David Copperfield or 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 a novel by
Charles Dickens, first published as a novel in 1850.
Charles Dickens Biography
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. Shortly
later his family moved to Chatham, and Dickens considered his years there as the happiest of his childhood.
In 1822, the family moved to London, where his father worked as a clerk in the navy pay office. Dickens'
family was considered middle class, however, his father had a difficult time managing money. His
extravagant spending habits brought the family to financial disaster, and in 1824, John Dickens was
imprisoned for debt.
Charles was the eldest of the Dickens children, and as a result of his father's imprisonment, he was
withdrawn from school and sent to work in a shoe-dye factory. During this period, Dickens lived alone in a
lodging house in North London and considered the entire experience the most terrible of his life.
Nevertheless, it was this experience that shaped much of his future writing.
After receiving an inheritance several months later, Dickens' father was released from prison. Although
Dickens' mother wanted him to stay at work, resulting in bitter resentment towards her, his father allowed
him to return to school. His schooling was again interrupted and ultimately ended when Dickens was forced
to return to work at age 15. He became a clerk in a law firm, then a shorthand reporter in the courts, and
finally a parliamentary and newspaper reporter.
In 1833, Dickens began to contribute short stories and essays to periodicals. He then provided a comic
narrative to accompany a series of engravings, which were published as the Pickwick Papers in 1836.
Within several months, Dickens became internationally popular. He resigned from his position as a
newspaper reporter and became editor of a monthly magazine entitled Bentley's Miscellany. During 1836,
Dickens also married Catherine Hogarth. Together, they had nine surviving children, before getting
separated in 1858.
Dickens' career continued at an intense pace for the next several years. Oliver Twist was serialized in
Bentley's Miscellany, beginning in 1837. Since he had so many projects in the works, Dickens was barely
able to stay ahead of his monthly deadlines. After the completion of Twist and Nickleby, Dickens produced
weekly installments of The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge.
After a short working vacation in the United States in 1841, Dickens continued at his break-neck pace. He
began to publish annual Christmas stories, beginning with A Christmas Carol in 1843. Within the
community, Dickens actively fought for social issues; such as education reform, sanitary measures, and slum
clearance, and he began to directly address social issues in novels such as Dombey and Son (1846-48).
In 1850, Dickens established a weekly journal entitled Household Words to which he contributed the
serialized works of Child's History of England (1851-53), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities
(1859), and Great Expectations (1860-61). At the same time, Dickens continued to work on his novels,
including David Copperfield (1849-50), Bleak House (1852-53), Little Dorrit (1855-57), and Our Mutual
Friend (1864-65). As his career progressed, Dickens became more and more disenchanted. His works had
always reflected the pains of the common man, but works such as Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend
expressed his progressing anger and disillusionment with society.
In 1858, Dickens began a series of paid readings, which became instantly popular. Through these readings,
Dickens was able to combine his love for the stage with an accurate rendition of his writings. In all, Dickens
performed more than 400 times. The readings often left him exhausted and ill, but they allowed him to
increase his income, receive creative satisfaction, and stay in touch with his audience.
After the breakup of his marriage with Catherine, Dickens moved permanently to his country house called
Gad's Hill, near Chatham in 1860. It was also around this time that Dickens became involved in an affair
with a young actress named Ellen Ternan. The affair lasted until Dickens' death, but it was kept quite secret.
Information about the relationship is scanty.
Dickens was required to abandon his reading tours in 1869 after his health began to decline. He retreated to
Gad's Hill and began to work on Edwin Drood, which was never completed. He died suddenly at home on
June 9, 1870. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Dickens’ main works
SKETCHES BY BOZ, 1836
THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS OF THE PICKWICK CLUB, 1836-37
THE ADVENTURES OF OLIVER TWIST, 1837-39
THE CHRISTMAS CARROL, 1843
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT, 1843-44
THE CHIMES, 1845
PICTURES FROM ITALY, 1846
DAVID COPPERFIELD, 1849
A CHILD'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND, 1851-53
BLEAK HOUSE, 1853
HARD TIMES, 1854
OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, 1855
LITTLE DORRIT, 1856
THE TALE OF TWO CITIES, 1859
THE UNCOMMERCIAL TRAVELLER, 1860
REPRINTED PIECES, 1861
GREAT EXPECTATIONS, 1861
OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, 1865
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, 1870
SPEECHES, LETTERS AND SAYINGS, 1870
TO BE READ AT DUSK, 1898 (Posthumous)
MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS, 1908 (2 vols.) (Posthumous)
A DECEMBER VISION, 1986 (Posthumous)
The story deals with the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David is born in England in
about 1820. David's father has died six months before his birth, and seven years later, his mother marries Mr
Edward Murdstone. David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather and has similar feelings for Mr
Murdstone's sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Mr Murdstone thrashes David for falling
behind with his studies. Following one of these thrashings, David bites him and is sent away to a boarding
school, Salem House, with a ruthless headmaster, Mr. Creakle. Here he befriends James Steerforth and
Tommy Traddles, both of whom he meets again later on.
