What do you think of George Orwell's criticism of David Copperfield? As a matter of course he is on the side of the underdog, always and everywhere... Whenever he departs from this emotional attitude he goes astray. A well-known example is at the ending of David Copperfield, in which everyone who reads it feels that something has gone wrong. What is wrong is that the closing chapters are pervaded, faintly but not noticeably, by the cult of success. It is the gospel according to Smiles, instead of the gospel according to Dickens. The attractive, out-at-elbow characters are got rid of, Micawber makes a fortune, Heep gets into prison — both of these events are flagrantly impossible — and even Dora is killed off to make way for Agnes. If you like, you can read Dora as Dickens's wife and Agnes as his sister-in-law, but the essential point is that Dickens has ‘turned respectable’ and done violence to his own nature. Perhaps that is why Agnes is the most disagreeable of his heroines, the real legless angel of Victorian romance, almost as bad as Thackeray's Laura.
I have several times heard that if Charles Dickens were alive today he would be writing for the soaps. David Copperfield is the soapiest of his books I have read so far. There are so many strands and characters that keep disappearing and reappearing. One chapter would have some comedy, then the next would have some melodrama or tragedy. The other Dickens books I've read had interleaving themes, but they mostly had one or two overarching themes or backdrops. In this book, the only link is David Copperfield himself. To me this is a weakness.
Don't tell me what happens to her, because I have not got to that bit yet. I have heard, but I don't want to know the details. I was reading about her and David just after their wedding. I had worked out their marriage would be unsatisfactory; I was just surprised how. She is really well brought to life. It was heart breaking to read her tell David that he is such a clever man and to regard her as a wife-child. It shows how much she worried about her insufficiencies and how they had lowered her self-esteem. Being married to someone as clever and energetic as Charles Dickens himself might do that to many women I expect. She might not be the sharpest tool in the box, but she had no mother to teach her house-keeping, and her father was negligent. He did not leave a will or actually very much money, and her education appears to have been all music and painting. Her father loved her as a charming child, but did not prepare her for adult life very well. When she struggled to do her housekeeping accounts and could not get them right, or concentrate on David's explanation, I did think think that she could master them if she continued working at it. David Copperfield mastered shorthand, even though that took him a lot of practice. Ordering servants to do what they're paid for, or giving them their notice if they don't, is something very difficult to do. She would have to learn how to do that too, though maybe David could do the actual firing. Something that occurred to me is that Dora is actually like David Copperfield's mother. She was rather pretty, little-girlish, and easily dominated. Was this deliberate on Dickens' part. It seems a bit Freudian. It is a really good plotline.
I noticed a characteristic of David Copperfield's aunt: whenever she adopts someone, she renames them. I cannot remember what Mr Dick's real name was, it was Richard something, but she renamed him Mr Dick, before letting him live in her house. She renamed David Copperfield as Trotwood Copperfield when she adopted him. Later she starts to call Peggotty Mrs Barkis when she becomes reconciled to her. How about that then, do I get an A?
SPOILER I thought it was odd Ham wanted to marry Emily. They are more like brother and sister than cousins, having grown up in the same house. It seems odd and not very probable. I thought it was odd that Peggotty would send David Copperfield half a guinea by post. When he pays her back, it is also by post. Post office workers must have been very honest. About chapter 20, after David has left school, he feels embarrassed by not needing the shaving water the servants bring him in the morning. He feels its a slight on his manliness. He must be about 17, maybe 18 and fully grown. I needed to shave by then. It sounded like David's mother was buried next to his father in the church graveyard. Since it was her church, I suppose she would be buried there. It seems odd that Mr Murdstone would want his wide buried close to her first husband. If Agnes is so pretty, witty and pleasant, why didn't David Copperfield fancy her? They got on really well. How does Agnes know Steerforth is a wrong un? Where did she get her information? Did Dickens have a problem with red haired people? Fagin had red hair. He was described as repulsive. Uriah Heep has red hair. It is not portrayed as having an ameliorating effect on his other features. Tommy Traddles said he shared his clerk with three other trainee lawyers in his chambers, and that he cost him half a crown a week. By my reckoning, the clerk was being paid less than Scrooge paid Bob Cratchit. When David was helping Mr Peggotty and Ham move all their fishing equipment from shore to an outhouse, was he wearing his gentleman's clothes?
