Character of David Copperfield
David Copperfield is the central character in the Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield. All events and episodes revolve around him or owe their unity to some connection to him. It is this little boy who remains present in and connected to each and every episode.
Projection of Dickens in David’s Character
David Copperfield is a semi-autobiographical novel. It contains the traits of the novelist himself. More or less, the experiences of David are the experiences of Charles Dickens himself. The character of David Copperfield, therefore, has all the weakness and strong points of the hero of an autobiography.
The Finest Character of Charles Dickens
David Copperfield is one of the finest characters drawn by the author. David is a posthumous child, having lost his father prior to his birth. His mother Clara looks upon little David as the apple of her eve. David’s life during the period of his mother’s widowhood is very happy. Both his mother and nurse Miss Peggotty love him, but this changes after his step-father Murdstone enters the story.
David’s Hatred for Murdstone
Though Murdstone is a lover of Clara somehow little David dislikes him. On his side, Murdstone has no liking for David. When Murdstone marries Clara and dominates her life, poor David becomes a victim of Murdstone’s cruelty. So, David reacts badly to it. He is poor at lessons and is caned by Murdstone whom he bites. This results in a Series of troubles for David, utterly spoiling his career. He is sent to school where he has to carry on his back a notice, “He bites, take care.”
Death of David’s Mother
The death of David’s mother marks the next stage in David’s life. His cruel step-father Murdstone and his sister Miss Murdstone have no sympathy for him. David is employed as a menial worker in Murdstone and Grinby’s company. This wretched life of drudgery for a little boy, has its demoralizing effect. He runs away, after sometime to meet his aunt Miss Betsey Trotwood. It shows his pluck and courage to go through the unknown journey for days, almost with an empty pocket and on an empty stomach. The next stage in David’s character, and producing, a change for the better, is his shelter under his aunt Miss Trotwood. He is lucky in winning his aunt’s sympathy and love.
Aunt’s Moral Advice to David
David scrupulously followed his aunt’s moral advice that he must be true, noble and kind and never be mean, false and cruel. He pleases her by taking up the Proctor’s profession training under the Lawyer Spenlow. He is a faithful and sympathetic friend of the unfortunate Micawber who has the burden of a large family. When his aunt’s fortunes are ruined, he has the manliness to work hard and earn extra as a shorthand writer and newspaper reporter. This shows his resourcefulness, self-reliance and bold ability to face the struggles of life. It also shows his gratitude to his aunt.
David is a Charming Lover
David is a charming lover. He always acts a gentleman. His crush for little Emily does not require special mention. It only shows the natural fancy of a little boy for a little girl. But his feelings for Dora are those of a true and ripe lover. Such guileless and innocent good people like David and Dora have naturally to face domestic difficulties when they marry and set-up home. But he is always a honourable lover and a faithful husband. When his wife Dora falls ill, he serves her very lovingly. Her death drowns him in grief.
After three years of mourning for the lost Dora, he turns to Agnes for love. She has always been a sort of shining angel for him, during those gloomy years. He finally marries her and is glad to learn that what he has done, has also been the dying wish of Dora, secretly mentioned to Agnes.
An Uncomplaining Character
In the face of his sufferings he is undaunted. He is maltreated, abused, and thrashed and banished from his house. His step father proves a curse for him. Our sympathies at once go towards him innocent and truthful that he is. The school of Mr. Creakle is another trial for him. He never complains. That shows the very worth of his character.
David’s Deep Social Snobbishness
David endeavors to remain above the people whom he is conscious to be below his standard. For example he mentions his relationship with the other boys at Murdstone and Grinby’s. There is another example of David’s social snobbishness. He tries to celebrate his birthday at Murdstone and Grinby’s warehouse, although he is encountering hardships due to lack of funds.