David returns home for the holidays to find out that his mother has had a baby boy. Soon afterwards David
goes back to Salem House, his mother and her baby die and David has to return home immediately. Mr
Murdstone sends him to work in a factory in London, of which Murdstone is a joint owner. The grim reality
of hand-to-mouth factory existence echoes Dickens' own travails in a blacking factory. His landlord, Mr
Wilkins Micawber, is sent to a debtor's prison (the King's Bench Prison) after going bankrupt, and is there
for several months before being released and moving to Plymouth. David now has nobody left to care for
him in London, and decides to run away.
He walks all the way from London to Dover, to find his only relative, his aunt Miss Betsey. His eccentric
Aunt Betsey Trotwood agrees to bring him up, despite Mr Murdstone visiting in a bid to regain custody of
David. David's aunt renames him 'Trotwood Copperfield', soon shortened to "Trot", and for the rest of the
novel he is called by either name, depending on whether he is communicating with someone he has known
for a long time, or someone he has only recently met.
The story follows David as he grows to adulthood, and is enlivened by the many well-known characters who
enter, leave and re-enter his life. These include Peggotty, his faithful former housekeeper for his mother, her
family, and their orphaned niece Little Em'ly who lives with them and charms the young David. David's
romantic but self-serving schoolfriend, Steerforth, seduces and dishonours Little Emily, triggering the novel's
greatest tragedy; and his landlord's daughter and ideal "angel in the house," Agnes Wickfield, becomes his
confidante. The two most familiar characters are David's sometime mentor, the constantly debt-ridden Mr
Wilkins Micawber, and the devious and fraudulent clerk, Uriah Heep, whose misdeeds are eventually
discovered with Micawber's assistance. Micawber is painted as a sympathetic character, even as the author
deplores his financial ineptitude; and Micawber, like Dickens's own father, is briefly imprisoned for
Once his education is completed, David is articled in law and meets Dora, whom he loves passionately and
marries, but she dies after failing to recover from a miscarriage early in their marriage. David then does some
soul-searching and eventually marries and finds true happiness with the sensible Agnes, who had secretly
always loved him. They have several children, including a daughter named after Betsey Trotwood in her
Chapter IV change in David’s life
•Arrival of two peole: Mr. Murdstone and his sister Miss Murdstone;
•They have an influence over David: << the very sight of these two has such an influence over me, that I
begin to feel the words I have been at infinite pains to get into my head,all sliding away, and going I don’t
•Miss Murdstone wants to test David’s preparation so she decides to test him but David is not able to
answer her questions and twice he is twice silent.
•Mr. Murdstone decides to punish the young boy, so Clara and Pegottty exit from David’s bedroom;
•Mr. Murdstone locks the door and David hears her mother crying out;
•David begs the man not to beat him and to defend himself he bites his hand very hard: << He beat me then
,as if he would have beaten me to death>>.
•For five David days sees just Mrs. Murdstone and he feels like a prisoner;
•He hears Pegotty wisphering from the keyhole: << Be as soft as a mouse, or the cat’ll hear us>>.
•She informs him about the new decision: he will be sent to a Colledge in London;
•The next morning he sees his mother Clara and he apologizes her which forgives him raccomending to
become a better boy.
David Copperfield - An optimistic, diligent, and persevering character, he is the protagonist. He is later
called "Trotwood Copperfield" by some ("David Copperfield" is also the name of the hero's father, who dies
before David is born.
