Society outside prison is critical of Arthur Clennam. He doesn’t make friends within the prison because he is too depressed and keeps to his room. This eventually earns him the scorn of the other prisoners. He is labeled proud, sullen, or lacking in spirit. He begins to change physically.
Ferdinand Barnacle pays him a visit. He is worried the Circumlocution Office was responsible for Arthur’s predicament, but Arthur claims this is not the case. Ferdinand Barnacle claims they sometimes do ruin people unintentionally.
Barnacle explains that the Circumlocution Office exists so things are left alone. You can fill out thousands of forms and never reach the end. The Office exists to block people. He tried to warn Arthur, and tells him not to bother anymore—but he is glad they weren’t the ones that ruined him. Arthur doesn’t see he’ll have the chance now to do anything more, but Ferdinand is more optimistic. He tells Arthur that nobody likes inventions, so there is no point in pursuing Mr. Doyce’s claim.
Barnacle asks if Merdle is responsible for Clennam’s downfall. Arthur admits this is the case. Barnacle can’t help admiring how clever Merdle was. He used the system and knew people so well to be able to do so much harm. Arthur hopes that people will learn from this, but Barnacle claims that people will always be swindled. He tells Arthur he hopes his circumstances improve and leaves.
Mr. Rugg pays Arthur a visit. He tries to talk Arthur into a concession. He tells him public opinion is against him. Arthur refuses to do anything different.
Mr. Rugg has brought a visitor. Arthur agrees to see him. Blandois comes up, followed by John Baptist. Mr. Pancks enters behind them.
Arthur accuses Blandois of putting a suspicion of mjurder on his mother’s house. He tells him he wants her name cleared, and he wants to know the business Blandois was conducting with her. Blandois claims that Mrs. Clennam vexed him in being too calm and too stolid. He thought it would be a great joke to disappear. It caused anxiety all around and emphasized that he was a man to be feared.
Blandois writes a note to Mrs. Clennam, assuring her he is well. He gives Mrs. Clennam a week to agree to or reject his proposition. He asks her to pay for his lodgings. Arthur asks Baptist to deliver the letter, but Mr. Pancks winds up delivering it when the other man refuses to leave.
Arthur is upset, feeling powerless to help his mother now that he is locked up.
Blandois comments on how lovely Mrs. Gowan was. He reveals that Miss Wade hired him to spy on the Gowans, to give a report on Mrs. Gowan in particular. He tells Arthur he is aware that he wrote to Mrs. Gowan.
Mr. Pancks returns with Mr. Flintwinch, who hands Arthur a letter from his mother. She tells him that it is enough he is ruined and to stay out of it. She wants Mr. Flintwinch to represent her.
Mrs. Clennam agrees to Blandois’ demand. Blandois orders Baptist to come and serve him.
Arthur feels more depressed after everyone leaves.