Dombey and Son Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 94 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Dombey and Son.
This section contains 794 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Dombey and Son Summary & Study Guide Description

Dombey and Son Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. Penguin Books, 1848, 2002.

Dombey and Son is a Victorian realist novel told told by an omniscient, third person narrator in the past tense. Mr. Paul Dombey is a prominent, wealthy businessman and the owner of Dombey and Son. He is cold, arrogant, and obsessed with money and status. He is thrilled when his wife, Fanny, gives birth to a son, Paul, but only because he believes that his son will work with him someday like he did with his father. Soon after Paul’s birth, Fanny dies. Dombey provides no comfort or support for his bereaved six year old daughter, Florence, who longs for his love and affection. He hires a wet nurse for Paul and waits for him to grow old enough to being working at the firm. Paul grows into a delicate, sickly child, though he is loved and cared for by Florence and his nurses. Florence continues to yearn for her father’s love, though he grows jealous and resentful of her relationship to Paul. This relationship suffers even more when little Paul dies. Dombey wishes and prays that fate had taken Florence instead of Paul.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Walter Gay, a young man who works a lowly job at Dombey and Son and lives with his Uncle Sol, a nautical instrument maker. Together with Sol’s friend Captain Cuttle, the three have a lively and loving homelife where Walter dreams of marrying the lovely Florence Dombey and having sea adventures. Walter and Florence meet and quickly become friends. One day, after one of his employees in the West Indies dies, Dombey decides to send Walter in his place. Uncle Sol, Captain Cuttle, and Florence are all devastated. Everyone tries to be brave and hope for the best, but when Walter’s ship is lost at sea, Cuttle and Florence despair. Sol, however, decides to travel to the West Indies to look for Walter, leaving his shop to his friend, Captain Cuttle while he is gone.

Years pass and Dombey meets a young woman and decides to propose. Edith Granger is beautiful, accomplished, and extremely arrogant and prideful, all qualities that Dombey believes will bring honor to his house and name. Edith's mother pressures her to accept his proposal, as her highest ambition for her daughter is to find her a wealthy husband. Edith accepts but is angry and resentful and refuses to hide it. Florence, on the other hand, is thrilled to have a new mother and they take to each other right away. The marriage quickly sours, though, when Dombey realizes that Edith will not bow to his will. After two years, Edith leaves Dombey for his trusted (but treacherous) assistant, James Carker. Dombey is enraged. He hits Florence and kicks her out of the house and goes in search of Carker in order to murder him. However, Carker is hit by a train before Dombey can reach him. Moreover, Edith had no intention of continuing an affair with Carker, whom she hated, and planned the elopement to humiliate and ruin both Dombey and Carker. Florence flees her home and is taken in by Captain Cuttle who cares for her as kindly and as honorably as he can manage.

After Carker’s death, Dombey’s business quickly goes downhill. Carker had been hiding losses from Dombey and overspending to flatter his vanity. When he refuses to acknowledge the real state of his business affairs, the firm goes bankrupt, and Dombey is ruined.

Around this same time, Walter Gay miraculously returns home and soon afterward, Uncle Sol returns too. Walter was shipwrecked but managed to survive and work his way back to England aboard merchant ships. By proving his value aboard these ships, he earned a promising position in another shipping company. Florence and Walter reconnect and after some confusion, discover that they both love each other. Florence proposes, they marry, and board another ship for China.

Dombey is left alone and penniless. He has nothing left but an empty house. He spends his days repenting for the way he treated his precious, kind, loving daughter, Florence. When she returns from her voyage, she goes to her father immediately and begs forgiveness. He, however, begs her for her forgiveness and they begin a new relationship. Dombey moves to Florence and Walter’s house, dotes on their young son, Paul, and becomes friends with Captain Cuttle, Uncle Sol, and various other of Florence and Walter’s kind and humble friends. Dombey continues to live with Florence and her growing son, whom he loves dearly, repenting until the end for his treatment of Florence when she was a child.

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