brought before the magistrates at a little past noon. While he waits, Rigaud tells Cavalletto that he is charged with murdering his wife, stating that it was during an argument in which she tumbled off the cliff. Rigaud is soon called for and, as he watches out the cell door, Cavalletto hears shouts from down below.
Mr. and Mrs. Meagles are among those travelers quarantined in Marseille, having come from the Orient. They are joined by their daughter, Pet, and her maid Tattycoram. Arthur Clennam has come to know them and is especially interested in Pet. Miss Wade, another Englishwoman, is self reliant and distant. On their last day of quarantine, Mr. Meagles looks back and thinks that in time he might come to love his “prison,” but Miss Wade questions this. As Miss Wade goes to her room, she overhears Tattycoram sobbing. She tries to comfort her, but Tattycoram says that she hates the Meagles, especially Pet, because they treat her badly. She plans to run away, she tells Miss Wade, who shows sympathy and interest. Tattycoram calms down and tells Miss Wade to ignore her rant, that she loves the Meagles and they treat her well.
Arthur Clennam arrives in London on a Sunday, which brings back memories of the strict and bleak Sabbaths of his childhood. He returns to his mother’s home, which is literally tumble-down and being propped up by support beams. He is met at the door by Flintwinch, his parents' old servant. Affery, his wife, still functions as the housekeeper, but is clearly under the thumb of her husband and mistress. Mrs. Clennam meets her son coldly. They discuss the watch that Mr. Clennam had asked Arthur to return to his mother. Affery prepares a room for Arthur, explaining that she had been forced to marry Flintwinch, since Arthur could not imagine that two so unlikely people would join together.
That night Affery has a strange experience. She awakens and notices that Flintwinch is not in bed. She goes downstairs and sees him seated by the fire, looking at his double, asleep in another chair. The double wakes up, asks for another...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 5-8 Summary
The next morning, Arthur tells his mother that he is withdrawing from the family business. She takes offense at this, as Arthur knew she would. He also asks her if there is something that his father did that would cause the remorse that he saw in Mr. Clennam’s last days.
At this, Mrs. Clennam calls in Flintwinch to report her son’s failings and accusations. Flintwinch has stood between Arthur and his mother before. Mrs. Clennam says that she is making Flintwinch a business partner in Arthur’s place, which pleases Flintwinch very much. Arthur notices Amy Dorrit, known as Little Dorrit, who serves as her mother’s seamstress. She does not fit in with the gloomy atmosphere. He wonders if she is somehow involved in the business that caused his father’s sadness and self-guilt. Arthur announces that he will not be living in his mother’s home but will be lodging elsewhere.
Mr. William Dorrit entered the Marshalsea prison for debtors, accompanied by his pregnant wife, son, and daughter. He is a quiet, retiring man, who comes to be known as the Father of the Marshalsea. His wife gives birth to a girl, Amy. Over the extent of his twenty-year imprisonment, visitors form the tradition of leaving some money for Mr. Dorrit as a kind of tribute. One poor man attempts to leave halfpence, which offends Mr. Dorrit. The man assures him that he would leave more if he could, but he meant well. What is more, he would even come to visit him after he himself left the prison. This touches Mr. Dorrit, and he asks for the halfpence back, vowing to leave it unspent.
As Mrs. Dorrit dies, Little Dorrit becomes the family manager, keeping track of whatever money comes their way and finding schooling, even though meager, for herself and her brother Tip and sister Fanny. She convinces a dancing master, one of the other prisoners, to give Fanny dancing lessons. When Fanny achieves some accomplishment in this area, she leaves the Marshalsea to live with her uncle, Frederick, who plays the clarinet for a local theater where Fanny becomes a dancer. Tip cannot keep a job and eventually winds up back in the Marshalsea, not as a visitor but as a prisoner. Little Dorrit learns sewing, by which she finds employment during the day.
Arthur Clennam tracks Amy Dorrit to the Marshalsea Prison. He encounters Frederick Dorrit, Little Dorrit’s uncle, who introduces him to his brother William. Mr. Dorrit welcomes Arthur and subtly...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 9-11 Summary
Arthur awakens the next morning in the Marshalsea. He leaves a message for Amy, asking her to meet him at her uncle’s. When she arrives, they go to the Iron Bridge as a place to talk in private. Arthur questions her again about her association with his mother but learns nothing in connection with how she came to Mrs. Clennam’s attention. She does not know if Mr. Clennam had any responsibility for her father being in debtor’s prison.
Although Mr. Dorrit has many creditors, the primary one is Mr. Tite Barnacle of the government's Circumlocution Office. When Arthur expresses interest in finding out how Mr. Dorrit may be released from the Marshalsea, Amy says that she does not think it is possible. She also has doubts of his being able to survive outside of the protection of prison. She is interested in getting her brother released. As Amy and Arthur walk back, they meet Maggy, who is the granddaughter of Amy’s old nurse. Amy explains that Maggy suffered brain damage from a fever at the age of ten and has not progressed any since that age. Maggy addresses Amy as “Little mother” and willingly runs errands for her.
For several days, Arthur tries to see Mr. Tite Barnacle at the Circumlocution Office but is consistently turned away. At last, he is told to see Mr. Barnacle, Junior, who tells him that Mr. Tite Barnacle is at home with the gout. He gives Arthur the address and recommends that he go there. Arthur does so, and Mr. Tite Barnacle tells him that he must apply at the right department.
