Little Dorrit Part 2, Chapters 1-4 Summary

Charles Dickens

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.