Rosnani Abd Rahman
This Writting is to identify or analyze the description and form of the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
David Copperfield, (full title: The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account). is the eighth novel by Charles Dickens. It was first published as a serial 1849–50, and as a book in 1850. Many elements of the novel follow events in Dickens' own life, and it is probably the most autobiographical of his novels. In the preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens wrote, "like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.
B. OBJECTIVE AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Since David Copper Field is an allegory which delivers meanings beneath the novel, the paper is then going to prove that this story suggest The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. In addition, for the scope of the study, this paper focuses merely on the suggestive meanings of the three main characters in order to put across those ideas in relation to the story of life David Copper Field.
C. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
What the story life does each of three main characters in David Copper Field represent?
D. THEORETICAL APPROACH
The approach applied here is dynamic structuralism as proposed by Mukarovsky that placed great emphasis on the dynamic tension between literature and society in the artistic product ( Selden, 1986). Structuralism also views literature as a dynamic system that changes and shifts from time to time. Therefore, this approach can include biographical sketch of the author and social setting as background of knowledge.
E. METHOD OF RESEARCH
Library research is employed in this paper using the novel David Copper Field as a main book to discuss.
This paper is divided into four chapters. It is command with introduction that comprises initial information as a guideline to focus on the discussion presented in the following chapters. To give more directive descriptions of what analysis is about to present, biographical sketch of the author and social background of the story are taken into account. The analysis covers further explanation towards the findings gained by narrating specific characteristics, for example instinct, that are interwoven in the story in terms of American Romanticism. The conclusion gives brief but dense statements on behalf of revealed theme unearthed in the story.
A. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF CHARLES DICKENS
Charles John Huffam Dickens 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms. Dickens's literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication.The instalment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience's reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback. For example, when his wife's chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens improved the character with positive features.His plots were carefully constructed, and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives.Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha'pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.
B. SOCIAL BACKGROUND OF THE STORY
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, and spent the first ten years of his life in Kent, a marshy region by the sea in the east of England. Dickens was the second of eight children. His father, John Dickens, was a kind and likable man, but his financial irresponsibility placed him in enormous debt and caused tremendous strain on his family. When Charles was ten, his family moved to London. Two years later, his father was arrested and thrown in debtors’ prison. Dickens’s mother moved into the prison with seven of her children. Only Charles lived outside the prison in order to earn money for the struggling family. He worked with other children for three months pasting labels on bottles in a blacking warehouse, where the substance people used to make boots black was manufactured. His experiences at this warehouse inspired passages in David Copperfield. After an inheritance gave John Dickens enough money to free himself from his debt and from prison, Charles attended school for two years at Wellington House Academy. He became a law clerk, then a newspaper reporter, and finally a novelist. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837), met with huge popular success. Dickens was a literary celebrity throughout England for the rest of his life.
In 1849, Dickens began to write David Copperfield, a novel based on his early life experiences. Like Dickens, David works as a child, pasting labels onto bottles. David also becomes first a law clerk, then a reporter, and finally a successful novelist. Mr. Micawber is a satirical version of Dickens’s father, a likable man who can never scrape together the money he needs. Many of the secondary characters spring from Dickens’s experiences as a young man in financial distress in London.
In later years, Dickens called David Copperfield his “favourite child,” and many critics consider the novel to be one of his best depictions of childhood. Dickens’s other works include Oliver Twist (1837–1839), Nicholas Nickelby (1838–1839), and A Christmas Carol (1843). Perhaps his best known novel, Great Expectations (1860–1861) shares many thematic similarities with David Copperfield. Dickens died in Kent on June 9, 1870, at the age of fifty-eight.
David Copperfield is set in early Victorian England against a backdrop of great social change. The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had transformed the social landscape and enabled capitalists and manufacturers to amass huge fortunes. Although the Industrial Revolution increased social mobility, the gap between rich and poor remained wide. London, a teeming mass of humanity lit by gas lamps at night and darkened by sooty clouds from smokestacks during the day, rose in dark contrast to Britain’s sparsely populated rural areas. More and more people moved from the country to the city in search of the opportunities that technological innovation promised. But this migration overpopulated the already crowded cities, and poverty, disease, hazardous factory conditions, and ramshackle housing became widespread. Dickens acutely observed these phenomena of the Industrial Revolution and used them as the canvas on which he painted David Copperfield and his other urban novels.
The Story Life in Three Main Characters of David Copper Field
A. THE CHARACTERS OF THE DAVID COPPER FIELD
Before analyzing of what philosophies discussed in, three main characters of David Copper Field are worth introducing as an important matter to give a better understanding toward what actually each character stands for. For the reason that David Copper Field is an allegory, readers should therefore find meanings hidden within the novel through those three main characters that are as follows:
● David Copperfield : The protagonist and narrator of the novel. David is innocent, trusting, and naïve even though he suffers abuse as a child. He is idealistic and impulsive and remains honest and loving. Though David’s troubled childhood renders him sympathetic, he is not perfect. He often exhibits chauvinistic attitudes toward the lower classes. In some instances, foolhardy decisions mar David’s good intentions.
●Agnes Wickfield : David’s true love and second wife, the daughter of Mr. Wickfield. The calm and gentle Agnes admires her father and David. She suffers patiently through David’s other romances, and although she loves David, she is not overcome by jealousy. Agnes always comforts David with kind words or advice when he needs support.
●James Steerforth : A condescending, self-centered villain. From his boyhood, Steerforth possesses a restless energy that he can neither satisfy nor divert. He charms both women and men for the feeling of power it gives him. He also abuses David, although David is too enraptured with him and too grateful for his patronage to notice.