Arthur returns to the Circumlocution Office and is sent from department to department without success. He is told to keep trying, especially in writing. Thoroughly discouraged, Arthur leaves. He sees Mr. Meagles, who is in the company of Daniel Doyce, an inventor. Mr. Doyce has had a similar experience with the Circumlocution Office, where he was treated as a public offender. Arthur is invited to Doyce’s factory, which is Bleeding Heart Yard.
In Chalons, France, a traveler arrives at the Break of Day Inn. He hears the other residents talking of the murderer Rigaud, who was released from prison in Marseille because of insufficient evidence. The traveler, who is in fact Rigaud himself, asks to be shown to a room, which he will have to share with another person. He is surprised to find that it is his former cellmate, John Baptist Cavalletto. The Italian is terrified at finding himself in the company once...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 12-14 Summary
Arthur Clennam goes to Bleeding Heart Yard to search for Mr. Plornish, who he learned was responsible for Amy Dorrit’s employment with his mother. He finds the Plornish family in poverty, despite their efforts to rise above it, as with most of the inhabitants of the Yard.
Plornish explains that Amy, along with her sister Fanny, did not want their father to know that they were working outside of the prison. Amy had asked Plornish if she might give his address in her notice desiring work. Plornish gives one of the notices to Mr. Casby, who is the landlord of the Yard. Arthur notes that he knew Mr. Casby a long time ago. It is from Mr. Casby that Mrs. Clennam learned about Amy and thus hired her as a seamstress.
Arthur asks Plornish to help him get Tip Dorrit released from his debt. They go to the horse dealer who held Tip’s debt and pay him ten shillings on the pound. Arthur instructs Plornish to tell the Dorrits that an unknown friend gave the money but to keep his identity a secret.
Arthur decides to visit Mr. Casby, who is the father of Arthur’s former love, Flora. Mrs. Clennam did not approve of Flora and so separated them. Feeling that his life has no direction at present, Arthur thinks of the past that might be redeemed. He is surprised to see that Flora is now overweight and silly. His passion shatters at the sight of her. Flora married a Mr. Flinching, who died shortly after their marriage. Flora explains that her husband left her a legacy, his old aunt.
Arthur stays for dinner, feeling that this is the least that he could do since he has no intention of renewing his relationship with the widowed Flora, although she makes clear that she is still interested in him. Pancks, Mr. Casby’s rent collector, walks home with Arthur afterwards. Not wanting to return to his mother’s home, Arthur rents lodgings, where he now return to sit and reflect on his life, asking himself what good has ever come to him. Almost in response, there is a knock at the door, and he opens it to find Amy Dorrit.
Amy, accompanied by Maggy, explains that she went to the theater to see her sister and saw Arthur’s light on the way home. As Maggy sleeps, Amy tells Arthur that her brother has been released due to the goodness of a kind stranger. Amy says that, if she knew who the stranger was, she would make sure he knew how grateful she is for his kindness. She asks Arthur a favor—that he would not give...
(The entire section is 515 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 15-18 Summary
Affery, Mrs. Clennam’s servant, thinks she is dreaming when she hears movement upstairs. She overhears her husband, Flintwinch, arguing with Mrs. Clennam, saying that she has no control over him and he will not be subdued by her. He tells her that she did not do right when she refused to clear her husband to Arthur, instead speaking about herself. Flintwinch says that he has found out where Amy Dorrit leaves, but Mrs. Clennam refuses to listen to him, stating that Amy may keep her secret.
Affery scurries back to the kitchen to catch her breath. When she does not answer the bell, Flintwinch comes to check on her. She tells him that she has been dreaming about noises upstairs. Arthur arrives to talk to Affery, but she refuses to listen to what he says.
Arthur decides to visit the Meagles in nearby Twickenham. He walks, wanting to think about the direction his life is taking. He comes across Daniel Doyce, who is also going to Twickenham. Doyce tells Arthur about his life leading up to his present business as an inventor. He explains that his partner died and he has decided to finally replace him, having no head for business. As they reach the Meagles’ home, Arthur thinks about allowing himself to fall in love with Pet Meagles, although it bothers him that he is twice her age. He also decides to offer himself to Doyce as a business partner.
Another guest, Henry Gowan, arrives at the Meagles home. Gowan is an artist of little merit, but Pet (also called Minnie) seems to be taken with him. Arthur is jealous and considers whether or not he should refrain from falling in love with Pet after all. Gowan announces that he has invited a friend, Clarence Barnacle, who is the son of Tite Barnacle, to visit for the weekend. Clarence tells Gowan that Arthur is a Radical who had to be ordered out of the Circumlocution Office. Daniel Doyce tells Arthur that Gowan visits every Sunday. Mr. Meagles has taken Pet abroad twice to separate the two of them. Arthur has not yet decided not to fall in love with Pet, and he prepares to return to London the following day.
Young John Chivery, the son of the Marshalsea turnkey, is in love with Amy. He takes some cigars to Mr. Dorrit, who tells him that Amy has gone walking by the Iron Bridge. Young John goes there and interrupts her desired solitude. She becomes upset when he mentions her father. He tells her that he has something to ask her, but she says that he must never ask...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 19-22 Summary
Frederick Dorrit visits his brother in the Marshalsea. Ironically, it is the prisoner, William, who is healthy, optimistic, and friendly, while the free brother, Frederick, is unkempt and depressed. William tries to get his brother to take more care of his appearance. As William walks Frederick to the gate at the end of the day, he notices that Chivery, the turnkey, is short with him, saying that he wished Young John would not spend money on cigars for Mr. Dorrit since nothing comes of it. Sensing the reason, Mr. Dorrit begins to tell a story to Amy about a turnkey’s brother who was in love with a prisoner’s sister, but he becomes so confused that he gives up. He breaks down and laments that he is not of any worth to anyone. Fearful of his health and mental condition, Amy sits up with him all night.