In chapter 3, I thought there were some good touches when David and Peggotty go to stay with Peggotty's brother in Great Yarmouth for two weeks. Peggotty's brother lives in a boat that was converted into a house, along with his orphaned nephew, his orphaned little niece and the widow of his partner, Mrs Gummidge. The mortality rate in their line of business was quite high. David is put into a little room at the stern of the boat. He says the walls were nicely whitewashed, and that there was a mirror placed just at the right height for him, decorated around the frame with oyster shells. I thought this was a good touch because this must have been little Em'ly's room. I suppose she had to share a bed with her aunt, while David was with them. Being a lovely little girl, she did not complain. It also shows how thoughtful Mr Peggotty was of his niece. I suppose Mrs Gummidge could have decorated the room, but it seems unlikely. Sometimes Mrs Gummidge gets depressed and starts moaning a lot. When she is in this mood, Mr Peggotty says she is thinking of the Old Un, her drowned husband and his ex-partner. It is like he does not want to think badly of people, so puts up this excuse for her.
I finished reading 'David Copperfield'. I absolutely loved it. Reading it I felt joy, happiness, sadness, etc., with its different stories and characters. It made me laugh and cry many times. For example, I laughed a lot with Miss Trotwood when she shouted: 'Donkeys!' Hahaha. Tell me if you liked it.
I’ve just re-read David Copperfield, and very glad to do so. Like Great Expectations, the gripping part is the opening quarter describing a boy’s emotionally deprived childhood in the first person. I was not so interested thereafter. DC used to be regarded as Dickens’ masterpiece (it was his own favourite) but seems to have lost favour recently. I was struck that after we get past childhood, there is no sinister sense of society being itself threatening – the evil is from Uriah Heep’s individual plotting, rather than the corrosive effect of money or class, as in the other mature novels (the Law in Bleak House, the debtor’s prison in Little Dorrit, Pip’s pretensions, etc.) Little Emily makes a very interesting constrast with two other “fallen women” I’ve read about this year, Hetty Sorrel in Adam Bede and Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. (Lydia just avoids being fallen because Wickham is bought off. Unlike Emily, she has absolutely no regrets). Any other thoughts?
So I am fairly new to reading classic literature, I spent a great deal of my time growing up writing notebooks of poetry, and reading mediocre stories although my interest diminished quickly. Recently I taken up poetry again, then prose, and now, because of the encouragement of friends, I'm pursuing to be a writer, and with that I need to educate myself. I have aimed to read certain writers from eras of interest to me, so far I have done the Boston poetry scene books, all of Kafka's works and the Brontes (hard not to when you live in 'Bronte County,') and now I want to read some Charles Dickens novels, starting with David Copperfield. So far, so good, although I have an awful long way to go before I will finish, so out of curiosity, I want to ask if anybody has read it in it's entirety here? And if so, what did you think? I'll return and post more as I read. So far I am really warming to his style of writing, his storytelling is in a class of it's own and it is very, very easy to see why people claimed Dickens to be a man born 100 years too early. Also got Oliver Twist lined up for when I have finished this, although from reading on the net it appears David Copperfield is the novel which he regards as his best, so I thought it would be best to start with this first. Sorry for the overflow of information about myself, it's my first post here, and due to circle of friends I have in real life, I don't have much conversation with them on the subject of books ha.
I'm reading this for the first time and am enjoying it, so far. I was a bit shocked by the dismissal of Mr. Mell, the teacher whose mother lives in an alms house. I infer from the way that it was presented, that it wouldn't have been considered surprising for someone to be fired for such an irrelevant reason in that time period. Or am I missing something? Like many books written so long ago, there is occasionally a passage that defies understanding. Occasionally, even a stray word will be incomprensible. My dictionary doesn't give an meaning for "pericule", nor does the online dictionary.com. Apparently it's an object that Agnes leaves behind at a party, causing David to return and observe Dr. Strong and his wife. I'm guessing it's a compact or small mirror? Any ideas? Aah -- I see. I remembered the word incorrectly from last night. It was a reticule, which dictionary.com says is a small purse. Mystery solved! :-)
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