●Clara Peggotty : David’s nanny and caretaker. Peggotty is gentle and selfless, opening herself and her family to David whenever he is in need. She is faithful to David and his family all her life, never abandoning David, his mother, or Miss Betsey. In her kind motherliness, Peggotty contrasts with the cruel and unloving Miss Murdstone.
●Little Em’ly : Peggotty’s unfaithful niece, who is sweet but also coy and vain. Little Em’ly’s desire to be a lady causes her to disgrace herself by running away from her family.
●Uriah Heep : A two-faced, conniving villain who puts on a false show of humility and meekness to disguise his evil intentions. Uriah is motivated by his belief that the world owes him something for all the humiliations he suffered as a young man. Ultimately, Uriah’s veneer of humility proves as empty as his morals.
●Miss Betsey Trotwood - David’s eccentric, kind-hearted aunt. Although Miss Betsey’s intentions are mysterious at the beginning of the novel, her generosity toward David soon becomes clear, and she acts as David’s second mother.
●Dora Spenlow - David’s first wife and first real love. Dora is foolish and giddy, more interested in playing with her dog, Jip, than in keeping house with David. Because David cannot bear to displease Dora, he permits her to retain the pouty habits of a spoiled child.
●Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins Micawber - An unlucky couple crippled by constantly precarious finances. Although Mr. Micawber never succeeds at supporting his own family, he is generous and industrious in serving others. Mrs. Micawber stands by her husband despite his flaws and regardless of the hardships they suffer.
●Tommy Traddles - Young David’s simple, goodhearted schoolmate. Traddles works hard but faces great obstacles because of his lack of money and connections. He eventually succeeds in making a name and a career for himself.
●Clara Copperfield - David’s mother. The kind, generous, and goodhearted Clara embodies maternal caring until her death, which occurs early in the novel. David remembers his mother as an angel whose independent spirit was destroyed by Mr. Murdstone’s cruelty.
●Mr. Edward Murdstone and Miss Jane Murdstone - The cruel second husband of David’s mother, and Murdstone’s sister. The Murdstones are strict and brutal not only toward David, but to his mother as well. Together, they crush David’s mother’s spirit.
●Mrs. Steerforth and Rosa Dartle - Steerforth’s mother and her ward, the orphan child of her husband’s cousin. Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle are cruel and bitter toward the world and also haughty and proud, as evidenced by their overwhelming fondness for Steerforth and their disdain of David.
●Mr. Peggotty, Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge - The simple relatives of David’s nurse, Clara Peggotty. Mr. Peggotty, Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge represent the virtues of simple people. Mr. Peggotty and Ham are sailors, Mrs. Gummidge a sailor’s widow. They are devoted and loving to each other and David.
●Doctor Strong and Annie Strong - A man and woman who exemplify the best of married life. Doctor Strong and Annie are faithful and selfless, each concerned more about the other than about himself or herself. Their deep love for each other enables them to survive Uriah’s attempts to disrupt their bliss.
B. THE STORY LIFE DOES EACH OF EACH OF THREE MAIN CHARACTERS IN DAVID COPPER FIELD.
The start of the first chapter foreshadows the morose tone of the rest of the novel. According to narrative convention, it is obvious that David’s life will be full of sadness and misfortune because a nurse has predicted it. At the same time, being born with a caul is a symbol of good fortune. One relevant belief is that babies born with a caul are safe from drowning, a very prevalent form of death in this novel. Cauls are also said to indicate psychic ability, although, as David mentions, he has yet to see any such thing.
In the beginning chapters, David is setting a standard of true happiness. He finds his childhood to be the time of his fondest memories, as can be seen by the beautiful scenes with him, his mother, and Peggotty sitting and laughing by the fire. David Copperfield is often read as a narrative on the pursuit of happiness; in this reading, these childhood memories can be seen as constituting the kind of true happiness David seeks to recover throughout the novel after he loses it to his mother's marriage to the dark, controlling Mr. Murdstone. This happiness is characterized by love, family, freedom from care, comfortable leisure, and wonder (reading the book about crocodiles).
It is also clear from these beginning chapters that Dickens does not think very highly of fathers, or he at least shows resentment about his own father. He portrays the family in a bright, happy way when there is no father figure present. As soon as Mr. Murdstone steps in as a stepfather, however, things become awful in Blunderstone Rookery.
Mr. Murdstone does not represent fathers or males in general, however; Mr. Murdstone is uncharacteristically distasteful and controlling in the family. With Jane, he usurps power in the household and leaves David’s own mother with practically no power or rights in the house. Murdstone’s name suggests his muddy, crappy (merde) personality and his stone-cold treatment of Clara, unlike a father and husband in a truly happy family. It is no wonder that he causes stress and anxiety in David’s life, and when he goes too far, no wonder that David fights back. David’s severe and prolonged punishment, seclusion and then banishment to a boarding school, is another example of Mudstone’s personal failures as a father figure.
Even so, Dickens suggests that there is something wrong with a society in which children who are deemed to be problems can be swept away into a boarding school and forced to wear signs warning others to beware. The warning that David “bites” is a stigma much like that of the “A” worn by the adulteress in The Scarlet Letter.
Another interesting instance of foreshadowing can be found in David and Peggotty's visit to Yarmouth. It is there that readers first see the ocean and, through the stories of Ham, Little Em'ly, and Mrs. Grummidge, are introduced to drowning, a mode of death that will become prominent throughout the rest of the novel.
Finally, it is important to look at how David handles the anticipation of the arrival of the other boys to Salem House. He is particularly concerned about his sign; he will need allies against teasing. David will immediately pick out Steerforth as one of the strong ones, foreshadowing the control and respect that Steerforth will command throughout the novel. David has been thrust into an unfamiliar world, and his anticipation shows that the way his first extended stay away from home develops will either give him hope or push him to a point of despair from which he may not recover.
