David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The novel traces the life of David Copperfield from the time of his birth to his mature manhood, when he is married and familiar with the vicissitudes of life. His early years are enjoyable with his mother — who was widowed shortly before his birth — and with her servant, Peggotty. Life is happy for David until his mother decides to marry Mr.
Murdstone; afterward, life becomes unbearable for David. He is soon sent to a miserable school where he becomes friendly with James Steerforth, a fellow student. When David’s mother dies, he is taken from school and put to work by Mr. Murdstone in a London warehouse.
Although David enjoys the company of the impoverished Micawber family, with whom he boards, his other associates and the work are intolerable, so, without money or property, he runs away to his Aunt Betsey Trotwood in Dover. Despite a stern exterior, Aunt Betsey treats him well, adopting him and sending him to a good school. While at school, he boards with a Mr. Wickfield and his daughter Agnes. (Throughout the novel, David retains a fond, sisterly affection for Agnes. ) After graduation, David works in the law office of Spenlow ; Jorkins and soon falls in love with Mr.
Spenlow’s daughter, Dora. About this time, Em’ly, the Peggottys’ beloved niece, runs off to marry Steerforth, whom David had innocently introduced to her while she was engaged to Ham, a nephew of the Peggottys. The family is saddened by this development, but Mr. Peggotty sets out to find her and bring her back. David uses his spare time doing clerical and literary work to help Aunt Betsey, who now finds herself without financial resources. He marries Dora, only to find that he has a “child-wife” who knows nothing of housekeeping and cannot accept any responsibility.
Meanwhile, Uriah Heep, an “umble” clerk in Mr. Wickfield’s employ, whom David dislikes, has deceitfully worked his way into a partnership, aided by Mr. Wickfield’s weakness for wine. In addition, David also discovers that his old friend Mr. Micawber has gone to work for Heep. David has remained fond of the Micawbers, and it troubles him that his old friend is working for a scoundrel. Eventually, however, Micawber has a grand moment of glory when he exposes Heep as a fraud, helping to save Mr. Wickfield and restoring some of Aunt Betsey’s finances.
David’s wife, Dora, becomes ill and dies, and David is troubled until Em’ly, the Peggottys’ niece, returns to her uncle. David has felt guilty for some time for having introduced Em’ly to Steerforth. After a reconciliation is accomplished, Em’ly, along with some of the Peggottys, and the Micawbers leave for Australia to begin new lives. Before they leave, David witnesses a dramatic shipwreck in which Steerforth is killed, as is Ham in attempting to rescue him. Still saddened by the loss of his wife and other events, David goes abroad for three years.
It is only after he returns that he realizes that Agnes Wickfield has been his true love all along, and their happy marriage takes place at last. I don’t know what to think of the book. I found the starting bits very boring. David Copperfield is the least interesting character in the book, and because the beginning of the book deals almost entirely with him…well, let’s say it was heavy going for me. In fact, the book itself doesn’t really take off till almost the middle of the story when David’s aunt loses her fortune. After that, David and his friends really stop messing about, and start trying to fix their messed up lives.
Until then, it’s all a hodge-podge of bad choices in love, and money. Dickens has a somewhat preachy, moralistic hero, and the tone of this book reflects that. I found some humorous sections, but not many, and the pace is uneven. Towards the end, the last 200 pages or so, Dickens is really forced to up the pace, and it’s an odd feeling when a slow book suddenly hurtles towards the end. In the process, Dickens ends up killing one important character, exporting a whole bunch of people to Australia, and sending another couple of people to prison!
So, I didn’t like David Copperfield (the hero I mean), and I wouldn’t have liked the book either if not for the really interesting secondary characters. There is Agnes – David’s good and wise childhood friend who is in love with him, David’s silly wife – Dora, the perennially in debt Micawbers, the evil albino Uriah Heep, the sentimental and kind Mr. Peggotty, David’s aunt – the strong, feminist Betsey Trotwood…so many people to keep track of…but good fun anyway. Charles dickens Charles Dickens is much loved for his great contribution to classic English literature.
He was the quintessential Victorian author. His epic stories, vivid characters and exhaustive depiction of contemporary life are unforgettable. His own story is one of rags to riches. He was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. The good fortune of being sent to school at the age of nine was short-lived because his father, inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber in ‘David Copperfield’, was imprisoned for bad debt. The entire family, apart from Charles, were sent to Marshalsea along with their patriarch.
Charles was sent to work in Warren’s blacking factory and endured appalling conditions as well as loneliness and despair. After three years he was returned to school, but the experience was never forgotten and became fictionalised in two of his better-known novels ‘David Copperfield’ and ‘Great Expectations’. Like many others, he began his literary career as a journalist. His own father became a reporter and Charles began with the journals ‘The Mirror of Parliament’ and ‘The True Sun’. Then in 1833 he became parliamentary journalist for The Morning Chronicle.
With new contacts in the press he was able to publish a series of sketches under the pseudonym ‘Boz’. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of George Hogarth who edited ‘Sketches by Boz’. Within the same month came the publication of the highly successful ‘Pickwick Papers’, and from that point on there was no looking back for Dickens. As well as a huge list of novels he published autobiography, edited weekly periodicals including ‘Household Words’ and ‘All Year Round’, wrote travel books and administered charitable organisations.
He was also a theatre enthusiast, wrote plays and performed before Queen Victoria in 1851. His energy was inexhaustible and he spent much time abroad – for example lecturing against slavery in the United States and touring Italy with companions Augustus Egg and Wilkie Collins, a contemporary writer who inspired Dickens’ final unfinished novel ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’. He was estranged from his wife in 1858 after the birth of their ten children, but maintained relations with his mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan. He died of a stroke in 1870. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.