Mr. Micawber Character Sketch
“A thoroughly good-natured man, and as active a creature about everything but his own affairs as ever existed.”
In the whole wide range of the English novel there is no more a comic character than Dickens’s immortal Mr. Micawber. Perhaps we may rate him as second only to Shakespeare’s Falstaff. A. C. Ward sums him up well when he observes:
“A kindlier and merrier, a more humorous and a more generous character, was never conceived than this.”
Physical Appearance and Dress
…..”I (David) went in, and found there a stoutish, middle aged person, in a brown surat and black tights and shoes, with no more hair upon his head (which was a large one, and very shining ) than there is upon egg, and with very extensive face, which he turned full upon me. His clothes were shabby, but he had an imposing shirt collar on. He carried a jaunty sort of a stick, with a large pair of rusty tassels to it; and a quizzing-glass hung outside his coat, for ornament, I afterwards found, as he very seldom looked through it, and couldn’t see anything when he did.”
The critics are of the opinion that Charles Dickens has endeavoured to paint the traits of his father in the character of Mr. Micawber. As Somerset remarks in his “The Novels and their Authors”- “To see people well-suited is the idiosyncrasy of Dickens temper. Mr. Micawber was drawn after his father. John Dickens was grandiloquent in speech and shifty in money matters, but he was no fool and far from incompetent.”
His Role in the Novel
Micawber is introduced as the landlord of David Copperfield when he is placed by his step-father in the warehouse of Murdstone and Grinby. He is always in debt, and in need of still more money. He is always waiting for something, to turn up. The only event that transpires is Mr. Micawber’s imprisonment for debt in the King’s Bench prison. He obtains his release under the Insolvent Debtor’s Act, and proceeds to Plymouth. This does not induce anything to turn up; however, he is next seen selling or trying to, and then endeavours to get some thing in the coal trade on the Medway. Later on he enters Mr. Wickfield’s office as the confidential clerk to Uriah Heep, who had become a partner of Mr. Wickfield.
Micawber soon discovers what is expected of him, but instead of assisting in the evil schemes of his employer he quietly proceeds to collect the evidence he can. This he communicates to Traddles. And at a general meeting at Mr. Wickfield’s office Uriah is denounced. As some recompense for his undoubted service, Mr. Micawber is enabled to emigrate to Australia.
His Cheerfulness and Depression of Spirits
He alternates in moods of extreme cheerfulness, and a conviction that something will very shortly “turn up” to the utmost depression of spirits, in which he presents his career as at a crisis. In his cheerful moods, he is extremely convivial, and an expert at making punch.
Mr. Micawber: A Pious and a Loveable Person
Micawber has been painted as a nice soul. He does not have evil intentions or ill motives. He tries to help others and does it in a generous manner. When David goes to stay with him, while he is working at Messrs Murdstone and Grinby, he is very considerate towards him. Later on, we find that he tries to help Miss Betsey Trotwood in getting back her money which she had lost due to deceitful actions of Uriah Heep.
His Attachment to Mrs. Micawber and his Children
He is genuinely attached to Mrs. Micawber and his children, telling David that “in our children we live again and that, under the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, any accession to their number was doubly welcome.” Indeed, money troubles apart, Mr. Micawber is an excellent family man, and thoroughly good-natured, and active and busy about everything but what concerns his own affairs.
Mr. Micawber: A Persistent Letter Writer
His liking for words makes him a persistent letter writer. When the “explosion” comes he has a carefully prepared document ready, in his most exalted and complicated style, which he reads out. Miss Trotwood observes: “He’d write letters by the ream, if it was a capital offence.” And he is still writing in Australia, as we learn at the end of the novel.
His Exposure of Uriah Heep
His part in the exposure of Heep is perhaps a little far-fetched. We have come to regard him as excellent comedy, but totally impractical, and we feel that he could hardly have possessed the penetration and concentration necessary to expose Uriah Heep. And, indeed Dickens deliberately leaves the details of this exposure somewhat vague. So, too, though we are glad to hear of his success in Australia, we feel that Dickens has cheated us, that Mr. Micawber, wherever he was, would still be alternately depressed and cheerful, labouring as always under the pressure of pecuniary difficulties.
Not Cutting his Coat according to the Cloth
Micawber was not very strict about money matters. Probably, he did not believe in cutting his coat according to the cloth. On account of this he suffers many financial difficulties. He had to go to prison because he could not keep his promise to his creditors.
Mr. Micawber: A Great Optimist
He is great optimist. He has faith in his future. He thinks that in the future he shall be able to make his life happy. Ultimately, it comes true. He is, “the type of a whole race of men who will not vanish from the earth so long as the hope which lives eternal in the human breast is only temporarily suspended by the laws of debtors and creditors, and is always capable of revival with the aid of a bowl of milkpunch. A kindlier and merrier, a more humorous and a more generous character was never conceived than this” (A.C. Ward).
Mr. Micawber: A Rolling Stone
In the beginning, we find that Mr. Micawber is a rolling stone so far as his employment is concerned. He does not stick to one position. Sometimes he joins the Marines and then becomes a commercial traveler to certain business houses. Somehow or the other he tries to earn his livelihood. He gets settled down only when he migrates to Australia.
Mr. Micawber: A Man of Contradiction
Micawber is anxious to solve his problems. He accepts any proposal that is put forward to him in this regard. II, on the one hand he is not very strict about money matters, on the other hand, he wants to make his position financially sound. It is on account of this anxiety that he accepts Mrs. Micawber’s suggestion to go over to her family so that a some solution may come out.
Intelligent and Courageous
Micawber is intelligent as well as wise. Had he not been so, he would not have succeeded in exposing Uriah Heep. Uriah Heep was a Man with a Machiavellian temperament. Only an intelligent person could expose him. The steps had to be taken discreetly and wisely. We find that Mr. Micawber does it in that very manner. While Uriah Heep is being exposed , he tries to bully Micawber and the party. He also tries to snatch the documents from the hands of Micawber. At this moment Micawber acts very courageously and makes Uriah Heep’s attempt unsuccessful.
His Sense of Humour
Mr. Micawber is a great comic character who is second only to Shakespeare’s Falstaff. We cannot help laughing at the way in which he would make motions at himself when a creditor would abuse and threaten him. On their departure he would go out cheerfully whistling a merry tune with an air of greater abandon than ever before. The comicality of his character is further heightened by his wife, always with a twin at her breast, and always determined never to desert her husband. His sense of humour comes to his rescue even in most trying of circumstances. He never loses hope and cheerfulness and radiates joy and happiness all around. He carries with him a perpetual sunshine and all those who came in contact with him, bask in it. Thus the statement of G.K. Chesterton is justified when he says, “If Falstaff is the greatest comic character in literature, Mr. Micawber is the best but one.”
Mr. Micawber is one of Dickens’s greatest creations. It may be said that in spite of his weaknesses and foibles, Mr. Micawber has gone down in the history of English novel as an immortal character like Mr. Pickwick. We may condemn him for his easy going, lazy disposition, but we cannot help loving him all the same.
Micawber is a stupendous, and bewildering conception: yet one of the most lovable men that ever lived. Micawber bestrides the pages of the novel like a colossus, and yet he is only a simple-minded man: always at hand-grip with sordid poverty; always having his ups-and-downs; always with the care of too-numerous a family – but always blessed with the cheery, endearing optimism which he has crystallized into a phrase that has become part of our daily speech: “waiting for something to turn up”. Yet it was this unsophisticated soul that Dickens utilized for discovering the dirty machinations of Uriah Heep.
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