One thing that is very interesting to observe during David's stay at boarding school is his intense admiration of James Steerforth. Steerforth does not do anything to merit this respect; in fact, he steals David's money by tricking him into thinking that he will keep it for him, then having it spent on food for everyone. Steerforth also is cruel towards Mr. Mell, who has been the nicest to David of everyone in the school, and has such a strong personality that even Mr. Creakle apparently does not strike him. Steerforth’s name suggests his ability to lead or “steer forth,” particularly in terms of leading David.
If it is difficult to understand why David, and even Mr. Peggotty and Ham, admire Steerforth so much, it is helpful to see the situation in terms of social status. His obviously high class background, as well as the confidence and arrogance that Steerforth exudes, tend to awe people like David, Mr. Peggotty, and Ham. His status draws admiration. This class separation is also what somehow permits Steerforth's cruel treatment of Mr. Mell and what allows David to forgive this behavior so quickly.
Another major part of these chapters emotionally is the abusive marriage of David's mother and Mr. Murdstone. Although readers may blame Clara for not protecting her son more, it is hard not to sympathize with her. Readers can now see just what Mr. Murdstone and his sister have done to the poor woman. She is no longer joyous and carefree but is instead constantly afraid and beaten down. They have convinced her that she is in need of so much change and that she is so weak that it is rude to challenge their authority and decisions. She resists but only weakly and out of motherly instinct; the only time that she can be affectionate with her son is when the Murdstones have left for the day. Her only true support is Peggotty, who sticks with her until the very end, acting as a mother figure and taking care of both Clara and David. That Clara is motionless in David’s last memory of her is a symbol of her loss of power, autonomy, and self. As for David, he has been replaced by the new baby, and now to the Murdstones he is just in the way.
Peggotty's marriage to Mr. Barkis also produces mixed feelings for David if not also for readers. Although it is good that she has found a good, loyal husband, it is easy to sense that this will not bode well for David. Her attention has shifted away from David, too. David wholeheartedly gives his blessings to Peggotty, but he knows that this now means that he will not have Peggotty there all of the time like he did before. Hope remains, and as usual, there is an advantage in the situation for David. This marriage, which will lead to the departure of Peggotty and even to a degree the death of David's mother, are spurs to David's independence, whether he is ready for it or not, and his maturation.
His independence is forced upon him by his mother’s death and then his assignment to Mr. Quinion. Like an adult, David must work to eat. He is not entirely on his own in this social system, however, for some of his expenses are paid by Murdstone and there is some expectation that Quinion’s counting house will contribute to his development.
At this point, however, it is quite evident how innocent and naive David still is. He has unquestioning admiration of Steerforth, and Dickens has done a wonderful job of presenting David’s memories as those of a child. David also has much to learn about romantic relationships, not having much to go on except Peggotty’s newfound love as a model of a successful relationship. His interactions with Little Em'ly are childlike. He expects everything to be the same as they were so long ago, not realizing that Little Em'ly has grown up into a young lady, albeit a somewhat spoiled one. David has to learn quickly that she is no longer the little girl she was. David may not be ready to venture into the world on his own, but he is going anyway.
The subject of social class and standing comes up once again as David begins his work in the warehouse. He is extremely unhappy with his situation because he is no longer surrounded by highly educated and cultured people like his teachers or even like Steerforth. We also see this longing for higher social status through Mr. Micawber, who David says goes to great lengths to appear high class, although he and his family are constantly in financial trouble and do not hide it from David.
This warehouse portion of David's life is based on the time when Dickens himself worked in a warehouse called Warren's Blacking Factory. To Dickens, this was one of the most humiliating and miserable experiences of his life, and he always resented his parents for taking him out of school and making him work. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Micawber may be caricatures of Dickens' own parents, for they both display traits that his parents are believed to have had.
Nevertheless, the Micawbers decide to move to London, beginning the series of frequent moves that they will undertake throughout the novel. David is buffeted from one place to another by circumstances. He follows along with them at first, but soon he realizes that he needs to escape once again. Taking matters into his own hands for the first time to visit his aunt, David shows his greater independence. He remains naïve, though, losing his possessions through theft and bad deals. There are few people worthy of trust in David’s world, which continues to be full of hardship and adversity.
The first ray of hope in this period came when Peggotty supported his escape to Betsey. This hope is vindicated when he is received by his aunt so hospitably. This gives readers further insight into her character and softens her, countering the harsh exit described in the first chapter. We get to know her even better after her encounter with the Murdstones, finding her to be a strong female figure, not at all intimidated by the forbidding appearance of Mrs. Murdstone and her brother. She seems trustworthy as a good protector of David. By the end of this period, Miss Betsey has proven to be a loving and independent woman. Her female empowerment is far in advance of what David has, and it should be seen as an attempt to help him that Betsey sends him off to school once again. This time, he is being sent as a good, developing young man rather than as a troublemaking biter.
Readers also meet Mr. Dick in this section. The fact that Miss Betsey asks for his opinion on whether or not David should stay reveals just how much she values his thoughts, despite his brother’s attempt to institutionalize him. We can certainly see the difference between the vile, conniving Mr. Murdstone and the sweet, simple Mr. Dick, who is a strong and friendly supporter of David’s development, as revealed by his answer to Miss Betsey's question: "Mr. Dick considered, hesitated, brightened, and rejoined, 'Have him measured for a suit of clothes directly.'"
In Chapter 15 we are introduced to some very important characters: Uriah Heep and Agnes Wickfield. Plenty of foreshadowing is used to hint that Uriah will play an evil role to come, with references to his "red hair" (a traditional symbol of fiery evil) and his "slimy" appearance. He hides behind a facade of humility. Agnes, on the other hand, is beautiful, quiet, and already acquainted with household chores. She is seemingly the epitome of the perfect Victorian woman.