Amy goes to the theater and asks Fanny where she got the bracelet that she is showing off. Fanny takes her sister to the opulent home of Mrs. Merdle for her answer. Mrs. Merdle, showing her obvious wealth through her numerous rings on her fingers, explains that her son from her first marriage became infatuated with Fanny. Since the difference in their social classes is so obvious, Mrs. Merdle gave Fanny the bracelet as an incentive to stay away from her son. As they walk home, Fanny explains that she thinks the son is an idiot but sees nothing wrong with making Mrs. Merdle pay for her snobbishness. She tells Amy that she at least is sticking up for the family, while Amy does nothing. Amy feels the unfairness of this charge.
Mrs. Merdle’s first marriage was to a colonel in the military, by whom she had her son, Edmund Sparkler. Her second husband, Mr. Merdle, is both wealthy in business and influential in government and society. Her married Mrs. Merdle for the sole reason of hanging jewels on her for public display. At a dinner party, attended by guests identified by their position, such as Bishop, Horse Guard, Treasury, and so on, Mr. Merdle’s wealth is the main topic of conversation. His physician (also a guest) inquires about his current state of health, which Mr. Merdle says has not shown improvement. Physician tells the others that there is nothing wrong with Mr. Merdle.
Since Mr. Clennam has not left a “testimonial” for him, Mr. Dorrit does not think so highly of him. Arthur is asked to visit Mrs. Chivery, who tells him that her son, Young John, is depressed since Amy refused him. Arthur is taken...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 23-25 Summary
Arthur Clennam and Daniel Doyce become business partners, though Doyce at first was against the idea, fearing that Arthur thought he was trying to manipulate him into the partnership when they first met. The name of the firm is changed to Doyce and Clennam, and Arthur attends to his new job in the Bleeding Heart Yard. Flora Flinching and Mr. F’s aunt come to see him. Flora continues to call him “Arthur,” then corrects herself to “Mr. Clennam,” though she objects to his calling her “Mrs. Flinching.” She wants to know whether Amy Dorrit would be able to come to her house as a seamstress. Mr. Casby and Pancks arrive, learning of Flora’s mission. Pancks hints that it was he who had the idea. After the others leave, Pancks and Arthur talk about what they know about the Dorrit family. Pancks has his own reason for his interest, but Arthur wants him to dig up more information about them, especially the reason for Mr. Dorrit’s indebtedness. Pancks promises to find out as much as he can and to relate it to Arthur.
Mr. Plornish tells Amy about Flora’s job offer. Amy goes to see Flora, who rattles on about Arthur and their past relationship. Amy, uncomfortable hearing all the details, works at her sewing. At dinner, Pancks observes her and studies a notebook he keeps beside him. He offers to tell her fortune and proceeds to describe the Dorrit family accurately. Amy returns to the Marshalsea, upset by her day at Flora’s. Maggy arrives to say that Arthur would like to see her. Amy has Maggy tell Arthur that she is ill. Maggy returns and Amy tells her a story about a princess and a tiny woman who keeps the shadow of Someone in her closet, Someone who had gone far away, who will go to the grave with the tiny woman. After the tiny woman dies, the princess discovers that the shadow had gone to the grave with the tiny woman, just as she had said it would.
Mr. Pancks invites Young John to dine with him at his lodgings with Mr. Rugg, a fellow debt collector, and Rugg’s daughter. They discuss the Dorrit family and divide up the work to make inquiries all over the country. In Bleeding Heart Yard, John Baptist Cavalletto, who had been injured in an accident nearby, gets acquainted with the other residents. Although at first they distrust a foreigner, Mr. Baptist, as they call him, becomes a favorite, especially with the Plornish family.
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 26-29 Summary
Arthur has decided, he tells himself, not to fall in love with Pet Meagles. He does not join Doyce when he goes to Twickenham. On his return, Doyce confesses his dislike of Henry Gowan. Arthur tries to assume disinterest, even stating his belief that they should give Gowan the benefit of the doubt. Doyce disagrees and reserves his right to dislike him because of Mr. Meagles’ unhappiness at his daughter’s adoration of the artist. Gowan invites Arthur to go with him to visit his mother. Arthur agrees reluctantly. He finds Mrs. Gowan and her Barnacle relations snobbish and arrogant. Mrs. Gowan quizzes him about Pet, asking him about her beauty and personality. Arthur assures her that Pet is beautiful inside and out. Mrs. Gowan tells Arthur her dissatisfaction with the match, stating her belief that the Meagles family is below her own social level and is trying to rise up by a connection through Henry. Arthur informs her that Mr. Meagles is as unhappy about the relationship as Mrs. Gowan is herself, but Henry’s mother believes that this is just the ploy that would work on her son and the Meagleses know it. On the way home, Arthur is very quiet, and Gowan thinks his mother bored him.
Mr. Meagles asks Arthur to help him find Tattycoram, who has run away. They find her, as they suspected, with Miss Wade, who asks Tattycoram if she would like to go back and be a “slave” to Pet. Tattycoram refuses, and the gentlemen leave. Miss Wade gives Arthur a vague warning about Pet’s assumed upcoming marriage to Henry Gowan.
