Charles Dickens : David Copperfield Novel
Q. 1. Throw light on Dickens as a social reformer.
Introduction : Primarily a story-teller and entertainer, Dickens could not remain blind to the social, political, economical and educational drawbacks of his day. He was naturally hurt; but he could not undertake the work of a social or political leader. The best manner in which he could draw the attention of the reader to these without calling forth a challenge from anybody was to satirize things and take the help of humour. Dickens did it, and did it so well that he has been called a social reformer. He attacked several English institutions, but he did it so well that nobody hated him; on the contrary the very people he attacked accepted him. He attacked everyone, and made only admirers, no enemies. Children were, very often, Dickens’s chief concern. In David Copperfield he brings before the reader the necessity of reform in two fields, both related to children, child labour and the education system particularly inhuman punishment
Child Labour : Dickens’s one wish and hope was to strike a blow for the poor, specially against child labour. In David Copperfield he has highlighted the sufferings of children employed in various industrial establishments. There being no factory laws, the factory owners freely exploited tender children. David was sent to ‘Murdstone and Grinby’ to work at the tender age of ten. The place of work was unhealthy and suffocating where David had to work from early morning till late night. Even two meals a day are not possible for him because he is paid only about seven shillings a week. David’s suffering is the suffering of many a child of the day placed in similar circumstances.
Education : Another social evil attacked by Dickens is the faulty system of education and the method of brutal punishment in schools. He exposed the horrors of the system in one novel after another. Education was in the hands of private persons and schools were run for profit. The treatment of the boy was unsympathetic and harsh. In David Copperfield the headmaster of Salem House, Creakle takes pleasure in caning boys. He is not at all a teacher. But Dickens does not take a completely negative approach about education. Dr. Strong’s Academy is an ideal school.
Legal Machinery and Prisons : Abuses of the legal system are also shown in David Copperfield. We get a detailed account of the working of the courts at Doctors Commons and the abuses there. Spenlow and Jorkins are selfish lawyers. They are law for their own benefits. They exploit the people who are ignorant of the law. The need for prison reform is also limited at. In David Copperfield there is a realistic picture of King’s Bench prison for debtors. There was no effect to reform the prisoners. Gambling, drunkenness and other evils filled the prisons. Dirt, death and disease were the common lot of the prisoners. Dickens awakened the public conscience to the need for prison reform.
Poverty : A common feature of English society at that time was poverty. Dickens described the horrors of poverty only too well. In David Copperfield we see, a prey to the unjust social system of such persons as the child David, Micawber, Traddles and even Heep. Micawber was always in debt which led him to prison; Traddles had to work very hard; Heep became a villain, and he and his mother assumed humility to cheat and even destroy simple and unsuspecting persons. The evil consequences of poverty were most effectively exposed by Dickens. His novels brought to the public consciousness of this evil and gradually led the way to poor house reform and useful work houses.
Conclusion : In a way Dickens expresses the conscience of his age. People did feel all this but could not express it so well. While he made the reader laugh he also brought home to him causes that shocked him. He shared a great deal of common experience with his readers.
Q. 2. Charles Dickens is the representative Victorian Era. Justify.
or “The pen which wrote ‘David Copperfield was often dipped in his own blood.” Discuss autobiographical elements in the novel.
Or Or Discuss Dickens’s art of characterization with special reference to ‘Copperfield’.
Ans. Introduction: The Victorian Age was such that writers, poets as well as novelists-could not escape its impact. Almost unavoidable so that Dickens can be called a typical Victorian novelist. mainly and
Unequal nature of the Novels : We cannot deal exclusively either with the virtues of the Victorian novel, or its faults. It is a strange compound of strength and weakness. It is so because the novel is still in the first stage. It is as yet for entertainment and not for serious reading. It is not yet a definite literary form. Entertainment being their chief aim, the novelists have to take into account the tastes of their readers. Dickens provides entertainment to the middle class for whom he writes. The novel has not yet evolved its own laws and is technically faulty. There are artificial intrigues, stock situations and forced happy endings. Frank treatment of the animal side of life, and sex was not allowed in society, and consequently, not allowed in fiction. Emily’s crime: to pass
“is regarded as heinous and she is shipped off to Australia her days there single, and in low spirits.”