In Chapter 16 the readers are introduced to Dr. Strong and Annie, his much younger wife. Dr. Strong is an extremely kind, trusting person and deeply in love with his young, beautiful wife. But we begin to wonder if Dr. Strong is much too trusting for his own good when we see the character of Jack Maldon. Maldon's character does not have much depth, but we do see that he is clearly in love with Annie and is attempting to seduce her into having an affair with him. Luckily for Dr. Strong, Maldon leaves for a job. However, this is not the last that we will see of him, and Dr. Strong's trustworthiness will be called into question once more.
David's love of education and learning also becomes apparent in these chapters. This is likely a reflection of Dickens' own belief in the importance of a good liberal education. Education helps a person understand the world and rise in society. David quickly rises to the top of his class despite the fact that he was behind to begin with. He even falls in love twice along the way, and this is part of his education into maturity as well. Thus, this education is portrayed as a very positive part of David's life.
On the negative side, Uriah Heep is still in the picture, continuing to irritate David with his sliminess and writhing. Foreshadowing continues to hint that Heep has some evil deeds to come. We learn even more from the tea party to which David is invited, during which Uriah and his mother ask uncomfortable questions about the Wickfields' financial situation. This hints at Heep's enormous greed and desire for wealth, which will certainly come back into play later in the novel.
In addition, we see Dickens' attention to social class once more with the reintroduction of Steerforth. His characteristic arrogance is still in place, and he gives David the nickname "Daisy" to mock his naiveté. David does not quite pick up on this slight. Something else about Steerforth is noteworthy here: David is extremely bothered by the scar on Rosa Dartle's lip, which was caused by Steerforth's rage. The tale of the scar presents a whole new side of Steerforth which David had never considered. It shows that Steerforth is capable of being uncontrolled when angry, a trait that does not mesh with the classiness that David had associated with high social standing. This revelation is enough to give David pause, but it is not enough to separate Steerforth from David.
Finally, the selling of David's childhood home, Blunderstone Rookery, by the Murdstones symbolizes the end of that part of David's life. He has been getting a good education, he now lives in a healthy atmosphere, he has loving mentors, and he has even started having more or less serious relationships. By this time he has fully separated himself from the Murdstones. Thus it is appropriate that the house be sold to symbolize the end of the troubles associated with the Murdstones.
These chapters are very important for the development of Steerforth's character. Until now, we have mainly seen his cool, collected demeanor as well as his haughtiness, with only Rosa Dartle's scar hinting at a darker side. Now, however, we see that Steerforth is much more troubled than he normally lets on. He obviously has missed the father whom he never had, even envying Ham, a man of a much lower class than himself, for having Mr. Peggotty in his life. The degree of his despair and envy indicates that he is much more affected by this lack than he has shared before.
Steerforth also shows his soft side when he becomes enamored with Emily and feels upset that she is engaged to Ham. Still, he denies it as first. His feelings for her seem to continue to grow in intensity as time goes on, for his moodiness becomes more and more pronounced. Steerforth's moodiness may also be related to the difficulties of feeling attracted to a girl of such a low class. In any case, we will see later that class distinctions do not stop him from going after what he wants.
The reintroduction of Emily reveals how much she has changed since we last left her. She has fallen victim to the desire of climbing the social hierarchy, and this yearning of hers to become a "lady" has turned the other girls of the town against her. This could indicate that, having been intoxicated by her desire for social status, Emily has developed some of the haughtiness that characterizes Steerforth. Perhaps she is failing to realize just how lucky she is to marry a man as loving as Ham. It is becoming clear that her engagement is on rocky ground.
It is also here that Agnes becomes characterized as David's "good angel," with Steerforth somewhat predictably his "bad angel." David feels quite embarrassed after running into her while drunk, which has brought questions of morality and continence to the fore. The extent of his humiliation in being found drunk reveals to us just how much esteem sweet Agnes holds in David's mind and how much David aspires to be seen as good. She has enough sway over him to shake his faith in Steerforth, who is sometimes the agent of his troubles.
Uriah's character continues to make David more and more uncomfortable, and Uriah begins implementing his malicious plans by forcing Mr. Wickfield into partnership with him. His revelation that he intends to marry Agnes simply adds to his repulsiveness. We will see Uriah will become a larger and larger presence within the novel.
Finally, note how frequently people visit one another’s homes. A good idea for analyzing the interpersonal dynamics in this section is to consider what kinds of events seem comfortable or uncomfortable, appropriate or not, given different groups of people in different homes. The presence of certain people tends to shape the tenor of the conversation.
David's relationship with the childlike Dora begins in these chapters. It is a very interesting period of David's life. For her part, Dora is a very free spirit who has been pampered by her aunts and her father her entire life. In many ways, she is very similar to David's mother. Her dog's name, Jip, is short for Gypsy, the paragon of a free soul. David realizes that Dora may not be the best choice for him in terms of commitment and marriage, but he has fallen madly in love with her. Thus, we see David's "undisciplined heart."
In addition, the Micawbers reappear once again, alongside David's childhood friend Traddles. The Micawbers, happy but still in financial straits, have been forced to borrow money from Traddles and reveal to David that they may not be able to pay him back. This signals the continuation of the Micawbers' unfortunate patterns and possibly another move in the future. Traddles may have made a mistake in helping them. Like David, he is another very simple, kind person getting a good education. Traddles' character is another indication of Dickens' appreciation and reverence for people with a childlike demeanor. Indeed, Traddles has remained likable from the beginning.
