78 pages 2 hours read

Charles Dickens

David Copperfield

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1850

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Chapters 30-39Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 30 Summary: “A Loss”

On his way to visit Peggotty, David stops by Mr. Omer’s shop. Mr. Omer tells David that Little Em’ly has seemed unsettled lately, but seems to attribute her unsettled feeling to pre-wedding jitters and anxiety about Mr. Barkis’s sickness. When David inquires about Martha, Mr. Omer reports she has been missing since David’s last visit.

 

The atmosphere at Peggotty’s house is solemn. Mr. Barkis is unconscious and near death. Everyone speaks in whispers, and Little Em’ly trembles with emotion. She behaves oddly, clinging to her uncle and avoiding the gaze of both David and Ham. Her family members believe Mr. Barkis’s soon-to-come death is affecting her, and treat her gently. Ham offers to go home and let Em’ly stay with Peggotty, believing she might need some private time.

 

In his bed-bound state, Mr. Barkis has kept his moneybox with him at all times. When David comes to see Mr. Barkis, Peggotty asks him to speak. David observes, “He was as mute and senseless as the box, from which his form derived the only expression it had” (1,041).

 

Mr. Peggotty remarks that Mr. Barkis is “going out with the tide,” explaining that, “People can’t die, along the coast […] except when the tide’s pretty nigh out” (1,041).

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