‘David Copperfield’ is a heart warming, Victorian novel that is partly based on the life of Charles Dickens.
David’s naï¿½ve mother, a dear surrogate parent called Peggotty and no Father unfortunately, let David experience the wonders of early childhood until the Mr Murdstone and his sister came along to wreck any known happiness. The time in London was cruelly spent with the help of a private school but all worked out in the end thanks to Mr Micawber and David’s feminist Aunt, Betsey Trotwood. The dirty, filthy life that the young lad followed was washed away and never returned again.
Charles Dickens chose to write about children as it created pathos and drama for his readers. Also, I think the other reason that children are used as a focus is because it reflects on Dickens’ life as a child. It is all very similar to his life and the way that he grew up. The lives of children were extremely hard back in Victorian times and the fact that Dickens was a journalist made him realise the hardship that children went through day by day, hour by hour.
All of this, I imagine, he wanted to bring to the attention of his readers.
Poor young David Copperfield grew up with no shadow figure to give him guidance into life. All this young boy had was a, “white gravestone in the churchyard” which is the remains of his kind-hearted father who sadly left before David entered the world. Although he had no second parent to look up to, never for a moment was David bitter or angry that he was left. We can sense melancholy in his feeling or sadness and despair. As Mr Murdstone begins to welcome himself into David’s life, he soon realises that the only Father he wants is his own blood Father, who would have cared and nurtured him until his dying day.
The young Mr Copperfield missed out on many things such as father and son talks. That’s why I believe that David is just a bit overly sensitive, because he spent most of his days with Maid Peggotty and Mother Clara. A new experience like Mr Murdstone bullied ‘Davey’ into leaving his friendly and warming home in which many memories, including his deceased Father, lay.
Clara was David’s young Mother who gave birth to him at a very young age. She is inexperienced, immature, feeling abandoned and vulnerable because of her loss. That is why she falls into the arms of Mr ‘Evil’ Murdstone, who provides money and good health, but also strict rules and upsetting consequences.
A posthumous David had a remarkable relationship with his young Mother that only they could share. The deal of her husband months before David was born brought an immense connection between the two and nothing could tear them apart.
Clara and her young treasure had great fun together. They would play together for hours on end. Although Clara was fun, she could also be indulgent at times which left Peggotty in charge. When David was naughty or irresponsible his Mother doesn’t approve of reprimanding him, so when Mr Murdstone arrives David gets quite a shock at the strict rules.
A friend, a surrogate parent and a helper are just some of the words we can use to describe their Maid Peggotty. David and Maid Peggotty are not alone in the world at the end but shortly after Mr Murdstone orders them both to leave they find themselves lost and alone. Being older than David’s actual Mother, Peggotty is so much more mature and wise than Clara. She has foresight and thinks what the future may hold (especially for David) whereas the lone parent tends to think only of the present. I think that she is Clara’s best friend. She is a complement to her, and if it wasn’t for the faithful maid, then she and David would be lost in the world of wonders.
Although ‘Peg’ provides little discipline, she is like the road of David’s life, and will guide him through anything that gets in his way.
Edward Murdstone, is an extremely, possessive creature who crawled in to the lives of Clara Copperfield, Peggotty and the young and helpless David. His entrance is significant because of the tension and trauma he creates but also because of his constant discipline towards David.
Mr Murdstone obviously grew up in a background where rules were right and misbehaviour was not tolerated and if you disobeyed the system you would be punished severely. This man, throughout the whole of ‘David Copperfield’ intimidates the young David and, I think, scares Clara too. She is so caught up in this ‘love’ that she feels for him that I don’t think David’s treatment is recognised. Mr Murdstone cannot be tolerated, and would not accept a person who treats him with disrespect. He says, “If I have an obstinate horse or dog to deal with, what do you think I do? I beat him”. These threatening words failed to straighten David out into the model boy that Edward Murdstone requires. Therefore, instead of helping him more, he throws David out of the house and into the care of Mr Creakle, the school Headmaster who runs a very strict boarding school facility.
‘Murder’, ‘Stone’, put it together to get Murderstone. These words fit perfectly to this man’s ruthless character. He calls himself a Father, a husband and a friend, but Mr Murdstone should not be placed with these strong roles.
To isolate a child for seven whole days and lock him in a room where darkness is the new light and light has disappeared like a vampire towards it, is just neglectful. On one hand, you can thank God that his own baby son died, because of the environment he would have been brought up in, and also because of the strict, harsh rules that he would have had to endure.
When Clara and Edward married, they made vows to each other, to always love and honour, through sickness and in health. Mr Murdstone clearly didn’t obey these vows. When Clara became sick, she could not look after the baby and David and slowly the began to deteriorate into nothing. Throughout her illness her ‘husband’ ordered her around and neglected her until she sadly passed away.
Lastly, he is no friend, has no friends and never will. Mr Murdstone, a man who is perfect only for himself.