David's time with Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle gives more insight into Steerforth's character because this time reveals the environment in which Steerforth grew up. Mrs. Steerforth’s refusal to place the blame on her son for his own disappearance indicates her slightly skewed perception of reality and her idealistic view of her son, perhaps like most mothers with respect to their children. Miss Dartle's very negative opinion that David was the cause of Steerforth's disappearance, for her part, reflects her own negative spirit. It is easier to understand the cause of Steerforth's internal troubles after seeing the role models he had growing up. Note also the strong foreshadowing when Steerforth asks David to remember him at his best, together with David's last image of him as asleep.
More foreshadowing occurs when Mr. Omer tells David that Little Emily is not acting like herself. Her unsettled and unsatisfied demeanor indicates that she wants something more and that she will not be happy until she gets it. A very big hint about the next part of Emily’s story involves the news that her friend Martha has gone missing. Martha, obviously distressed, went to Emily for help, and there is no sign of Martha but Emily is looking distraught.
The negative tone of these chapters (with the significant exception of David’s hopes for love, by no means sure) is reinforced with the death of Mr. Barkis. Death is in the air, and this death in particular leaves Peggotty in the role of the single, strong woman once again. He was a wonderful husband to her, and he even left her some money. Despite the very negative situation, Peggotty will prove to be strong enough to push through this trial. In the face of adversity, she will deserve admiration for her strength and prove herself a good example of female empowerment.
Emily’s disappearance with Steerforth is one of the most significant events in the novel. She has given up her stable, peaceful life with a loving fiancé. Apparently she is attempting to increase her status and become a lady.
The differences in the reactions of the two affected families reveal the moral differences between the two. None of the Peggottys, not even Ham, blames David or even Emily for the disappearance. The Steerforths, however, refuse to place even a little blame on their own son, instead blaming David and Emily for almost everything.
Miss Mowcher adds an interesting angle to the situation. As a rather unattractive and abnormally short person, she does not have the beauty that other characters such as Steerforth possess. This situation makes it even easier to dislike her for passing that note to Emily. Miss Mowcher shows true remorse, however, and this episode reveals her gentle soul.
On the positive side, we again have David’s and Dora’s relationship, which advances to the next level during these chapters. Their getting engaged represents another step towards happiness in David’s life. He even interrupts his story, looking back, to say how happy he was during that time of his life. Sadly, he foreshadows the unhappy ending of that marriage by saying how much it hurts him to remember it. That is, despite the happiness he felt, the older David continues to recognize his undisciplined heart. Perhaps he should have taken to heart the warnings of Miss Betsey that their relationship was pointless. The younger David simply chooses to ignore such warnings, instead focusing on how happy he feels with his fiancée.
David tells Agnes the news as soon as he is engaged, and the younger David is troubled by bittersweet memories as well. The fact that her memory brings him to tears shows just how much he cares for her, although he has not realized the extent of his feelings for her yet. Soon, she continues to care for him by comforting him upon hearing of the financial troubles of his aunt and by suggesting a job for him with Dr. Strong. But her news that the Heeps have moved in with her and her father is very unsettling, showing the growing strength of Uriah’s character.
For his part, Traddles is back once more with his fiancée. This is another indication of just how happy and content his character is. Due to his engagement, he has become more financially responsible, at least in that he stops lending money to the Micawbers. Such investments in them, everybody ought to know by now, are for nought. The Micawbers are in such dire straits that they have had to change their last name. This name change is more than just an escape from creditors and an indication that they are running away from their problems; it is also a symbol of their becoming further distanced from reality.
David remains enamored with Dora and works very hard in order to be able to provide for her. He is cognizant of his undisciplined heart, and he ought to know that she is not ready to maintain a household or to live a life that is less than luxurious. That much can be seen by her hysterical reaction to David’s newfound poverty. Yet, he is refusing to acknowledge the inherent problems in their relationship, still in the honeymoon period of love and marriage.
David’s memories of his marriage to Dora are so beautiful that it is impossible to doubt that he is truly in love with her. Dora’s childish mind is further revealed by the fact that everyone, including David, is scared to treat her normally for fear of hurting or scaring her. Her childlike devotion to David and juvenile wishing that she could be a better wife make her character endearing. She is easy to love, and it is not so surprising that David is so madly in love with her. Despite the fact that his "child-wife" is too much like a doll to perform any of the typical duties of a Victorian housewife, he deeply loves her. This romantic marriage could be Dickens’ way of reminding readers that the happiness of a marriage does not solely depend on the domestic skills of the wife, providing a way for wives to break out of the traditional Victorian mold.
Meanwhile, David is enjoying his employment with Dr. Strong. Dickens again uses foreshadowing when Jack Maldon returns once more to take Annie to the opera. Trouble with that relationship is on the horizon again, although Dr. Strong seems too trusting to see anything coming.
As the signs in previous chapters correctly suggested, the Micawbers’ situation has become so dire that they must move on again. That Mr. Micawber must take a job under Uriah must feel especially unsettling. This circumstance reveals that Uriah’s character is becoming stronger and stronger; he now can hire someone to work under him. Mr. Micawber’s relationship with David changes after the move as well, suggesting that Uriah has corrupted him.
Uriah’s character becomes even more sinister after David finds out that he had Mrs. Heep follow David and Agnes while they were talking. He has even gained the courage to tell Mr. Wickfield to his face that he is intending to marry Agnes, still maintaining the facade of humility. All of this makes clear that Uriah’s inevitable betrayal is coming in the near future.
More foreshadowing occurs when Dora meets Agnes and wonders how David could ever love her with Agnes around. So long as David is enamored with his child-wife, he will be blind to the feelings that remain for his childhood friend. Importantly, however, he feels very relieved to find out that she has no plans to marry Uriah in the future. This does not mean, however, that Uriah is becoming any less influential.
