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“David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens

The novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is the narration about the hard experiences of the main hero, David Copperfield the Younger. David is a naïve village boy and half orphan whose father dies six months before his birth. The novel is also the account of a gradual transformation of the main hero from an idealistic, trusting, and naïve boy into a realistic and strong personality shaped by the adversities he had to overcome in his life. Perhaps the major role in David’s life was played by Aunt Betsy, a “formidable personage” whose strong character saved the protagonist from disappointment and frustration in life. In the novel, the aunt’s tough love addressed to David is contrasted with coddling and pampering of Urian Heep, which is highly criticized by Betsy Trotwood.

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David’s youth is overwhelmed with notes of romanticism when life seems to be wonderful. The misconception of life and his fictional images about human relationships make it difficult to state that he is not superfluous. His easy and exaggerated perception of the surrounding world does not allow him to resist the offenses on his stepfather’s part, as he is incapable to accept the evil into his life yet. Rejecting reality, the hero chooses the line of the least resistance. However due to the circumstances emerging further, David has to face the challenges that give him an access to the reality.

It is worth saying that the novel is a coming-of-age account where the author focuses on the individual transformation of the hero and the discovery of the social aspects of the Victorian Age, the time when life is subjected to the stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes. Hence, the growing constraints imposed by the society considerably alter the code of David’s life thus inflicting trust and disbelief on life. Being in a the state of social and moral frustration, David finds comfort in the hands of Aunt Betsy, the brightest representative of the Victorian women for whom pride and strength come to the forth. For David, Betsey Trotwood is a big aunt, a strong and independent woman who is capable to lead her life on her own. For the author, this character embodies the power and will to live further; for David, she is the light at the end of the tunnel, as aunt Betsey manages to make Copperfield invulnerable. On meeting his aunt at Dover again, he assumes that the previous life was separated by a wall, which will be never withdrawn, as there appears the chance for a new life, which he will never lose. In the book, David states, “Thus I began new life, in a new name, and with everything new about me. Now that the state of doubt was over, I felt, for many days, like one in a dream” (Dickens 215). Hence the dreams turn into reality.

With the advent of Betsey Trotwood to David’s life, there observes the advent of severe reality that is reluctantly accepted by the protagonist. The narrator finds it difficult to face the risks of life and to adjust to the future that still includes the presence of Mr. Murdstone and Mr. Heep. David is assured that the aunt is the only connection with the outer world that separates him from imaginary world. Now he is determined that there the earlier was not a life at all but a mere denial of reality. At a first glance, the aunt’s desire to save David from homelessness is dictated by the feeling of obligation in front of her brother. When encountering Betsey Trotwood, David constitutes, “there was inflexibility in her face, in her voice, in her gait and carriage but her features were rather handsome though unbending and austere” (Dickens 193). However, a closer consideration of this complicated character shows that this woman respects only those who do not afraid to reveal strength and power of character. It is also possible to pursue her apparent compassion for her previous deeds when she grants a shelter for his nephew.

Aunt’s disappearance in the first part of the novel and its recurrence in the third part also plays an enormous role in David’s personality shaping. Hence, this life span is marked by the cognition of the outside world and the severity of life. However, this process of growing up leads to isolation of David from the society thus realizing the painfulness of loneliness. However, during this period can be implicitly regarded as beneficial, as experiencing the challenges and sufferings of being helpless, Copperfield the Younger understands that this is exactly the life he does not want to lead. Despite that the fact that David is afraid of gradual realization of the surrounding world, he still has to encounter these fears in order to feel his commitment and responsibility for his life. Hence, when he gets older, he discovers the veritable characters of others, like his friend Steerforth; he reveals falseness of feelings to her bride Dora and realizes that Agnes is the only love in his life.

The comprehension and cognition would be impossible without intrusion of the strong-willed Betsey Trotwood who manages to give many wise lessons for David. The acceptance of aunt’s philosophy equals his acceptance of reality where aunt Betsey is a kind of grandmother for a child losing hope and finding the essence of life. With the help of aunt Betsey’s authority and experience, David manages to abandon the sufferings of the past thus entering the world that was prepared for him beforehand.

