Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 505
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 aback at the thought of Little Dorrit as an object of romantic interest, but promises to seek Amy’s happiness in any way he can. He meets Amy out walking. Maggy arrives with a letter for Arthur from Mr. Dorrit, requesting money. Arthur gives it to him and is surprised at Amy’s strong reaction. She emotionally says that she should stay in the prison with her father.
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