As for Mr. Micawber, according to a letter from Mrs. Micawber, he has become evil and greedy while working for Uriah. This change is completely out of character. Furthermore, Uriah willingly decides to cause trouble between Dr. Strong and Annie by bringing up the issue with Jack Maldon, forcing David and Mr. Wickfield to reveal their doubts about Annie. Throughout the entire charade, he keeps his mask of innocence and piety, even forgiving David for hitting him. Indeed, it becomes clear that Uriah has become dangerously bold and influential.
Finally, the Strong marriage is saved by Mr. Dick, whose simple mind is able to remind the couple just how much they love each other. By designing this entire situation, Dickens has not only revealed Uriah’s increasing power, but he has also shown again how beneficial a childlike mind can be. David’s confused emotions upon seeing Annie’s emotional outburst could be a combination of the joy of seeing the couple back together and apprehension or surprise that Uriah Heep was so able to hurt someone.
The cruelty of Miss Dartle, both at the beginning and at the end of this section, is astonishing. She is taking her rage out on David and Emily while still refusing to acknowledge that her cousin Steerforth was probably the most to blame. Her cruelty is mirrored in Steerforth, who had no problems abandoning the girl whom he had convinced to run away with him. Emily, according to Littimer, apparently was becoming a lady, learning to communicate easily and being admired wherever she went, although it is not clear how trustworthy Littimer’s account is, given his feelings in the matter. Mrs. Steerforth, in contrast to Miss Dartle, has finally begun to accept that Steerforth is not the perfect son that she imagined him to be.
The direction of the novel appears to be changing in this section. David and Mr. Peggotty find Martha, and Emily is found not long afterward. Indeed, the ability of David and Mr. Peggotty to find Martha and save her from the brink of death foreshadows their discovery of Emily and their ability to pull Emily back from the edge of emotional despair. Sure enough, they rescue her from the raging clutches of Miss Dartle. Who alerted her so that she managed to beat David to her hideout?
Readers finally see a weak side of Miss Betsey when David finds her conversing with a stranger in the garden. This man, her ex-husband, causes her to break down in tears. This is the first real sign of weakness that we have seen in this woman. Moreover, it is revealed that she has endured extortion from him for a long time.
By now, however, Dickens has made Miss Betsey so beloved that we might see her ability to keep this secret as a matter of strength. Still, her husband’s manipulation is strongly repulsive, and we are led to want to see justice for her against her husband. Miss Betsey was doing fine on her own. She has no need for a man in her life, and the man who is in her life, usually at arm’s length, makes her life much worse instead of better.
This relationship provides a strong contrast to the feelings that David and Dora had at the beginning, but we see the stresses in this marriage and wonder how much longer it can last. Although David is still in love with Dora, he is starting to wish that she had better domestic skills, or at least that she would try. The pregnancy is an immature shot at getting her to mature. Its actual failure is a symbol of the relationship’s failure. Moreover, it foreshadows Dora’s imminent demise and, sure enough, her health begins to rapidly deteriorate.
The expected betrayal by Uriah Heep has once more put the Micawbers in danger. Hopefully it finally has brought Mr. Micawber to his senses. Uriah certainly has crossed a line at this point, presuming that Mr. Micawber’s account is true. In the case of the Strongs, Uriah had only come close to but had not actually ruined the marriage. In the case of the Micawbers, however, he had actually ruined them. David’s promise to bring his aunt to meet with the Micawbers is a sign that better people are getting ready to fight back, now that Uriah has gone too far. This is yet another sign that the direction of the novel is turning toward resolution.
Little Emily finally finds peace after her long trial, and now she is heading to Australia where she can start over. She has faced her troubles and gotten over them with the help of her family, and now she is ready to move on. An interesting detail in her story is the fact that she was nursed back to health by the wife of a sailor. This calls to mind the sea, which has taken away many lives and will take more. The sea, in a sense, is giving her another chance.
Meanwhile, the situation with Uriah finally comes to a head. When confronted by everyone whom he has defrauded, Uriah shows his true colors. He drops his humility act and begins cursing everybody until he finally realizes that he has no power anymore, for nobody believes him any longer. The power of the assembled group has overcome his individual manipulative power, and in a sense the community has restored justice. The whole situation ends well, and everyone gets what is rightfully theirs.
The Micawbers, finally having a chance to escape their misery, expect to fix their problems in England, both financially and with Mrs. Micawber’s family. They will head for Australia, which suggests an entirely new life and identity, hopefully one that is successful. In being made whole again, they can fully return to reality, yet they would rather leave England behind and start over more fully.
When Dora finally passes away, of course the scene is profoundly sad. In her final encounter with David, she finally seems to grow out of her childish frame of mind, admitting that she was too young to marry him. The prospect of death makes people mature quickly. In a rather bald moment of parallelism, Jip dies at the same moment as Dora. This is more than a melodramatic coincidence, because Jip’s death symbolizes the death of Dora’s free spirit as well as her body.
In addition, Jip’s death reminds us of the deep heartache involved in the death of a best friend or family member. The memory of Dora’s death is very difficult for the older David, which reveals how much he still loved her in spite of everything. Indeed, David’s grief at the time remains strong and eventually drives him out of the country. He too needs a change of scene.
Another death of a spouse is noted in this section, but it has a completely different feel, and the spouse reacts very differently. Miss Betsey’s ex-husband has died, but he was already dead to her and had been a particular thorn in her side. She survived the persecution and financial difficulties that he caused her, and having done so, she is now truly a free woman. Among all the characters who find themselves alone or unencumbered, Miss Betsey’s freedom is probably the most satisfying. Her story is a triumphant endorsement of the strength of women, who do not necessarily need men in order to be happy and successful.