Although David narrates his story as an adult, he relays the impressions he had from a youthful point of
view. We see how David’s perception of the world deepens as he comes of an age. We see David’s initial
innocence in contrast between his interpretation and our own understanding of the events . Although David is
ignorant of Steerforth’s treachery, we are aware from the moment we meet Steerforth that he doesn’t deserve
the adulation David feels toward him. David doesn’t understand why he hates Uriah or why he trusts a boy
with a donkey cart who steals his money and leaves him in the road, but we can sense Uriah’s devious nature
and the boy’s treacherous intentions. In David’s first-person narration, Dickens implicitly conveys the
wisdom of the older man, through the eyes of a child.
David’s complex character allows for contradiction and development over the course of the novel. Though
David is trusting and kind, he has also moments of cruelty, like the scene in which he intentionally distresses
Mr. Dick by explaining Miss Betsey’s dire situation to him. David also displays great tenderness, as in the
moment when he realizes his love for Agnes for the first time. David, especially as a young man in love, can
be foolish and romantic. As he grows up, however, he develops a more mature point of view and searches for
a lover who will challenge him and help him grow. David fully matures as an adult when he expresses the
feeling he values above all in this life, Agnes’s calm tranquility.
Uriah Heep:.A wicked young man who serves as a partner to Mr. Wickfield. He is finally discovered to
have stolen money and is imprisoned as a punishment. He always talks of being "'umble" (humble) and
nurtures a deep hatred of David Copperfield and many others. Uriah serves a foil to David and contrasts
David’s qualities of innocence and compassion with his own corruption. Though Uriah is raised in a cruel
environment similar to David’s, Uriah’s upbringing causes him to become bitter and vengeful rather than
honest and hopeful. Dickens’s physical description of Uriah marks Uriah as a devilish character. He refers to
Uriah’s movements as snakelike and gives Uriah red hair and red eyes. Uriah and David not only have
opposing characteristics but also operate at cross-purposes. For example, whereas Uriah wishes to marry
Agnes only in order to hurt David, David’s marriages are both motivated by love. The frequent contrast
between Uriah’s and David’s sentiments emphasizes David’s kindness and moral integrity.
While David’s character development is a process of increased self-understanding, Uriah grows in his desire
to exercise control over himself and other characters. As Uriah gains more power over Mr. Wickfield, his
sense of entitlement grows and he becomes more and more power-hungry. The final scenes of the novel, in
which Uriah praises his jail cell because it helps him know what he should do, show Uriah’s need to exert
control even when he is a helpless prisoner. But imprisonment does not redeem his evil—if anything, it
compounds his flaws. In the end, Uriah plots strategies to increase his control. Since he deploys his strategies
to selfish purposes that bring harm to others, he stands out as the novel’s greatest villain.
The abuse of power
David Copperfield examines those who have power over the weak, and finds that they often abuse it. David's
first experience of this is as a child, when a kind and gentle authority figure, his mother, is supplanted by
cruel authority figures, the Murdstones. The Murdstones stop David's education and send him to work in a
factory, where he is unhappy, poor, and hungry. By providing a parallel situation with a different outcome,
Dickens shows that everyone has a choice about how they exercise their power, and that it is the
responsibility of the powerful to treat the powerless with kindness and understanding.
The most extreme example of abuse of power is Uriah Heep. He has consciously perfected an act of humility
that is opposite to his true nature, which is manipulative, cunning, deceitful, and concerned only with
extending his control over others. He gains power over Mr. Wickfield by exploiting his weakness for drink,
and succeeds in taking control of his house, business, and money. He even tries to gain Agnes for himself.
Even in prison, Uriah succeeds in controlling the would-be reformers through deceiving them into believing
that he has repented.
The importance of kindness and charity
In David Copperfield, Dickens portrays many types of human suffering: for example, poverty, child labour,
social disgrace, and betrayal by friends and beloved ones. While he does not suggest ways to systematically
reform society to lessen these abuses, he does put forward an antidote on the individual level. He emphasizes
the vital importance of kindness and charity that is given without thought of return. Such acts are
nevertheless generally rewarded, as a kindness given inspires a kindness in return.
An example is Mr. Micawber's exposure of Uriah. This is a service to humanity as well as a service to Betsey
and Mr. Wickfield, whose money is restored to them as a result. Mr. Micawber was prompted to this act by
his conscience, but it was done against his own self-interest, as he knew he would lose his job with Uriah.
But because this novel has a clear moral structure, in which good things happen to good people, Mr.