After numerous attempts to contact Tattycoram, the Meagleses and Arthur discover that she and Miss Wade have disappeared. Pet meets Arthur one day as he is walking toward Twickenham. She has picked some roses and gives him some. She tells him that she and Henry are to be married and asks him to take care of her father. Arthur assures her that he will watch over his friend. After she goes into the house, Arthur throws the roses into the river.
Mrs. Clennam asks Little Dorrit why Pancks always comes to see her, but Amy does not know. Mrs. Clennam is impressed by Amy’s sincerity and gratitude and kisses her on the forehead. Affery is shocked by this, thinking this is another of her dreams. She is shut out of the house during a storm and encounters a strange traveler, who asks her if a Clennam lives here. He helps Affery open the door. Flintwinch comes to see what is keeping his wife...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 30-32 Summary
The stranger is M. Rigaud, but he introduces himself as Blandois. Flintwinch greets him and shows him up to Mrs. Clennam at his request. Blandois is gallant toward Mrs. Clennam, who is taken in by the letter that Blandois presents to her, requesting that money be given to him. Blandois is interested in the watch by Mrs. Clennam’s side, especially the initials “D.N.F.” Mrs. Clennam explains that this means “Do Not Forget,” some message from her deceased husband. Blandois asks Flintwinch to show him around the house. Affery is upset by the appearance of Blandois, but Flintwinch explains that she is an idiot. Blandois asks Flintwinch to show him a place to stay, so Flintwinch takes him to a nearby coffee house. Blandois promises to come to see Flintwinch and Mrs. Clennam the following day, but Flintwinch learns that Blandois has left England to return to the Continent.
Nandy, Mrs. Plornish’s father, is let out of the Workhouse for his birthday. He walks back to the Marshalsea with Amy, having made Mr. Dorrit’s acquaintance when Mr. Plornish was imprisoned for a short time. Fanny is outraged that Amy would allow herself to be seen with a pauper. Mr. Dorrit is also angry with her, even though Nandy is his friend. Amy is in tears when Maggy brings a letter (containing money) from Arthur, saying that he will be visiting them. Mr. Dorrit’s mood changes quickly, seeing the money, and invites Nandy to stay for some tea. Tip is also present when Arthur arrives. Tip is very rude to Arthur because the latter did not lend him money when he asked. Mr. Dorrit is outraged and leaves, as do the others, except Maggy and Amy, which pleases Arthur, since he wants to talk to Amy alone (and Maggy does not count).
Arthur, upset to see Amy crying, assures her that he is not bothered by Tip’s rudeness. He opens up to her and tells her that he forgot how old he is and fancied himself in love with someone who is now promised to someone else. Amy asks if it is Flora, but Arthur tells her it definitely is not Flora. He urges Amy to confide in him as he has confided in her, should she ever feel the need. Pancks and Rugg arrive and tell Arthur that they have made an important discovery about Mr. Dorrit. It is good news, Pancks say, and he has several documents to prove it.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Part 1, Chapters 33-36 Summary
Mrs. Gowan unwillingly concedes to the marriage of Henry and Pet, especially after Mr. Meagles agrees to pay all of Henry’s debts. She consults with her friend, Mrs. Merdle, about the situation. Henry and Pet will be going to Italy for the sake of Henry’s art, which unsettles his mother, as it is not the fashionable sort of art. Mr. Merdle wanders about the house and accidentally enters the room where Mrs. Merdle is sitting. She tells him that he thinks too much of business and not enough of society. He is too concerned about his health, even though the physician can find nothing wrong with him. His indifference has been noticed even by Edmund Sparkler, Mrs. Merdle’s son. Mr. Merdle goes on wandering about the house.
Just before the wedding, Henry Gowan tells Arthur that he is a very disappointed man. He knows that he is marrying a beautiful woman who loves him, as well as that all his debts are being eliminated by his future father-in-law, but he still does not see the future brightly. Arthur struggles to remain neutral in his feelings about Henry, as he promised Doyce he would. At the wedding reception, the crowd is overwhelmingly filled with Barnacles, who do not associate with the Meagles side of the family. The only satisfaction that Mr. Meagles can derive from the wedding is that it was such high company, socially speaking.
Pancks tells Arthur that Mr. Dorrit is the long-lost heir to a landed fortune. Arthur is overjoyed at this news, that the Dorrits may at last leave the Marshalsea prison once the debts are paid. He goes to Flora’s home, where Amy is working, and breaks the news to her. She faints at the revelation but awakens to go with Arthur to tell her father. Mr. Dorrit is shaken and overwhelmed that at last he may leave. He asks if he can “talk a walk” at that moment, but Arthur regretfully tells him that there are still forms to be completed before he can leave. Mr. Dorrit weeps, because his freedom is still some hours away. Amy is also quiet, feeling that it is hard that her father has had to pay with years of his life as well as money to gain his freedom.
At last the day comes when Mr. Dorrit is to be set free. All the residents of the debtors prison gather to say good-bye to the Father of the Marshalsea. Mr. Dorrit walks arm-in-arm with his brother Frederick, but Fanny is upset that Amy is missing. She is even more upset when she sees her, being carried by Arthur, still wearing her...
