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David Copperfield, born in England six months after the death of his father, is reared by his mother Clara and Nurse Peggotty. Time passes, and Clara is courted by Mr. Murdstone, a severe and domineering man who ingratiates himself to Clara but whom David and Nurse Peggotty dislike. When Nurse Peggotty takes David on a two-week visit to her family, he is told the story of how Dan Peggotty, the nurse's brother, adopted the orphaned Little Em'ly and her cousin Ham. Upon his return home, David learns that his mother has married Murdstone, and that Murdstone has dismissed Nurse Peggotty and replaced her with his sister Jane. Clara objects to Jane's presence, but Murdstone insists that she stay and scolds her for complaining. He then strikes David for not knowing his school lesson, and locks him in his room. When Clara dies in childbirth, Murdstone sends David to London, where he is to work and live under the supervision of the genial Wilkins Micawber. Micawber, frequently hounded by debt collectors, is soon arrested and put in debtor's prison. David is then placed under the guardianship of his aunt, Betsey Trotwood, who lives in Dover with her cousin, Mr. Dick. After completing his treacherous journey on foot to Dover, David meets his aunt and immediately takes a disliking to her. David is next sent to live with the Wickfields, a wealthy family headed by the alcoholic Mr. Wickfield. Wickfield's obsequious clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives in the house, as does Wickfield's daugther Agnes. Agnes falls in love with David following his return from studying at Canterbury, though he takes little notice of her. David soon realizes that during his absence Heep maneuvered himself into a position of power, and that Micawber is now employed by Heep. David next moves to London, where he intends to seek a job as a writer. In the city, he sees his old friend Steerforth, who accompanies him to the opera, where David meets and falls in love with a pretty girl named Dora. Shortly thereafter, Steerforth elopes to Italy with Em'ly, who had been engaged to Ham. Later, when Ham learns that Steerforth deserted Em'ly in Italy, he searches for her, but dies while attempting to rescue a man, who turns out to be Steerforth, from a capsized yacht. Following the publication of his short stories, David marries Dora, which causes Agnes distress, but the frail and emotional Dora later dies of a strange illness. At the Wickfields', David discovers that Heep has usurped so much power through his knavery, that he has threatened Mr. Wickfield in order to secure his consent to marry Agnes. Through Micawber's efforts, Heep is exposed as a villain in the presence of the Wickfields, Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick. David's attentions then return to Agnes as he asserts his love for her.