David is miserable at Salem House. He describes it as desolate and depressing. When he first arrives, the students are on holiday. He is also forced to wear a sign saying that he bites. The schoolmaster Mr. Creakle looks for any excuse to beat the boys, especially Tommy Traddles. Education is not a top priority.
The only bright spot at Salem House is Steerforth, who is spared the beatings and harsh treatment because of his family’s money. He looks out for David and protects him. He does not realize that Steerforth is just using him for his food and stories.
After David’s mother dies, he is sent to work in a wine bottling warehouse and no longer attends Salem House. Things do not get much better for David there.
David endures these hardships by befriending people in odd places. He makes friends with Barkis, and through him continues his relationship with Pegotty. Despite all of the pain and suffering, David perseveres. He remains somewhat naïve, such as in his relationship with Steerforth, but he still has a good heart and looks for the best in people.