(The entire section is 456 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 1-4 Summary
Mr. Dorrit, his brother Frederick, Tip (who now wants to be known as Edward), Fanny, and Amy are traveling through Switzerland on their way to Italy. They meet Henry and Pet Gowan there, along with Blandois (Rigaud). They are joined by a military widow, known only as Mrs. General. At dinner, Pet faints and she is carried to her room. Henry explains that she fell off of her donkey earlier that day, and her fainting spell most likely is due to that. Amy goes to check on her, finding her asleep. As Pet sleeps, Amy looks at her and compares her to herself, thinking of Arthur’s revelation that he was in love with her. Pet awakens and remembers that she has a letter from Arthur to give to Amy. Amy tells Pet that she promised to write him to tell him how Pet was doing, though she sees that not all is well between Pet and Henry. Blandois looks at the register at the names of the Dorrits and the Gowans and adds his own, also noting that he, like they are, is going to Italy.
Mrs. General, the daughter of a clergyman, had been single until she was forty-five, when she met and married a commissariat officer. When he died, Mrs. General became a paid mentor to fashionable young girls, forming their minds and preparing them for society. When Mr. Dorrit came into his fortune, he hired Mrs. General to travel with the family and “form the minds” of Fanny and Amy.
The Dorrits depart Switzerland, leaving Blandois behind. Amy watches Blandois watching their carriage and is bothered by this. At Martigny, Mr. Dorrit is upset when he discovers that their reserved rooms at the hotel have been given to someone else. The new occupants happen to be Mrs. Merdle and her son, Edmund Spangler. Mrs. Merdle pretends that the Dorrits do not exist, but Edmund looks at Fanny as his carriage leaves the hotel. When the Dorrits arrive in Venice, Amy spends most of her time on the balcony, watching the gondolas in the canal below. She thinks of her former life in the Marshalsea and does not sea Venice as an improvement.
Mr. Dorrit tells Amy that they must separate themselves from Mr. Clennam now that they are wealthy, but Amy writes to him anyway. She tells him of her concerns for Pet’s marriage, though she begs him not to be uneasy about her. She reminisces about her former life and tells Arthur always to think of her as the poor Marshalsea girl to whom he was so kind.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 5-7 Summary
Mrs. General reports to Mr. Dorrit that Amy does not have any self-confidence or strength of character. When confronted with this, Amy says that she is still getting used to their new life in Venice. Her father chides her that she alone of all the family still carries the air of the Marshalsea, which shames everyone. When the entire family is together, Edward announces that he has seen Henry and Pet Gowan at an art gallery. Mr. Dorrit and Fanny are not impressed and do not wish to seek their company until Edward points out that they know Mr. Merdle, who at the moment has a great deal of influence in the business world. Amy especially wants to be friends with Pet, so it is decided to pursue their acquaintance. Uncle Frederick suddenly bursts out that it is unfair how everyone is treating Amy. It smacks of pride and ingratitude and he will not stand for it. Edward is indifferent to this outburst, but Fanny is upset until Mr. Dorrit tells her that his brother is not what he used to be, implying that Frederick is losing his mind.
Amy and Fanny visit Pet Gowan and discover Henry in the process of painting, using Blandois as a model. Henry’s dog, Lion, does not like Blandois and leaps out to attack him. Henry grabs the dog and begs Blandois to leave. To Amy’s horror, Henry begins to kick the dog until she intercedes.
After Uncle Frederick’s outburst, Fanny tries to soften her tone in speaking to Amy. In response to Amy’s question, Fanny says that she intends to let Edmund Spangler follow her around. Concerned that Amy might not see the end result, Fanny assures her that she intends only to make a slave of him. As they are riding in their gondola, they see Edmund following them, obviously trying to attract Fanny’s attention until he falls over into the bottom of the boat. At the opera, the Dorrits encounter Blandois once again, who tells Fanny and Amy that since they last saw Henry, the artist has lost his dog, since “someone” poisoned it.
Fanny tells Amy that she suspects that Mrs. General has designs on their father, and Mr. Dorrit has been excessively polite to Mrs. General. Amy meets Pet, who tells her that it was Blandois who poisoned Henry’s dog. Mr. Dorrit talks to Henry about getting his portrait painted, but Henry suggests that they wait until they all go to Rome, which they soon do. There they meet Mrs. Merdle, who is now anxious to make their acquaintance at Edmund’s suggestion. This...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 8-11 Summary
Daniel Doyce continues to try to get government support for his invention through the Circumlocution Office, but without success. Arthur Clennam, now that the Dorrits have gone, has time on his hands and offers to do battle with the office for Doyce. Arthur continues to visit Mr. and Mrs. Meagles, feeling like a widowed son-in-law in relation to them, having convinced himself that he is too old to look for a romantic attachment. Yet he misses Little Dorrit, more than he had anticipated. He is grateful for any news he hears from her. One day at the Meagles’ home, Mrs. Gowan arrives to visit her “near family,” as she calls them. She is anxious for news about her son. Her tone reveals that she still blames Mr. Meagles for scheming this marriage to gain social advantage. Mr. Meagles becomes irate, telling Mrs. Gowan that he had been against the marriage from the first. He appeals to Arthur, who reminds Mrs. Gowan that he had corrected any notion that she may have had that Mr. Meagles viewed the joining of Henry and Pet positively. Mrs. Gowan says that it is no use for two such socially distant families to get along and leaves.
