Little Dorrit Part 1, Chapters 15-18 Summary

Charles Dickens

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 her what she knows he wants to ask. On the way to the bridge, Young John had imagined his gravestone, stating that he died of old age and is buried by his loving wife Amy. On leaving Amy, he imagines his tombstone stating that he died young and alone of a broken heart.