There are still more deaths in this section, which emphasize other themes. The death of Steerforth calls into question the role of the sea as a mystical force, seemingly with the power to give life and, especially, to take away lives. In terms of poetic justice, Dickens chooses to have Steerforth die perhaps as punishment for his haughtiness or his stealing away of Emily. In addition, the eerie position of his body reminds David of his promise to only remember Steerforth at his best. As for Ham, his death might also be a kind of poetic justice; Dickens might be killing him off because he has attempted to interfere with what the novel needs to be done. Ham’s death might also be a result of his willingness to risk his life because he might see little left to live for himself, considering the extent of the emotional damage inflicted on him by the elopement of his fiancée.
Upon the death of Steerforth, we see a final breakdown of all of those who have represented the highest class of society. Mrs. Steerforth is consumed by shock, and Miss Dartle is consumed by her rage, again throwing the responsibility at everybody but her beloved cousin. We have seen a big difference in how the upper class Steerforths and the lower class Peggottys have handled loss. This is Dickens’ lesson that those of the upper class are not necessarily better off, morally or emotionally, than those of a lower class.
The scene in which the Peggottys, Martha, and the Micawbers depart for Australia is an interesting one, again invoking the sea as a vehicle for change. This time the characters are being borne off to another world, where they all will have a second chance at living their lives. Australia is emblematic of freedom, a wild place very far away. In a way, these characters are receiving life or being reborn.
Although it takes a few more years, David finally recognizes his love for Agnes, who finally admits that he is the one she loves. Thus, David finally reaches the happiness he has been striving for during just about his entire life. This is the positive side of poetic justice. Indeed, in the end, all of the characters receive their just rewards. Uriah, for example, ends up in jail but is happy with the moral changes that being there has made in him. His victims have already been made whole. Littimer, Steerforth’s arrogant servant, also has been prosecuted for stealing after being caught by none other than Miss Mowcher, who now gets to be a hero. On the negative side, Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle constantly make one another miserable.
Other good characters are rewarded, as well. Traddles, for example, marries his fiancée and earns a successful career. Miss Betsey, Peggotty, and Mr. Dick get peaceful lives with the ones they love, and David and Agnes marry. Mr. Peggotty, Emily, and the Micawbers have made the most out of their lives in Australia. It is the happiest ending that Dickens could produce.
There has been much sadness and anxiety in this novel, but Dickens has made everything right in the end. The memories of pain, even if they do not seem strong in the others, remain strong in the older David as he writes, despite his happiness with his new family. David tells a story that seems very reliable, pain and all. In writing, he has purged himself of some of the sorrow he has experienced in his life; his memoir is complete. Perhaps Dickens benefited in a similar way.
While David Copperfield centers on the growth and journey of an individual, Charles Dickens also created many novels dealing with the social issues of his time in England, known as the Victorian Era. In these books, such as Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, Dickens also tends to concentrate on an individual (such as Oliver) but also writes about the issues facing many Victorian families. He certainly had plenty of material to work with. During the time that Dickens was writing, London was undergoing the Industrial Revolution, and while this period greatly modernized business and the manufacturing industry in many ways, it also presented many new and serious problems, from financial instability and child labor issues to disease and sanitation lapses to new patterns of female suppression.
Because so many things could be manufactured so cheaply due to the revolution, wages plummeted, leaving many families extremely poor and unable to rely solely on the income of parents. This meant that children were forced to work as well, in equally bad and sometimes worse conditions, and this experience often prevented them from maintaining good health, let alone receiving a good education. Although there were workhouses where families in dire situations could go to receive help, the conditions there were just as awful, and families were often split up. Yet, people often had no choice but to take whatever help they could get, and this meant sacrificing a healthy family atmosphere. Dickens gives the relief system an especially harsh critique in Oliver Twist.
Disease ran rampant during this time as well, for many people were drinking the water into which sanitation was dumped. Sanitation was not a priority, with sewage being dumped into the Thames River, resulting in an awful smell that would be known as "The Great Stink of 1858." Machinery in factories proved to be very dangerous in itself, and there was no health insurance to cover those who were unfortunate enough to get into an accident.
During the Victorian Era, the suppression of women was severe by today’s standards. Women were expected to be the perfect housewives: quiet and exceedingly loyal to their husbands while caring for the house and perhaps even working to support their families. Even though they sometimes worked, they generally were expected to limit themselves to the domestic sphere. It was unthinkable for them to participate in public matters or to even have opinions on public matters. When considering women’s choices in the novel, it is important to remember that those choices were a far cry from today, when women not only vote but succeed in public office and every aspect of society—and are expected to succeed.
The Victorian Age had its Hollywood glamour, with its times of extravagance and opulence in clothing, architecture, food, and so on. However, behind the upper-class prosperity were millions of families who were suffering or oppressed, and this was a main reason that Charles Dickens wrote. He was exposing serious social and cultural issues, not just intriguing personal stories of love and loss. Dickens touched nerves everywhere; he has been loved and revered by millions of readers, both in his home country and abroad, in both his time and ours.
Jeffers, Thomas L. (2005). Apprenticeships: The Bildungsroman from Goethe to Santayana. New York: Palgrave. pp. 55–88.
David Copperfield (Major Literary Characters series). Edited and with an Introduction by Harold Bloom. 255 pages. 1993 New York: Chelsea House Publishers
Graham Storey: David Copperfield – Interweaving Truth and Fiction (Twayne's Masterworks Studies). 111 pages. 1991 Boston: Twayne Publishers
Approaches to Teaching Dickens' David Copperfield. Edited by Richard J. Dunn. 162 pages. 1984 New York: The Modern Language Association of America
Barry Westburg: The Confessional Fictions of Charles Dickens. See pages 33 to 114. 1977 DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press
Catcher in The Rye, J.D. Salinger; Penguin 1951
Black Books -TV Series/DVD – Assembly Film and Television/Channel 4, 2002;
SUMMARY OF THE NOVEL
Charles Dickens' David Copperfield relates the story of a young boy's growth and development into maturity. It is written from the point of view of the mature adult who recounts his own obstacles and the obstacles of those around him and how it all shaped his life and his beliefs.
