Summary and Analysis
David and Agnes have been married for ten years when one night an old man calls on them. It is Mr. Peggotty, who has now returned to England for a brief visit. He tells David how his little band of emigrants have prospered in Australia by raising livestock. Em'ly has had many chances to marry but she has refused them all and is content to stay with her uncle. Martha Endell is married, and even Mrs. Gummidge could have married, but she rejected her suitor rather firmly by hitting him with a bucket. Mr. Micawber has become a noted District Magistrate, and David reads a news account of a dinner in his honor in which the toastmaster was none other than Doctor Mell, David's former teacher.
Mr. Peggotty stays with David for nearly a month and before he leaves he visits Ham's grave. He asks David to copy the plain inscription on the tablet and then he gathers up a tuft of grass from the grave, and a little earth, "for Em'ly."
David looks back on his life and tells the reader about his old friends — almost like a theater curtain call. Aunt Betsey is older, but unchanged, and is cared for by Peggotty. Mr. Dick continues to work on his writing and to fly his kites. Mrs. Steerforth and Rosa Dartle still live together and grieve over their loss. Julia Mills, Dora's old friend, is married to a wealthy Scot and is unhappy. Traddles is a Magistrate and he and Sophy have two boys who are being educated at the best schools and are distinguishing themselves as scholars. Dr. Strong labors on his Dictionary (somewhere around the letter "D"), and Jack Maldon sneers at the world and thinks Doctor Strong "charmingly antique." Justice has won out.
The happiest of all is David. His love for Agnes is complete. "The dear presence, without which I were nothing, bears me company." His only wish is that she will continue to live with him and that when he dies, she will be near him, "pointing upward."
These final two chapters are often called in today's vernacular, the author's anticlimactic "mopping-up" operation. Dickens disposes of all the remaining characters, and we see that his faith remains in the superiority of good and its eventual triumph over evil. This was a dictum that Dickens inserted into every one of his novels.