Henry Gowan is an unhappy man. He rejected his family, who were in a position to help him, but he lacks the qualifications to be promoted by another power. He resents the success of others. He became a careless and idle individual. He wishes to bring the powerful down while promoting the undeserved.
He continuously reminds people that he married beneath his station. He uses this as proof to Minnie that he loves her.
Mr. Blandois accompanied them to Venice and spends a lot of time with Mr. Gowan. Mr. Gowan had been deciding whether he liked or disliked Blandois when they met him in Geneva. Minnie expressed a definite dislike of the man, and so Henry decided to befriend him. He wanted to assert his independence after her father paid his debts. Feeling inferior, he likes impressing Blandois—whom he feels superior to.
Amy wanted to see Mrs. Gowan privately, but Fanny insists on coming along--still stinging from her uncle’s accusation.
Fanny does the initial talking, mentioning how she heard that the Gowans knew the Merdles. Pet says they are Henry’s friends whom she has not yet met. Fanny feels superior in having met Mrs. Merdle.
Amy inquires after Minnie’s health. Pet replies that she has recovered, but Amy senses something amiss. Pet comments how Henry admires Little Dorrit because she is so quiet and resourceful. Amy humbly replies that he is embellishing her qualities.
Minnie calls out to her husband to see Amy, who recoils when she sees Blandois in the studio. Henry explains that Blandois is modeling for him. He notices Amy’s fear and assumes it is due to the dog she has been petting, who has started to growl at Blandois. Henry chokes the dog and restrains it, accusing Blandois of provoking it. He orders the man to leave, then hits the dog until its mouth bleeds. The women are alarmed. Henry goes to punish the dog further, but Amy interferes.
Amy thinks how Henry doesn’t realize the depth of his wife’s emotions and wonders how much depth he has. Gowan joins Blandois, leaving the girls alone. The Dorrits take their leave. Fanny becomes more showy as if she is trying to impress somebody. She points out Mr. Sparkler, who is following them in another gondola.
Fanny laughs at what a stupid fool he is. Young Sparkler seems obsessed with her. Amy wonders why he hasn’t called on Fanny, who thinks he is working up the courage to do so. Fanny admits she will see him. Mrs. Merdle has decided to pretend that she never knew the Dorrit girls. She is probably trying to convince her son to play that game too.
Fanny plans to play the game to prove her worth. She plans to enslave Sparkler and his mother. She doesn’t know how far she will take it yet. Amy has her doubts but doesn’t say anything, worried about losing her sister’s favor.
While trying to greet the ladies standing up in his gondola, Mr. Sparkler falls down. Fanny inquires after him, pretending she doesn’t know him. Mr. Sparkler reminds her of meeting her in Martigny, and Fanny inquires after his mother. Mr. Sparkler says that his mother is in Rome. He has come to call on Edward and his father.
Mr. Dorrit invites Sparkler to dinner and to escort his daughters to the opera later. He wishes he had thought to invite the Gowans as well. Mr. Dorrit wishes to patronize Mr. Gowan’s art and to hire him to do portraits of the family.
Fanny’s enthusiasm for the idea makes Sparkler jealous, thinking she admires Mr. Gowan. At the opera, Fanny sees the Gowans and talks about them—wetting Mr. Sparkler’s jealousy more while encouraging him enough to make him devoted to her.
They talk to Mr. Blandois afterwards, who informs them that someone poisoned Henry’s dog.