Merits : But it should not be assumed that the novel of the Victorian Age was quite without merits. We can see several merits in the form which are the merits of Dickens also. The story is well-told and the interest of the reader sustained so well that he is always eager to know what happens next. Dickens too grips the attention of the reader with the first sentence. The novels of the period present the panorama of the whole society. They do not concentrate on the fortunes of the few chosen individuals. Dickens’s novels, even those dealing with the life of single individuals, like David Copperfield, provide a view of the various aspects of the life of the day. They have a large range. They do not specialize and give us realism and fantasy along with the various aspects of life. In David Copperfield we get the various things that appeal to different tastes and moods. Creative imagination is a feature of the Victorian novel. And ckens has fantastic imagination. He exaggerates individual peculiarities. He can write well on the aspects of life which can be exaggerated and are capable of fantastic treatment. His characters without exaggeration remain colourless. Agnes in David Copperfield is one such character. Then the great Victorian novels are pictures. They stick close to the facts of life but they do not merely reproduce them. These facts are coloured by imagination. Material is selected and ordered to creative a new world founded on the actual one. Dickens is the romancer of London life and his romance is founded on reality. The Victorian novel has its own setting, its characteristic scenery and Dickens’s London too has its own special features-fog, gaslight, cheerless streets, cosy and squalid interiors and stagnant water-side. The creative imagination of the Victorian novelists enable them to invent dramatic and picaresque incidents, excel in humour and create alive characters. Dickens’s novels has all these. He has given us many dramatic incidents, even melodramatic ones; he is one of the greatest humorists and has created countless figures of fun. Micawber is perfectly comic. There are real human beings in his novels that linger in our memory even when the story is forgotten. david copperfield novel
Faults : Dickens is not free from the typical faults of the Victorian novelists. Their stories consist of a large variety of characters, incidents and intrigue and end with marriage. Dickens follows this convention. In David Copperfield there is the intrigue of Uriah Heep and there is the marriage of David and Agnes in the end. Their plots are not organic wholes. Dickens’s plots too are unlikely and conventional with many superfluous characters and incidents. The main interest lies in individual characters and episodes and not in the whole. Unity of tone is not preserved. The pathos is generally overdone as in the case of Emily. He fails over his characters; the good are perfectly good and the bad are entirely bad. Their subject matter is limited. Important aspects of life are left out. The animal side of human nature is ignored so that the view of life is partial. Sex, thought, art and public affairs are avoided. Dickens suffers from all these limitations of the Victorian novel. Their range of characterization is also limited. The interest lies in the oddities of the characters rather than in their relation to any general problem or interests of human nature. There are no intellectuals, no statesmen and no artists among them. Dickens too fails to draw an intellectual successfully and he is not good at a gentleman incapable of tragedy; so is Dickens.
Conclusion : Finally, the Victorian novelists are good story-tellers, covering a wide range of subject and mood and appealing to a large reading public with varied tastes. Their novels were delightful in reading. We find all these qualities in Dickens’s novels, specially like David Copperfield. david copperfield novel
Q. 3. The charm of the novel lies in the central figure of David Copperfield. Comment on his character. Or
Discuss the character of the protagonist David Copperfield as Copperfield’. as enumerated in the novel ‘David
Introduction : David, finally called Trot by his aunt, Betsey Trotwood is the hero of the novel named after himself. It has been generally accepted that he is the idealized representation of Dickens himself . He is the most interesting and lovable character in the gallery of Dickens. The whole story naturally moves round his character. david copperfield novel
Personal : As we see him in the beginning, David is a slim good-looking boy. Except the Murdstones, who are harsh towards him for their own reasons, and Creakle who takes sadistic pleasure in beating his students, everybody likes him. His personal charm and good nature won for him the affection of those who happened to meet him-nurse Peggotty, Steerforth, Mr. Peggotty, Ham, Emily, Wickfield, the Micawbers, Traddles, Agnes, Dora and the rather capricious Betsey, and, of course, had married Dick.
Fond of Books : As a child, specially after his mother Murdstone, David was lonely. He was forced to pass his time alone. He naturally grew fond of reading books. Instead of going to play he used to sit and read the books in the little room upstairs. This habit was very useful to him in later life in two ways: he could easily learn shorthand and finally he became a writer. This childhood love for books remained with him all first to his life.
Sensitive : The one quality that remained with David from last was his sensitiveness. This sensitive child could not bear any hardship or disagreeable person. If unfortunately he could not like Murdstone; perhaps he was jealous. Murdstones, cruel behaviour made him more sensitive. Though fond of reading books he could not read at Murdstone’s hands. It is a pity, that Murdstone misunderstood this inability. Sensitiveness sometimes affected him deeply. When Murdstone treated him very elly he bit his hand. The feeling that his mother must be displeased 1. sade him wretched and he begged forgiveness. He did not like Steerforth insulting Mell for his poverty. When Mr. Spenlow returned to him his letters to Dora he felt so deeply that he refused to take them.
Studious and Hardworking: David had a love for books which his main support in times of physical and mental agony. He never avoided labour. He worked very hard when his aunt Betsey was ruined. He worked as a secretary to Dr. Strong and at the same time studied shorthand and worked as a parliamentary reporter. He did extra work in his spare time. His determination to work was praiseworthy. He was deeply concerned about his aunt’s loss and decided to make it as far possible by his own labour. david copperfield novel
Dutiful : David Copperfield had a sense of gratitude which made him very dutiful. He never forgot the kindness and affection that he received. He did his utmost to serve his aunt Betsey when she was ruined. He kept his promise to her to be good and true. When Peggotty’s husband, Barkis died, David consoled her and helped her. He also helped her to settle her affairs. Peggotty had looked after him in his childhood and her love was amply repaid by him. At no point in his life do we find David lacking in duty, be it to Betsey, Peggotty and Dora or even to Steerforth before he had brought ruin upon Emily.