Mr. Meagles tells Arthur that he and his wife must go to Italy to get away from Mrs. Gowan. Also, Pet is expecting and will want her mother, and Henry is in debt and will want some money. Arthur agrees to check on the house while they are gone, and on one visit he is told by Mrs. Tickit that she had seen Tattycoram. Arthur himself sees her on the streets of London, in the company of a foreigner (who is Blandois), and they are joined by Miss Wade. Arthur follows them to Mr. Casby’s house, but they leave before Arthur can talk to them. Mr. Casby does not know anything about them, but Miss Wade wanted some money, which Arthur assumes is for Blandois.
Arthur tracks Blandois to his mother’s house. He confronts him at the door, but Blandois is allowed in as one who had been there before. Arthur objects to him, but Mrs. Clennam tells Arthur that he has no authority in this house. Arthur asks Affery what is going on, but the housekeeper says that she does not know, since she has been dreaming for so long.
Amy writes to Arthur, telling him that Pet has given birth to a baby boy. Pet still loves Henry, but Amy reports that the artist spends most of his time in the company of a friend of whom neither Amy nor Pet approves. She herself is homesick and dreams of herself as a...
(The entire section is 454 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 12-14 Summary
Mr. Merdle’s influence continues to grow throughout the business and social world of England. People view dinner at the Merdle home as a step into his lofty plain. At one such dinner, Lord Decimus Barnacle mentions the change in fortune of William Dorrit. Mr. Tite Barnacle relates what a difficult time the Circumlocution Office had when Mr. Dorrit wanted to pay his debt. There was paperwork that required several months before the office could accept the money. It is discovered that Mr. Merdle’s stepson, Edmund Sparkler, was friends with the Dorrits, especially one of the daughters. Not long after this dinner party, the news is spread that Edmund has been made one of the Lords of the Circumlocution Office. People become even more interested in investing their money in Mr. Merdle’s enterprises. Even in the Bleeding Heart Yard, the name of Merdle becomes known. People plead with Pancks when he comes for the rent that Mr. Merdle would be more kindhearted. Mrs. Plornish has opened a small store in the Yard, assisted by her father, Nandy, and Maggy. She is doing well except for the fact that so many people are buying on credit, which lessens her own income.
Pancks discusses the popularity of Mr. Merdle with Arthur, stating that he is investing one thousand pounds of his own money with Merdle, in expectation of a handsome profit. Arthur is interested in what Pancks has to say, contemplating investment of his own. Mr. Cavalletto, now known as Mr. Baptist in the Yard, has progressed in English and tells of his fears on seeing someone he once knew, though he will not say more. Arthur confesses to Pancks his own fear in seeing this man, Blandois, at his mother’s home.
Edmund Sparkler’s new career at the Circumlocution Office is the talk of Rome. Some think that the position does not take much brains and so would fit Edmund immeasurably, and most agree that it will be an easy job with a large income. Fanny is upset at the lack of suitable men in Rome, but Amy tries to convince her that there will come someone in time. Fanny talks of Edmund and the advisability of marrying him. Amy is concerned about this, knowing that Fanny does not love Edmund. Fanny, however, views it as a way to get back at Mrs. Merdle and her snobbish ways. Not long after, Edmund and Fanny come to Amy and announce their engagement. That night, Fanny cries on Amy’s shoulder.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 15-18 Summary
Mr. Dorrit receives the news of Fanny’s engagement to Edmund Sparkler with a great deal of pride. He visits Mrs. Merdle, who says that she is charmed personally, though she did not imagine her son as the marrying kind, nor is she sure what Mr. Merdle will think of it. Mr. Dorrit also thinks it is proper to announce the engagement to Mrs. General, though Fanny does not see the point. Mr. Dorrit, however, does and also tells her that her duties are now cut in half. Fanny talks with Amy about the timing of her wedding, whether to wait or to get married soon. Amy answers that it would be wiser to wait, but Fanny thinks that it will be better to marry immediately to pull one over on Mrs. Merdle. She also mentions that Amy will be left alone with Mrs. General while Mr. Dorrit is in London. She warns Amy not to be pulled in by Mrs. General concerning their father. Fanny’s wedding is a brilliant affair in which Edmund is hardly noticeable. Amy returns to Rome with Mrs. General.
Fanny and Edmund move into the Merdle home, with Fanny taking over Mrs. Merdle’s rooms. She gives extravagant gifts to the servants, much more than Mrs. Merdle had given her to keep away from her son. Mr. Merdle visits Mr. Dorrit at his home, where they discuss where Mr. Dorrit might invest his money, the obvious choice being with Mr. Merdle.
Flora Flinching comes to ask Mr. Dorrit whether he knows the whereabouts of Blandois. Mr. Dorrit does not, but he goes to ask Mrs. Clennam whether she has seen him. Mrs. Clennam says that she has seen him only twice, and she does find him trustworthy.
Mr. Dorrit prepares to return to Rome. He asks Fanny whether she has any message to send to anyone special (meaning Mrs. General). Fanny says she does not (knowing he means Mrs. General). Young John Chivery comes to pay a call on Mr. Dorrit, bringing him a box of cigars as he used to do in their days in the Marshalsea. Mr. Dorrit is upset at being reminded of his imprisonment and rejects John and his cigars. He relents and apologizes, telling Young John that there are some memories too painful to revisit. Before he leaves London, Mr. Dorrit goes shopping for a variety of gifts, evidently for Mrs. General. He leaves England and heads south toward Marseilles and then Rome.