Clara doesn’t enjoy reprimanding David, something she and Mr Murdstone do not have in common. He says to her, “what’s this? Clara, my love, have you forgotten? firmness, my dear!” He is so omnipotent and impulsive that the household members just stand by his rules and demands. His use of words when speaking are very intimidating, especially towards the poor servant Peggotty. She turns from a blissful, happy friend to a poor unhappy servant who is treated with no respect and dignity from Mr Murdstone, which concludes with her leaving her home of many, many years. This whole act EM puts on is negative, although he was trying to offer David a better welfare for his young life. Many people could say he also wrecked the best part of his life – the childhood part.
Jane Murdstone, sister of Edward, and just as cruel and evil as he, is tagged along with her brother into the happy lives of David, Clara and Peggotty and managed to turn the sun into rain and happy into sad.
Whenever a problem comes her way, Jane Murdstone will react to it with melodramatic skills. From this she can gain sympathy and concern from Edward. I think she partly does this because she is scared of his dominance which is also used over David and Peggotty not to mention the intimidation used on Clara. Jane has learnt well from her brother and uses her powers to turn the house upside down so that it is no longer recognisable to the family. Clara thinks she should have been consulted before the changes were made. Miss Murdstone reacts badly to this accusation, and threatens to leave, but stays as Clara accepts the fact that she cannot win in this one player game.
She makes it extremely obvious that she disliked boys and held a similar opinion on them as David’s Aunt. Jane says, “generally speaking, I don’t like boys”, which is very extraordinary for a woman not to like a child. I can’t imagine her being capable of giving love and affection to anyone, apart from Mr Murdstone, and perhaps the baby who sadly passed on into the next life.
Jealousy is bitter, especially when the people you are jealous of are your brother and his new wife. I wouldn’t call it love that they are embarking upon, but obviously Jane realises that she has none of this love to share with a member of the opposite sex – that is why she takes everything out on young David, who is helpless towards her and her nasty ways.
Miss Murdstone’s power is reflected on Mr Murdstone. That is the only simple way that she can develop this amount of wickedness. If MM makes a remark about her, she accepts it as he can do nothing wrong in her eyes – she is just a woman with no life, love or friendship. Jane is rather like a empty, desolate house or school- much like the school that David is sent to.
“The playground was a bare gravelled yard”, “the most forlorn and desolate place I had ever seen”. These are just two out of many quotes used by David Copperfield as he gazed up at the iron bars of his new life at school. On one side of the bars was his past, and on the other the future he would soon fall into.
Mr Creakle, the school’s Headmaster, fell into the same category as Mr Murdstone and his sister, dull, strict and prone to punishment. His small eyes and wooden leg intimidated David as his stepfather had before – the same feeling of being frightened and helpless in a world of punishment.
He seemed to make it obvious to David that he knows his sinister stepfather Edward Murdstone. I think this is why David was dreading his time at the school, it would be just as bad as home, but no Mother and no Peggotty to defend his honour.
Clearly this man does not take any scruffy boys into the establishment, only the ones who need to be transformed into respectable boys.
Inside Mr Creakle is nothing but a cold heart. As he breaks the news to David that his Mother has died, he provides little sympathy and seems more interested in his rich cheese. That is the kind of man he is – cold, careless and mighty strict.
Steerforth provided David with laughter, respect and most of all, friendship. He guided him and protected him when times got rough. The mature prefect was very trustworthy, like when he offered to care for David’s shillings. He said not to be uneasy, and that he would take good care of them. Helpless David was captured by Steerforth’s compassion and he trusted this extraordinary boy even enough to give him the only money that he owned.
The blacking factory where David is forced to work is a horrific sight and no place for children like David, especially because he is very gullible and he was so used to being smothered by his mother and maid that David might fall for someone’s tricks from the street . This factory exploits the children, scares them and makes their lives feel worthless. No child is fit to work in that factory, David went from a rich and happy to a poor and sad lifestyle which can change a person’s perspective of life. If Peggotty had the power to stop him going then she would prevent it, but sadly David drifted and Peg was left feeling helpless and like she had let the deceased Clara down, all of this heartache was simply because of one man who wanted more.
Betsey Trotwood knew David whilst he was in his Mother’s womb. When he arrived into the world she fled because ‘he’ was not a ‘she’. When David turned up on her neatly cut grass and prim rose garden she was flabbergasted and couldn’t believe what was in front of her. She took David into her own hands with the help of her dear friend Mr Micawber and they gradually turned David’s life around, back into the happy one he once had shared with his mother and Peggotty.
Miss Trotwood’s opinion of boys and men changed without a doubt when she realised how blessed she was with a kind hearted nephew, who only wanted love and affection.
In the end, everything worked out well for the boy who lost a life because of one evil man and his shadow sister. David’s parents are together in peace, Peggotty has found new love, the school and work torture is over and everyone is happy apart from Edward Murdstone and Jane Murdstone, who only have each other to blame for the way their lives have worked out.
David Copperfield brought a ray of light into everyone’s lives, even Charles Dickens who provided the heart-warming story of a lifetime. The readers are entranced and left feeling bright and happy – a truly magnificent fictional tale for all.