David reveals how much he loves Dora Spenlow; thoughts of her continually enter his mind and he despises any man who does not realize how wonderful Dora is. In the meantime, he manages Peggotty's affairs, "proving the will" and putting all her business in an orderly fashion. After the legal matters are settled, David takes Peggotty to the "Commons office" to pay her bill and is startled to meet Mr. Murdstone in Mr. Spenlow's company. The conversation between Mr. Murdstone, David, and Peggotty is very strained, as David still remembers the heartaches this man caused. Mr. Murdstone is in the law office to obtain a marriage license so that he can wed a girl who has just come of age.
David and Mr. Spenlow go into court to settle a divorce case and afterwards they engage in a lengthy conversation about the law. David feels that many aspects of the law are in need of reform and suggests some changes in the workings at the law office, but the conservative Mr. Spenlow considers it "the principle of a gentleman to take things as he found them." Mr. Spenlow forgets about his personal reform movement.
On the day of the picnic David hires a "gallant grey" horse, buys a bouquet of flowers, and rides to the Spenlow home. Dora is in the garden with a friend, Miss Julia Mills, and with Jip, her dog. They all leave for the picnic, and David stares at the beautiful Dora the entire trip. He is so absorbed that he is surprised to find other people are at the picnic too. His jealousy is aroused by a red-whiskered gentleman who competes with him throughout the day for Dora's company, and David tries his best to forget his feelings by flirting with another girl at the celebration and even contemplates leaving. As the picnic ends, Julia Mills tells David that Dora will be staying at her home for a few days, and she invites him to come to call on them. David is elated once more.
Three days after the picnic, David goes to visit Dora; he plans to declare his great passion for her. After much timidness, he finally bursts forth with his feelings and they become engaged, but they decide to keep the betrothal a secret for the time being. David, however, goes to a jeweler and buys a ring to seal the engagement. Within a week, they have their first quarrel, but Miss Mills is able to bring the couple back together.
David writes to Agnes informing her of his engagement to Dora and about the circumstances of Em'ly's flight. He is anxious to impress Agnes with his sincere love for Dora. Traddles comes up to David's room, and they exchange conversation about their fiancées before Traddles asks a favor of David. He explains that Mr. Micawber is still having financial problems and, consequently, has changed his name to Mr. Mortimer, has taken to wearing glasses, and only goes out at night in order to avoid his creditors.
Traddles adds that he has signed his name for only one of Mr. Micawber's recent debts. His own difficulty is that he has had some of his personal possessions seized by the pawnbroker who lent money to Mr. Micawber; now the pawnbroker raises the prices whenever Traddies attempts to buy them back. Peggotty and David buy back Traddies' things and return to David's apartment. There, they find visitors: Aunt Betsey is sitting on her luggage and Mr. Dick is holding a huge kite. His aunt tells him that she has lost all her wealth and is ruined. "All I have in the world is in this room, except the cottage," she says, and that must be put up for rent. The old lady is undaunted, however, and she reminds David that "We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us . . . We must live misfortune down."
Early in his life, Dickens worked as a lawyer's clerk and then as a parliamentary reporter for a newspaper. Here in Chapter 33, he trades in on that experience to flesh out the reality of this episode. Through his experiences, he developed a deep suspicion of the law and its workings. In this chapter, more than perhaps anywhere else in the novel, Dickens satirizes governmental officials who have large comfortable offices while whose who do the real work are shut up in cold, dark rooms.
After the critical attack on petty officials in the preceding chapter, Dickens turns to a warmer tone in Chapter 34. Aunt Betsey, who was once David's sole means of support, is the focus here; she is financially unable to provide for herself now and must even stay the night with David in order to save expenses. David is called upon to be "firm and self-reliant" so that he can help the person who befriended him when he was in trouble. David's maturity soon will stand its greatest test.