(The entire section is 414 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 19-22 Summary
Amy tells her Uncle Frederick how much younger he has seemed since Fanny’s marriage. Frederick tells her that it is due to her and her kindness. Mr. Dorrit returns and comments how much Frederick has gone downhill, but it is Mr. Dorrit himself who seems to be weakening. He spends much time in his room. Mrs. Merdle is returning to England, so a going-away dinner is held for her. At the dinner, Mr. Dorrit thinks he is back in prison and addresses the party as the Father of the Marshalsea once again. Amy takes him home, staying by his bedside for ten days. Frederick is also there and grieves when at last Mr. Dorrit dies. Amy takes Frederick back to his room to get some sleep, but in the night, he returns to his brother’s deathbed and dies holding his hand.
Arthur Clennam goes to Calais, France, with a Wanted poster describing the murderer Rigaud. He traces the apartment of Miss Wade, but announces himself to the servant as Blandois, knowing that Miss Wade will not see him if she knew who he was. She is displeased to see him and tells him that she does not know where Blandois is, after she reads the poster’s description. She gives Arthur a narrative that she wrote about her life, including her romance with Henry Gowan, whom she now hates along with his wife. Arthur asks about Tattycoram, whom Miss Wade calls Harriet. She calls Tattycoram in, and Arthur asks her about Blandois, but she does not know him beyond the time in the street. She asks how the Meagleses are, and Miss Wade angrily reminds her how unhappy Tattycoram was there and asks whether she wants to go back. Tattycoram denies that she does, but she admits that she went to see the house unbeknown to Miss Wade. Arthur leaves, as Tattycoram stands there as if she expected to be invisible.
On his way back to England, Arthur reads “The History of a Self Tormentor,” which Miss Wade had given him. She relates that she was an orphan who was continually betrayed by other girls. When she became a governess, this betrayal continued, until she worked for a family where she became engaged to the nephew. Her lower status was evident, and when Henry Gowan showed up and began to pay attention to her, she fell in love with him. She left her fiancé and then discovered that Henry was engaged to Pet Meagles. She took Tattycoram to care for in revenge against all those who betrayed her and to protect Tattycoram from being treated the same.
Doyce gives up...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 23-26 Summary
Arthur goes to his mother’s home to find out what she knows about Blandois. He had hoped to find her alone, but he discovers that Mr. Casby and Flora are there. He tells her that Blandois is really Rigaud, an accused murderer. Mrs. Clennam is horrified, but she will not tell Arthur anything she knows about Blandois or about his purpose for seeing her. Arthur gets Flora to ask Affery to show her around the house so that he can talk to the servant. Mr. Flintwinch follows, so Arthur is unable to ask her anything. Flora is also hanging onto him, especially in the dark corners. When Flintwinch goes to answer the door, Arthur asks Affery what is going on in the house. Affery will not tell him, stating only that the house is full of noises and secrets.
Three months after the deaths of the Dorrit brothers, Fanny complains that it is the longest day there ever was. She is irritated by everything that Edmund says. She had just gotten over being in mourning when she finds that she is pregnant, which limits her social activities. Mr. Merdle arrives with a distracted manner. He asks for a penknife, and Fanny gives him one from the many wedding gifts that she received. He departs, refusing any dinner.
At a dinner hosted by Mrs. Merdle, the guests talk of the rumor that Mr. Merdle will be granted a peerage for his contributions to the financial well-being of the nation. A messenger arrives and requests the physician to go to the bathhouse on the corner. There, Mr. Merdle’s body is discovered in a bath. He has committed suicide by slitting his own throat. The next day, Mr. Merdle’s death is rumored to have been caused by a multitude of diseases, but it is finally revealed that he killed himself because he had been exposed as a forgerer and a thief, thus ruining all who invested money in his business.
Among those ruined by the collapse of Merdle’s business is Arthur Clennam, who had invested all the funds of Doyce and Clennam. He talks to Rugg, the debt collector, requesting that Doyce be blameless, since he himself had invested the money. He wishes to be made a clerk at the lowest salary when the business gets back on its feet. A few days later, Rugg informs him that several writs have been enacted against Arthur, meaning that he will be arrested for debt. Arthur decides to go at once to the Marshalsea, where Young John Chivery escorts him to his new room, the same room where Mr. Dorrit and Amy had lived.
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 27-29 Summary
Arthur Clennam’s mind is numb as he settles into his rooms at the Marshalsea. Mr. Chivery is very kind to him and tells him that Young John insists on bringing up Arthur’s trunks himself. John does so, but refuses to shake Arthur’s hand. Arthur rejects John’s offers of food and drink since he does not have an appetite, but John tells him that this is the time to eat. He invites Arthur down to his own rooms for tea, and Arthur accepts, since he knows that resistance at this point is futile. Arthur asks him why he is angry with him, and John tells him that Arthur refuses to see that Amy Dorrit is in love with him. As much grief as this causes Young John, he wants Amy to be happy, and Arthur’s ignorance of her true feelings angers him. Arthur is shocked by this revelation, but it is confirmed by Mr. and Mrs. Plornish when they come to visit. Arthur thinks of all the good things that have happened in his life since he returned to England and realizes that Amy has been a part of all of them.