Honest and Conscientious : David was honest, kind and conscientious. Even if he suffered he never took recourse to dishonesty. His life was a round of conscientious labour. He was not false in his work even though the work was disgusting like that of washing bottles. When he had bitten Murdstone he suffered from the thought that perhaps he had done wrong and his mother would be displeased. He served all honestly and truly. When he found that he had become poor, he considered it his duty to prepare Dora to accept poverty. He loved Dora deeply. We do not hear of many days of happiness with Dora; it was a trial almost from the beginning because she was never well. But at the same time we do not find any moment of repentance or grudging from David. He served her faithfully as long as she lived and pined after her death for quite a long time. He disliked all meamness and hypocrisy. He had a natural aversion for these qualities. This is why he disliked Murdstone and Heep from the very beginning of his acquaintance with them. david copperfield novel
True and Sincere : There was no tinge of falseness in David’s character. He was true and sincere everywhere as a nephew, as a friend and as a husband. He proved to be the most faithful son to his aunt Betsey. He was a true friend to everyone from Peggotty to Micaw! and Steerforth. His friendship was lasting and sincere. When he could not Traddles adapt Dora to himself he tried to adapt himself to Dora. He looked after her very faithfully and with all love. His love for Agnes was constant. He loved her for her grace and sweetness of character and for her devotion to her old and infirm father. Agnes was his good angel and his marriage to her began happiness in his life.
On the whole, David Copperfield comes out as a good and courageous youngman fighting against odds from the very beginning and flourishing and triumphant in the end. His life is a source of inspiration to every one. His courage and energy, his heroic defiance of difficulty and his lofty character fascinate us. It has been rightly said that David is a hero drawn after Dickens’s own heart not as he himself was but as he would have wished himself to be. He is composed out of recollections and wish-fulfilments by the man of lively imagination and warm feelings, Dickens.
Conclusion : David Copperfield is a sensitive and has a keen observation. His devotion to his wife Dora, also deserves praise. During her illness, he looks after her with rare feeling. He sincerely loves Agnes and when he marries her, he proves himself a very good husband to her. Some scholars compare him to a looking glass. They says:
“One of the strongest things in this novel is the figure of the titular hero himself. david copperfield novel
Q. 4. “In the novels of Dickens, humour and pathos inseparable.” Do you agree with this statement ? Or Write a note on the comic genius of Dickens.
Introduction : In the treatment of humour Dickens is one of the greatest and stands next only to Shakespeare. Humour, varied and all pervasive is the supreme quality of his genius. He makes his readers laugh and this laughter guides them to a discussion of the problem underlying the fact. Humour helps him in social reform and makes him a popular story-teller and loving novelist. He has a comic sense of life which lends humour to his narration.
Dickens’s Humour: Dickens’s humour is not ordinary and dull. It is creative and original. The sources of his humour are of peculiar language full of personal mannerisms and impossible eccentricity. We can easily enjoy his humour because it is positive and genial. It is pure, memorable and funny. There is also satirical humour in Dickens. It arises from the hypocrisy, vanity, greed and insolence of fashionable people, officials, lawyers and men and women with these weaknesses. His humour softens the satire. His satirical characters are interesting and lively. Dickens uses irony, especially irony in words, to create satirical humour. Very often we have Humour mingled with pathos. Things that make us laugh also touch our heart. david copperfield novel
Elements of Farce : Dickens’s humour in the earlier novels is rather farcical full of irresponsible jollity. Later on he introduces farce deliberately. Sometimes he tries to soften bitter truth with the help of farce. In David Copperfield, the scene between little David and the waiter is an admirable piece of farce. The waiter eats up the cutlets placed before the poor, starving David, and gives it out that the boy has eaten that amount. We laugh before feel sympathy for David. Another hilarious scene is the one in which David reads the story of the crocodiles to his nurse creating the impression that they are vegetables. david copperfield novel
Humour in character : Dickens’s humour arises from character and not from action. His comic characters are humorous figures and his humour is essentially a humour from real life and vitality. It throws light on human nature, arouses thought and is suggestive of wisdom. It gives rise to a thoughtful smile rather than broad laughter. It may be exaggerated but is always based on reality. He emphasizes the weak points to make them effective. There is exaggeration in Micawber and Betsey and the weak points are emphasized in the case of Spenlow. Sometimes his humour in decisive too as in the case of the peculiar manner of speech and peculiar habit and conduct of Heep and Spenlow and Jorkins are humorous creations lifted direct out of real life. Character is very often full of stupidity. Dickens has been most successful in bringing out the humour in stupidity. Sometimes a person does not talk much but asserts his importance and dignity by a blank stare of resentment which is very funny and causes humour. With the help of his imagination, Dickens catches hold of peculiarities in the dress, manners, speech or appearance of his characters and creates figures of fun. A source of much amusement in David Copperfield is Dick. It has been rightly : humour, and the pointed “Simpletons, even idiots, in this way become objects talk.“