David: A Hardworking Guy
David starts his career as an unfortunate orphan. He becomes subsequently a wealthy novelist in his middle age. He has achieved this spectacular success because of his love of labour. He is very had working as a child, in fact his life is a rag-to-riches story. He consoles his aunt when she is a victim of evil days. He saves the situation by working sincerely in various capacities.
David’s Sharpness of Observation
One of David’s chief characteristics is an extreme sharpness of observation, both of scenes and persons, which is particularly apparent in the description of his early life of Blunderstone and in London, Dover and Canterbury. Another is his sensitiveness to other’s treatment of him as we see in his boyish relations with the Murdstones and conversely in his loyalty to the Peggottys, Miss Trotwood, Traddles and the Micawbers. His frankness, honesty and friendliness make him somewhat guileless and unsuspecting of others; for example, of Steerforth, whose motives are less honourable. He tends to a rather excessive modesty which causes others to impose on him. For example, the waiter at Yarmouth when he was a boy, and Mrs. Crupp later on cheated him.
David’s intelligence is apparent from the beginning by the books he was able to read and enjoy at the age of seven or eight. His ambition, practical turn of mind, perseverance and resolution are shown by his misery at Murdstone and Griny’s when all his hopes of a career seem to have been destroyed, and consequently his running away from London, and later by his struggle to learn shorthand when his aunt loses her property.
David’s Susceptibility to Feminine Attractions
His susceptibility to feminine attractions is a weakness. As a boy he falls in love with Emily at Yarmouth, with Miss Shepherd and later with the elder Miss Larkins at Canterbury. As a young man he falls ecstatically and completely in love with Dora (entranced by her prettiness presumably, for he falls in love even before she has spoken a word), and is happy with her despite her impractical nature. It is in this respect that his development is shown, for in the end he comes to realise in Agnes the true value of a woman.
David’s Common Sense and Honesty
One of his most refreshing characteristics is his common sense and honesty – he sees the defects of Doctors’ Commons whilst Mr. Spenlow can view that institution only professionally.
David picked up many friends in his life time. The friendship with the Micawbers became lasting and very intimate. Traddles and Steerforth were his school mates. He too loved them like a true friend. Then there was Mr. Peggotty, although a rustic, David liked him very much and paid frequent visits to the good-natured Mr. Peggotty.
David’s Hyper-sensitive Imagination
David is imaginative even when he is a child. He has read many stories in his early childhood which deeply influenced his career. So he is an incorrigible romantic because of his imaginative nature. Due to his romantic attitude and the idealization of love, he leads himself into difficult situations. This faculty also helps him to visualise the difficulties of life. He, therefore, overcomes adversities with perseverance. Moreover, this imaginative faculty illustrates Dickens’s faith in the final victory of virtue over vice.
A Good Friend and a Kind Husband
He was a good friend and a kind husband. He was always sincere and true to Micawber, Traddles and Steerforth. He remembers Mr. Peggotty with gratitude and love. He runs to the bedside of the dying Barkis He took the tenderest care of Dora, his wife, when she Was ill. He was thrown into great depression and it was only through the good influence of Agnes that he recovered from it. His marriage to Agnes was happy and successful.
David Copperfield: A Man of Great Integrity
He was a man of great integrity. He kept his head up when danger surrounded him on all sides. Though a small boy, he did not take one week’s wages from Mr. Quinion because he had advanced him two shillings in the beginning. At Dr. Strong’s school and with Mr. Spenlow and Mr. Wickfield he always acts in an honest, sincere and honourable manner. He was not cowed down by misfortunes. He worked hard, learnt shorthand, tried his hand at writing, look up a secretary’s job with Dr. Strong, and fought his way up. He soon became a prosperous man and was happily wedded.
David Copperfield is not a dull hero. Being a self portrayal of Dickens he has the charm of Dickens’s personality. He is full of vitality. Somerset Maugham remarks:
“David is a hero drawn after Dickens’s own heart-not as he himself was but as he would have wished himself to be, for David Copperfield, is a fantastication, sometimes gay, sometimes pathetic…”
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