Summary and Analysis
David and Mr. Peggotty catch up with Martha just as she approaches the bank of a river (probably the Thames). David realizes she is about to commit suicide, and, with the help of Mr. Peggotty, he pulls her back from the edge of the water. Martha begins to sob that it would be best if she jumped in the river because her life is so miserable. Martha blames herself for Em'ly's disappearance and is beside herself with grief because Em'ly had been so kind to her. David explains that she is not to blame and that they are there to ask her to help them find the missing girl. Martha now has a reason to live and vows never to give up until Em'ly is found.
David returns to his aunt's home and observes that the mysterious stranger who had so upset Aunt Betsey is in the garden. His aunt comes out of the house and gives the man some money and the man leaves. David asks his aunt who this man is, and she confides that it is her husband. She explains that she has been separated from him for many years and that he has become a gambler and a cheat. She says that she still gives him money out of nostalgia for their past love but that it embarrasses her to have him turn up at her home. She then asks David to keep the subject a secret.
While working for the newspaper, David has managed to complete a novel, which becomes a success. Surprisingly, he is not "stunned by the praise." He does, however, decide to give up reporting.
David has been married for a year and a half, and he and Dora still have little luck with housekeeping. They employ a page, but this man constantly fights with the cook and steals food from them. He finally ends up in jail for stealing Dora's watch. David then decides that he should "form Dora's mind," so she can become more responsible in household management. He begins by reading Shakespeare to her and by giving out "little scraps of useful information, or sound opinion." This fails, and David begins to think about Agnes and to wonder what things would have been like if he hadn't met Dora.
David hopes that their expected baby will change his "childwife" into a woman, but the baby dies shortly after birth and Dora's health begins to fade. One night Aunt Betsey bids goodnight to "Little Blossom," and David cries to think, ". . . Oh what a fatal name it was, and how the blossom withered in its bloom upon the tree!"
Two important themes of Dickens are highlighted in Chapter 47; these are the disciplined heart and wise prudence. Although Dickens has portrayed Aunt Betsey as a woman whom David admires, or whom Dickens himself admires, even she has a weakness, for she reveals to David that her husband is still alive, and that it is he to whom she has been giving considerable sums of money. She recalls the time "when she loved him [her husband] . . . right well [but] he repaid her by breaking her fortune and nearly breaking her heart." Yet she still gives him money, "sooner than have him punished for his offences. "It is only in Agnes that Dickens comes close to his "perfect" human being. Agnes has both admirable emotional control and the prudence to wait for David, who returns her unexpressed love by loving her as a sister.
Dora's death is clearly foreshadowed in Chapter 48 by David's comparing Dora with a withering blossom. It is also foretold by the condition of Jip, the dog. The dialogue concerning Jip is also indicative of Dora's impending death. Dora comments, "He is getting quite slow," and Aunt Betsey immediately replies, "I suspect he has a worse disorder than that." After the baby dies, Dora becomes so weak that David must carry her up and down the stairs. Clearly we can anticipate another deathbed scene.