David Copperfield

David Copperfield
Charles Dickens

The Author:

On the 7th of February 1812 Charles Dickens was born at Portsea, near Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. His early childhood was very happy, but in 1822 he moved to London with his family, where he no longer was sent to school, but had to work in a factory because the family was very short of money. His father then was arrested for debt. Although John Dickens was released from prison after three months, it was some time before he took his son from the factory and sent him to Wellington House, a school run by a harsh headmaster. At the age of fifteen he left school and became clerk in a lawyers’ office. He then taught himself shorthand and became a parliamentary reporter. On his twenty fourth birthday his first book appeared: Sketches by Boz ( Boz was his pen - name). In 1836 he began writing an amusing monthly serial, Pickwick papers, which was read everywhere and made him very popular.
In April 1836 Dickens was married to Catherine Hogarth and although they had ten children he left her in 1858.
Dickens died in 1870 at the age of 58.


Pickwick Papers (1836)
Oliver Twist (1837)
Nicholas Nickleby (1838)
The Old Curiosity Shop (1840 - 1)
Barnaby Rudge (1841)
David Copperfield (1849 - 50)

The main characters:

It is not really possible to give a complete description of the main characters in a few words, since the book is about the whole life of one person and so the 'personalities' of the different characters change throughout the book.
Generally the main characters are exaggerated so that the readers could remember them over a long period of time( the novel first appeared as a serial just once a month).

David Copperfield: the main character who describes his life autobiographically in this book
Mr Micawber: a friend of David who most of the time has to deal with financial problems.
Steerforth: one of his old school - mates
Betsey Trotwood: his aunt.

A summary of the plot:

Six months before David’s birth his father died. The night he is born his aunt Betsey Trotwood arrives in Blunderstone, but departs immediately, since she had expected a girl. With his nurse Pegotty and his mother he spends a very happy early childhood. Pegotty once takes him for a holiday to Yarmouth, where her family lives and when he comes back he learns that his mother has re - married.
David is sent to Salem House, a boarding school run by a harsh headmaster, where he meets two friends: Steerforth and Traddles. After some time he is sent home again because of his mother’s death. David then is not allowed to go to school any more, but is sent to work in a factory in London, from where he runs away to live with his aunt. (In London he lives with the Micawbers who always suffer financial problems and Mr. Micawber even is arrested for debt).
His aunt then arranges for him to go to an excellent school in Canterbury, where he renews his friendship with the Micawbers. After David has finished his education, he works as an apprentice proctor. When his aunt arrives in London and tells him that she is ruined he starts work with great determination as a secretary and teaches himself shorthand since he wants to be a parliamentary reporter. He then marries Dora Spenlow and becomes a successful author. In the meantime the Micawbers emigrate to Australia, where, for the first time, they do not have financial troubles anymore.
After his wife dies he decides to take his grieve abroad, but returns to Britain when he receives a letter from Agnes, who he then marries after some time. This time his marriage is very happy and aunt Betsey and Pegotty then look after his children.

Structure of the plot:

Since it the novel is written autobiographically and it first appeared as a serial in the newspapers the structure is very distinctive. There are a few things about this novel that make it quite clear that it first appeared as a serial. First of all Dickens included some themes which were in the news at that time and he sometimes included chapters just to remind people of certain characters or subplots. Further more Dickens usually starts a new chapter every time something new happens in David’s life.
Along with the central story of David’s life there are, many sub - plots e.g. the story of Mr. Micawber or the story of Steerforth. The subplots are also used to develop the storyline because it hardly ever happens that all the characters are at the same place.
When something new happens in David’s life he usually meets new people and those people are related to certain places, but there are always cross - references to the other characters to move on the plot.

The themes:

child - labour: David is sent to work in a factory when he is still very young
emigration: The Micawbers and other minor characters emigrate to Australia, where they get rid of their old problems they had in England
single parent families: David’s mother does not remarry because she loves her new husband, but because she has to because of the society

The language:

The language of this book is rather easy and so it is quite straightforward to read. Some characters, however, speak with a distinctive accent. The novel also includes a lot of direct speeches.
The names Charles Dickens uses for the minor characters usually tell you a lot about themselves e.g. 'Creakle' his name sounds as harsh as he is himself.

Personal opinion:

As a whole the book is quite interesting, although at some stages it can be a bit boring because it is so long. On the other hand you can help yourself by just skipping or skim - reading a few pages and you will certainly not lose the plot because the most important events usually do not just happen very suddenly, but the tension is built up very slowly.
I can recommend this book to someone who does not mind if it takes him/her about half a year to finish this book because sometimes you just have to stop for some time because otherwise you would get too bored.

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