Review: David Copperfield

Charles Dickens: David Copperfield (Superior Formatting Publishing 2010 – original 1849).

Sometimes while reading this book, I wondered what we would have thought of Charles Dickens, if he had been writing today. With the subjects of this book, it in some ways resembles the novels found in magazines where you read an instalment every week and have to wait eagerly every week to read the next part of the story. In fact, that’s exactly what it is – as most people know, this is how many of Dickens novels were published. So would Dickens have been regarded higher if he had written today than we regard the novelist writing in magazines, both having to make their stories interesting and exciting enough for people to return week after week so the writer could earn his keep? Would Dickens’ novels still be regarded as classics?
I have no doubt that the answer is yes. David Copperfield is an amazing novel. It had me in tears a couple of times and although the story is a well-known one, I still had to read on and on to see what would happen to this young boy.
This is a bildungsroman where we follow David from birth to well into adulthood. When David is born, his father is already dead but he has a very loving mother and an equally loving maid. However, her mother marries a very nasty man who along with his sister makes life miserable for David and his mother, ending in his mother’s early death and David being sent away, to work in a factory after first having been placed in a boarding school, ruled by a very strict principal. We see his first friendships, both with a boy in school and with a family he meets while working at the factory. Both will have huge influences on his later life.
At one point, David decides to run away from the factory, to the aunt who was present on the night he was born but who left again when it turned out he wasn’t a boy. He finds her and luckily enough, she decides to take him in and from that point on, his life is changed. She helps him get an education and to find a job to start off with in life, both of with introduces him to vital persons in his life.
This book is filled with memorable characters – from David himself to his aunt and Mr Dick, there’s Agnes and Dora, Emily and her family and of course, Uriah Heep, Mr. and Miss Murdstone and Steerforth. Together, these characters bring this book and this story of a life to life in such a way that you really care about what happens to some of them and truly despises others. How you feel about the characters also changes while reading – Dora for instance, I truly disliked for much of the book but she develops some insights into herself and her relationships that actually made me like her. And I adored her dog, Jip. David himself, sometimes annoyed me as well. Sometimes, I just felt he was too naïve and had to remind myself that he was still a young boy/man without much experience in spite of what he had been through at an early age. I think this was in part because of the way he talked – this book is of course an old book so David sounds older to me than he is. But overall, I liked David and I cheered for him to succeed, find love and happiness and make his aunt proud.
This is my second Dickens – I read A Christmas Carol around Christmas 2010 and it’s definitely not my last Dickens. I like that you can dive into a story like this with love, romance, fraud, lovers running away in the night, shipwrecks, young girls having their reputation ruined, old-fashioned courtships, boarding schools and everything else, that make up such a story, just be so well entertained while at the same time learning a lot about how humans interact and the human condition – this truly is a classic and will be at all times. Dickens knew his trade!

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