What to say about Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield? I actually enjoyed the book very much the first time I read it when I was 13 I think. I could barely have told you what the story was about if you’d asked me: I merely remembered being swallowed into the book and devouring it. It’s interesting in fact because apart from Jane Eyre I never even recalled reading a book in the first person before opening Jacqueline Carey’s stories.
The novel’s full title is funny in a way The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account). As it tells us, it is indeed an account of David Copperfield’s adventures, experience and observation. And he is quite observant, from a young age. Since David tells the story as an adult and speaks about his childhood, it’s interesting how he sometimes specifies that as observant as he was the understanding of the situation came later, which leaves us in an in-between. There is obviously the observation of the moment and the interpretation of later.
Dickens’ antagonists are always so vivid, even ones such as Mr. and Miss Murdstone. They’re the antagonists of a child’s life and they’re not evil per se (compared to the antagonists in Oliver Twist for example) but they’re quite despicable regardless. David’s relationships with his mother, Peggotty and every other person he meets on the way are very vivid; you can feel the impact each encounter – long or short – has on David. And compared to other characters David remains optimistic about things: he’s hurting and he hurts in silence mostly but he still sees the best in people, even those who take advantage of him like Steerforth.
I guess that’s why I like the book; Dickens has a knack for taking his characters and put them through hell but where in Great Expectations for example, the leading man is sort of complacent and expecting the best to happen to him just because, here David takes charge of his own fate even at a young age: his choice to leave London because the destiny his stepfather decided for him won’t do. He doesn’t let hell happen if you will. When Heeps – the antagonist of the second part of the book – defrauds his aunt and his fortune is low, though not as low as in the first part, he just works harder. The hardship only makes him stronger even through the course of it.
The concepts of friendship and loyalty are very present in the book, in David himself but also in a great supporting cast. From Pegotty who remains a steadfast friend to David, to Agnes who helps him and supports him in the difficult times encourages him to become a writer. So David Copperfield for all the obstacles that the hero meets remains a positive book.
It’s a long story, as most stories at the time, but unlike Great Expectations and even to a point Bleak House, this one doesn’t feel as long. I can’t really say why: maybe because the character is more relatable, although I’ve never been in such a place as Salem house, nor have I had a stepdad… particularly one as cold as Mr. Murdstone. But of the 3 Dickens’ novels I’ve read, it remains my favourite.
Have you read it?
What did you think?