The story starts with an account of the birth and childhood of David Copperfield at his home, Blunderstone Rookery. He was born six months after the death of his father and under circumstances which one of the nurses claimed would cause him to lead an unlucky life. He is raised by his mother Clara and his nurse Peggotty, who give him a happy childhood. He remembers his mother as carefree and recalls the relaxed atmosphere that the three of them had together. He frequently says that this is one of the happiest times in his life.
Everything changes once his mother meets the dark but handsome Mr. Murdstone. Peggotty immediately takes a disliking to him and often fights with Clara about him, but Clara refuses to heed her advice. Peggotty and David visit Yarmouth, Peggotty's hometown, for a week, which is when David first meets Mr. Barkis, the carrier driver, Mr. Peggotty, Peggotty's brother, Ham, and Little Em'ly. When David and Peggotty return, however, his mother and Mr. Murdstone have been married, and their former life disappears forever. Mr. Murdstone is a very controlling man who forces the principle of firmness on Clara with the help of his sister, Miss Murdstone.
After David bites Mr. Murdstone while being beaten by him, David is sent away to Salem House, a boarding school for boys. There he meets Steerforth, a handsome, cultured boy whom he admires dearly, and Traddles, an overweight but jovial and kind-hearted boy. He learns a lot at the school and has one more good day with his mother, but he soon receives the bad news that his mother has passed away. He returns home for the funeral and never goes back to Salem House. Peggotty is fired by Mr. Murdstone and marries Mr. Barkis, and although she writes to David and sees him from time to time, she can no longer be there for him the way she was before.
David is constantly neglected before he is finally sent away to London to work in one of Mr. Murdstone's warehouses, which he does not like at all, despite the respect he earns. He does get to meet the Micawbers, a kind yet financially troubled family. They are eventually forced to move away to evade all of their debts, and once they move, David decides to leave as well and to find his aunt, Miss Betsey, who abandoned him and his mother at his birth because he was not a girl. After a difficult journey, he finds the home of his aunt in Dover, and after a rude encounter with the Murdstones, she decides to let him stay, along with her other houseguest, Mr. Dick.
David begins attending school in Canterbury and does well, He quickly rises to the top of his class. He lives with family friends Mr. Wickfield and his daughter, Agnes. Agnes is around David's age and will continue to be a significant influence in David's life. He also meets Uriah Heep, Mr. Wickfield's servant to whom David takes an immediate disliking, Dr. Strong, the master of his school, and Dr. Strong's wife Annie.
After he graduates, Miss Betsey and David decide that he should take some time to decide what he wants to do. He decides to go visit Peggotty, and along the way he runs into Steerforth, who takes him to his home. There, David meets his mother, Mrs. Steerforth, and Miss Dartle, Steerforth's cousin (who was scarred on the lip by Steerforth when they were younger). David and Steerforth go to Yarmouth and spend some time there, arriving just in time to hear the announcement of Little Em'ly's and Ham's engagement, which Steerforth is not entirely happy about.
After conferring with his aunt, David decides to pursue the career of a proctor. He moves into Doctors' Commons in London and works at the offices of Spenlow and Jorkins. He even gets his own apartment with a landlady named Mrs. Crupp. He encounters old friends of his, including Tommy Traddles from Salem House, who is studying to be a lawyer and is working to save money for his wedding to his fiancee, and Mr. Micawber. Soon, however, Mr. Micawber is forced to leave once again due to financial issues. David meets Mr. Spenlow's daughter, Dora, a very beautiful but childish girl with whom he falls completely in love.
David returns to Yarmouth when he hears that Mr. Barkis is about to die, and he remains there to settle Peggotty's affairs for some time afterwards. During this time, Little Em'ly runs away with Steerforth, and Mr. Peggotty begins his quest to find her and to bring her back home to her family. Meanwhile, Miss Betsey shows up at David's door, having lost her fortune due to Uriah Heep's scheming. He has weaseled his way into a partnership with Mr. Wickfield. Although David is poor, he is determined to work hard so that his marriage with Dora can work out. However, Mr. Spenlow soon finds out about the affair and forbids it, only to die in a carriage accident later that day, leaving Dora distraught and unwilling to see David. Eventually, though, the two marry and lead a happy life, although Dora is very bad at keeping house and is very childlike in many ways. Her premature death is a serious blow to David, and it is mainly Agnes' support that keeps him afloat.
Dr. Strong and Annie go through some difficult times when Uriah hints that Annie may be having an affair with her cousin, Jack Maldon. However, Mr. Dick reconciles the two, and they go back to being very affectionate. This episode only deepens the disliking of Uriah, and soon he is exposed as a fraud and taken down by Mr. Micawber (who was working for him) and Traddles.
Meanwhile, Mr. Peggotty and David hear from Littimer, Steerforth's servant, that Little Em'ly has run away from Steerforth. They ask her friend Martha for help finding her, and Martha eventually finds Little Em'ly and leads Mr. Peggotty to her. He decides to move to Australia, where Little Em'ly can start a new life, as does the Micawber family. Steerforth dies in a storm just outside of Yarmouth, and Ham dies trying to rescue him.
David moves away to recover from all that he has been through. During this time, he discovers that he truly loves Agnes. Not long after he returns to London, the two get married and live happily with three children as well as Miss Betsey, Peggotty, and Mr. Dick.