Summary and Analysis
The next morning, Mr. Peggotty tells David and his aunt about Em'ly's escape from Littimer. Em'ly had run along the beach until she fell down with exhaustion, and when she awoke, there was a woman leaning over her. The woman recognized Em'ly and took her home, where she cared for her and arranged for Em'ly to sail to France.
In France, Em'ly "took service to wait on travelling ladies at an inn," but one day she saw "that snake" (either Steerforth or Littimer), and she immediately left for England. She had wanted to go directly to Yarmouth, but she was afraid that Mr. Peggotty had not forgiven her, so she went to London. Here she met a woman whom she thought was a friend but who was really about to lead Em'ly into a life of prostitution. Before Em'ly could be harmed, Martha found her and "brought her safe out."
Mr. Peggotty makes plans to go to Australia with Em'ly to begin a new life. The next morning, Mr. Peggotty and David go to Yarmouth to prepare for the departure, and David visits Mr. Omer at his shop. The old tailor is paralyzed and is in a wheelchair, but is in the best of spirits. He says that he has read David's book and tells him how proud he is to have known him and his family.
David continues on to the Peggotty house where Mr. Peggotty is packing for the voyage. Ham asks David to write to Em'ly for him and to tell her to forgive him for pressing his affections upon her. Ham feels that, if he had not had her promise to marry him, she might have confided her troubles to him and that then he could have saved her.
Before Mr. Peggotty locks the door on the old boat for the last time, Mrs. Gummidge begs him to let her go with him and Em'ly on their trip. Mr. Peggotty gives in to her request, and the next morning, they leave for London to begin the long journey to Australia.
David and Mr. Dick prepare to leave for Canterbury for the mysterious meeting arranged by Mr. Micawber. Dora insists that she can manage quite well until their return and that Miss Betsey should go with them. Tommy Traddles also accompanies them on the trip. Micawber tells them to call at the office of Wickfield and Heep and ask for Miss Wickfield.
The somewhat confused group proceeds to the office as directed and asks to see Agnes Wickfield. Mr. Micawber leads them into Mr. Wickfield's former office and they meet Mr. Heep, who is surprised at their presence. Despite his usual nervous, slimy manner, Uriah attempts to play the "gracious" host; however, when Agnes joins them, Mr. Micawber begins to berate the clerk for his trickery. Micawber, in a grandiose manner, proceeds to expose Uriah Heep by reading a detailed account of his crimes against the firm, Mr. Wickfield, and Micawber himself. The proof is quite substantial (a notebook that Uriah thought he had destroyed), yet the cowardly villain admits nothing and merely utters counter threats hoping to deter the proceedings. Mrs. Heep keeps telling her son to be "umble," but Uriah realizes that this will no longer work. In fact, Uriah is quite beside himself when his mother, quite unwittingly, substantiates several of the charges.
When all the facts are made known, Miss Trotwood joins the attack. She seizes Heep by the collar and demands that money which she invested be returned to her (she had previously blamed herself for the loss because she didn't want to hurt Mr. Wickfield's feelings, but now she realizes Uriah was "the consummate villain"). Once David succeeds in calming his aunt, Traddies takes over the matter and tells Uriah that he must make reparations for all his dishonest dealings or be sent to prison.
Quite satisfied with his brilliant performance, Micawber is even further delighted to be reunited with his family. Again he is hopeful that "something will turn up" and he is thrilled when Miss Trotwood suggests that she can "loan" him the funds necessary for him and his family to accompany Mr. Peggotty to Australia. Micawber is certain that it will be just the thing and that "something of an extraordinary nature will turn up on that shore."
Dickens turns to Em'ly's redemption; this can only be realized when she rejects the last symbol of sophistication — that is, her knowledge of foreign languages. Littimer told David that Em'ly picked up the language quite well and had become, to all appearances, a "lady." But now Mr. Peggotty says that "the language of that country was quite gone from her." He says that finally the child of the woman with whom she was staying called her a "fisherman's daughter," and that Em'ly understood and began to cry.
Only then was Em'ly able to begin her journey back home — cured of her "illness." Dora's illness in Chapter 42, in contrast, is treated lightly, although it is obvious that David is deeply troubled about it.
In contrast to the collapse of Uriah Heep, two other characters reach their peak. Mr. Micawber reveals a serious side by his efforts to collect evidence, and a nobleness of character by his willingness to accept poverty rather than continue to live in the deceitful web spun by Uriah Heep. He even succeeds in putting his flowery eloquence to good use in the composition and the delivery of his letter. Traddles is also outstanding in the affair. David is sorry that he didn't recognize his former classmate's true character and capabilities before this.