Micawber is rewarded for his altruism. Betsey comes up with the suggestion that he take his family to
Australia, and offers to loan him the money he will need to get there. This act of charity by Betsey
transforms Mr. Micawber's life; he prospers in Australia and gains a respect that he never enjoyed in
Mr. Peggotty's words suggest that such acts have an eternal, incorruptible quality. This can be understood on
a humanistic, non-religious level as a meaning that an act of kindness lives forever in the heart of the
recipient, and thereafter in the hearts of his or her dependants and descendants. Equally, it can be understood
in religious terms to mean that an act of kindness is akin to God's grace (the essential quality of which is that
it is given regardless of God's judgment, even where it is undeserved); doing such an act thereby raises the
doer to a level that is close to God.
Equality within marriage
The novel emphasizes the importance of this kind of equality within a marriage, though Dickens was not so
progressive as to embrace modern notions of equality, where neither partner has authority over the other.
While Annie and Dr. Strong love, respect, and honour each other, Annie has no objection to kneeling before
her husband as a sign that she submits to his authority. Dr. Strong does not abuse his authority, but always
treats Annie with gentleness and compassion.
About David Copperfield
When Charles Dickens sat down to write what would eventually become the novel David Copperfield, he
first intended to write an autobiography, a recollection of his tumultuous, eventful life. Many of his
memories, however, were too painful for him to record as they truly were, so David Copperfield was born as
an alternative account. Many of the events in the work are dramatizations or fictionalizations of events in
Dickens’ own life. For example, Dora Spenlow, with whom David falls passionately in love and marries—
only to realize that the whole affair was a big mistake—is modeled on Maria Beadnell, the recipient of young
Dickens’ unrequited love. In addition, David has a remarkable memory for detail, which mirrors Dickens’
own ability, and he uses this ability to describe important scenes and characters.
As a result of such parallels, the novel became Dickens’ favourite among the fifteen that he wrote. He often
mentioned that David Copperfield evoked emotions in him unlike any other work that he created. Dickens
felt a powerful relationship to the unhappiness and trials that David goes through.
Many critics believe that when Dickens wrote David Copperfield, he was at the height of his literary
proficiency. He had fewer difficulties in the creation of this novel than with any of the others which he
produced, and even his main competitor, William Makepeace Thackeray, admitted the excellent skill
displayed by the novelist in this case. One improvement over previous writings that one can observe in
David Copperfield is Dickens’ use of fewer and less complex words and tangents, making the work much
easier to follow and enjoy.
Because the novel focuses on the life and obstacles of David, it is often classified as a bildungsroman. This
genre of literature focuses on the growth and development of an individual as he or she matures and deals
with life’s challenges. The bildungsroman protagonist often has an early experience that separates him or her
from home and family, which starts the character on a more or less independent life journey. In the case of
David Copperfield, one thinks of the sending of David off to school in London, or perhaps the scene in
which David bites Mr. Murdoch and is severely beaten for it. Apart from familiar surroundings, his growth
truly begins. The bildungsroman’s protagonist often follows a long and painful path of maturation, filled
with many clashes among needs, desires, and social pressures. Eventually, the protagonist finds a niche in
society, and such novels usually end with an assessment or reflection on the character’s life. The structure of
David Copperfield almost perfectly fits the usual format of a bildungsroman novel. Whether Dickens meant
his work to follow this format so closely, however, is unknown.
The novel’s main arena of discussion is less about “the condition of English question,” as literary critic
Thomas Carlyle called it, and more about a personal journey towards true peace and happiness. David
Copperfield, along with Great Expectations, certainly has less to say about societal injustices than Dickens’
other novels, notably Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Still, social commentary is not completely absent
from David Copperfield. The work makes significant points about emigration to Australia, the English prison
system, unnecessarily harsh boarding schools, and prostitution. Nevertheless, Dickens is more concerned
with relating an individual’s story and somehow relating to his audience something of the trials and
tribulations that developed Dickens himself into the man he was.
Tolstoy regarded Dickens as the best of all English novelists, and considered Copperfield to be his finest
work, ranking the "Tempest" chapter (chapter 55, LV – the story of Ham and the storm and the shipwreck)
the standard by which the world's great fiction should be judged. Henry James remembered hiding under a
small table as a boy to hear instalments read by his mother. Dostoyevsky read it enthralled in a Siberian
prison camp. Franz Kafka called his first book Amerika a "sheer imitation". James Joyce paid it reverence
through parody in Ulysses. Virginia Woolf, who normally had little regard for Dickens, confessed the
durability of this one novel, belonging to "the memories and myths of life". It was Freud's favourite novel