David Copperfield is another of Dickens’ loooooong novels, and at first I thought (after Bleak House) that I would hate it.Actually, I rather liked it. The story is not particularly gripping – it is the life of a boy, David Copperfield, whose mother marries a horrible man so that David is thrown into the world too young. Our protagonist later finds prosperity and love. That is really all there is to the main plot, but the subplots in David Copperfield are actually quite interesting. They include: a young girl who is ruined by a wealthier man, a permanent debtor who constantly tries to save his family by trying different professions, and several couples whose loves do not seem to be working out properly. I say no more so as not to give too much away, but it is enough to keep you going.
There are also some rather lovely characters, and some that are just horrible. Particularly sickly is David’s wife, Dora, who is meant to be a completely innocent character – and is therefore permitted to plead ignorance and stupidity and never learn to do anything useful or realise that she shouldn’t marry a poor man. Really, she screams when David suggests that she learn to cook. (Strangely enough, though, I didn’t mind her so much when she was dying, at which point she seemed rather sweet).For once in Dickens there is a strong female presence which seems to go beyond steriotype, from Peggotty, David’s nurse, from David’s aunt and from Miss Mowcher, a fun character who is a dwarf and a makeup artist, and who makes the most of any situation without deserting her morals.
David Copperfield is far easier to read than Bleak House. There is a greater sense of optimism about it, and you get a sense that it is close to Dickens’ heart – since many of the stages in David’s career resemble his own (and since they share the same initials, reversed). Although there are a lot of characters, each one is given time to develop before moving on to the next and the narrator is far less annoying to read than Esther.
Next Week is the conclusion to my Charles Dickens season: A Tale of Two Cities