Arthur is depressed inside the Marshalsea and does not become acquainted with any of the other residents. Frederick Barnacle comes to visit, wanting to make sure that the Circumlocution Office was not responsible for Arthur’s imprisonment. Arthur assures him it was not. Rugg comes to tell him that people are commenting on Arthur’s being in the Marshalsea, which is usually reserved for the poorest people who owe a small amount of money, instead of in King’s Bench, where those who owe as large sums as Arthur are kept. Cavalletto brings Blandois (now reclaiming his name of Rigaud) to see Arthur. Arthur is determined to find out what business Rigaud has with his mother. Rigaud tells him that he is in the business of selling information, such as he sold to Miss Wade about the Gowans. He now has information that involves Mrs. Clennam. Everyone leaves, and Arthur feels that he is now more despised and rejected than before.
For several days, Arthur cannot sleep well. He awakens in the evening to find flowers on his table. Soon Amy Dorrit follows. She is wearing her old dress and is accompanied by Maggy. She offers Arthur all her money, but he refuses it. He urges her not to visit the Marshalsea too often because of all it has meant to her, but he cannot tell her not to visit at all. Young John Chivery walks her back to her hotel and returns to tell Arthur that she gave him a message: Arthur will always have her undying love. John...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 30-31 Summary
Pancks and Cavalletto escort Rigaud to Mrs. Clennam’s house. Pancks tells Mrs. Clennam that he is to blame for Arthur’s speculating in Merdle’s business, but Mrs. Clennam does not care to hear about her son and dismisses both Pancks and Cavalletto. She confronts Rigaud with his crime, but he dismisses it. He demands two thousand pounds for the information that he has. He is in possession of some papers that Mrs. Clennam wants returned to her. Rigaud begins to tell the story of the Clennam family, but Mrs. Clennam takes it up to tell herself, confessing first that she is not Arthur’s mother. Arthur’s father was raised by a very strict uncle, Gilbert Clennam, who commanded his nephew to marry a woman raised as strictly as he had been. Arthur’s father, however, fell in love with another woman and was secretly married to her. They had a son, Arthur. Gilbert Clennam drove Arthur’s mother away and Arthur was raised by Mrs. Clennam in such a way that the evil of his birth might be driven away. Arthur’s mother became a singer in the same theatre as Frederick Dorrit, who became her protector and patron. On his deathbed, Gilbert Clennam regretted his harshness and left his fortune to the youngest daughter of the patron of Arthur’s mother, or of the patron’s brother, should he have no children. This means that Amy Dorrit is the heir to Gilbert Clennam’s fortune, which is what the papers stolen from Mrs. Clennam proclaim, but she does not know how Rigaud got them. Affery cries out that she knows, having seen someone whom she thought was Flintwinch take them, but in fact it was Flintwinch’s twin brother, which explains Affery’s confusion in thinking she saw two Flintwinches. When Rigaud says that he has delivered the packet of papers to the Marshalsea to be handed to Arthur if no one else claims them, Mrs. Clennam rises out of her wheelchair, orders Rigaud to remain in the house, and runs out into the street. Rigaud lights a cigar and waits.
Mrs. Clennam runs through the London streets, asking the way to the Marshalsea. A group of boys tease her until she is rescued by Young John, who takes her to the Marshalsea. Amy is there and has the packet, which Mrs. Clennam orders her to open and read about her inheritance. Mrs. Clennam begs her to forgive her, which Amy readily does. Mrs. Clennam and Amy hurry back to the Clennam home to catch Rigaud, whom they see smoking in the window just as the house collapses. Affery had...
(The entire section is 489 words.)
Part 2, Chapters 32-34 Summary
Arthur lies ill in the Marshalsea, and Pancks blames himself for this as well as for Arthur's being imprisoned to begin with, since he had advised him to invest in Merdle. He becomes fed up with Mr. Casby’s pressuring him to squeeze the rent out of the poor people of the Bleeding Heart Yard. He is also displeased that his daughter is spending so much time with Mrs. Clennam, who has been truly confined to her wheelchair and unable to speak since her house crumbled. When Mr. Casby orders him to go back and squeeze them again, Pancks breaks. He cries out to the people of the Yard that although they thought of him as the source of their misery, he proclaims that it is Casby who forced him to do so. The people rally around Pancks, who tells Casby that he quits and will no longer be his rent collector. He knocks off Casby’s hat, and when Casby bends over to pick it up, Pancks seizes Casby’s long white hair and cuts it off. Pancks runs off at the sight of the sacrilege that he has performed and stays in hiding to contemplate his new crime.
Arthur’s illness continues to be severe, but he is visited by all his old friends and acquaintances. Mrs. Merdle has become the object of pity, the public having decided that she was as deceived as everyone else. Mr. Meagles, still in Rome, is informed of the events in London. He takes upon himself to follow the trail of Rigaud to find the original documentation that Flintwinch’s twin brother gave him to prove Amy’s inheritance. His last stop is at Miss Wade’s, who says that she does not have any papers left by Rigaud. Mr. Meagles gives up and returns to London. He goes to see Arthur in the Marshalsea. Tattycoram arrives at the Marshalsea, carrying the box of papers from Rigaud. She begs Mr. Meagles’ forgiveness, which he gladly gives her and welcomes her home. He gives the papers to Amy and announces that he is going back to the Continent to fetch Daniel Doyce, who needs to be part of the celebration.
Arthur’s health improves, attended by Amy, who tells him that her father had invested all his fortune with Merdle. Thus she is as poor as Arthur. Mr. Meagles returns to announce that Doyce had been in London all along. He has made a great success on the Continent and has been going around to pay off all the creditors, thus allowing Arthur to be released. Doyce walks in to urge Arthur to forget the past. Arthur and Amy, who insists on being called Little Dorrit, are married,...
(The entire section is 473 words.)