On accepting Betsey Trotwood’s love, there appears a contradiction of two worlds existing in David’s life. On the one hand, David denies Murdstone’s world, the male world where David searches for the love to make his fragmentary world coherent and balanced. On the other hand, David rejects Micawbers, as he searches for a coherence of his own world damaged by previous sufferings. Nonetheless, it is notable that all David’s searches are based on his burning desire to find love and so that his acceptance of his aunt’s care is fully justified. As a payoff for this love, David also accepts the surname “Trotwood” being a favorable burden for the rest of his life; he also accepts her aunt’s philosophy of life presenting reality as the underpinning for choosing the responsibility and control, which provides personal and outer coherence. As Betsey tells David, “..we must not make a mistake in our decision if we can help it” (Dickens 273). From this abstract, one could understand that Betsey’s love is expressed through her desire to make David strong and resistible to suffering; she also intends to protect David from the previous experience thus teaching him how to avoid such an attitude in future. Finally, David finds the veritable direction in his journey toward a full-fledged and coherent life.

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The above relationships show that the true love and care should be strictly distinguished from coddling and pampering that give nothing good to a person. The brightest example of how excessive care corrupts a personality is Mr. Uriah Heep. In the novel, this character contrasts with David Copperfield being his antagonist. The antagonisms can be also pursued in their experiences and attitudes to lives. Hence, the main goal of Uriah is to possess the power thus deciding to fight for a social recognition through evil and unjustified methods. The analysis of his personality shows that Uriah Heep converts him into a hunter for the social status and recognition for whom humbleness is the main enemy. In the novel, David first meets Uriah when leaving the family of Wickfield together with Agnes. Uriah seems to follow David throughout the novel in order to steal all his achievements in life; he considers humanness as the main vice, which he strives vigorously to eliminate: “We are too humble, sir” said Mrs. Heep, “my son and me, to the friends of Master Copperfield” (Dickens 258). By these words, Uriah reflects his obsequiousness and explicit insincerity through his outright references to David as “Master Copperfield”. Unlike Copperfield, Heep’s main motivation is greed and ambition for power and wealth; he is also eager to separate himself from the middle-class society.

When pursuing the relationships of Uriah with his mother, one can witness the consequences of coddling for personality shaping. From the novel, we see the way Mrs. Heep reaps the fruits of the upbringing thus hearing offensive and humiliating phrases from his son. In his turn, Uriah expresses his resentment towards his mother, as she also embodies the main “the dead image of Uriah, only short” (Dickens 255). This is the explicit example of how allegiance and emasculation lead to the frustration of human dignity and honor. Those false relations serve as antagonistic images of the relations between David and his aunt Betsey proving that the veritable love involves respect for other people.

The results of upbringing could be also seen in his relations to women and to Agnes Wickfield in particular. The negligence of other feelings is also explained by the fact that Uriah is treated as weak and humble woman. Uriah’s hypocrisy and hatred for humbleness do not allow him to see the true sense of life. Mrs. Heep’s inability to reveal her love converts her child into a soulless person without any ideas about humanness and self-esteem. Instead, the author inserts the animal characteristics of Mr. Heep: “[David] went in, of Uriah Heep breathing into the pony’s nostrils, and immediately covering them, as if he were putting some spell upon him” (Dickens 219). Hence, such an appearance and even his behavior reveal his condemnation of everything surrounding him: “Uriah, with his long hands slowly twining over one another, made a ghastly writhe from the waist upwards, to express his concurrence in this estimation of me” (Dickens 259). The denial of humility also constitutes that fact that Uriah lacks experience of being love; therefore, he was ignorant of the essence of love that results in a distorted outlook on life and society.

An in-depth comparison of the opposed characters is the outright example of how love or absence of love can influence the fate of people. The power of love presented by Betsey Trotwood displays a strong healing power that promotes David’s recovery from the nightmare of reality. Aunt’s overwhelming love also manages to reunite the pieces of David’s fragmentary world; Betsey proves to be more helpful when proposing the love deprived of emotionalism and excessive care. As a result, David becomes an acknowledged journalist who decides to commit the pain of the past to the paper. With the help of this tough love, the main hero succeeds in reaching a moral and social equilibrium of his own world.

In its turn, Uriah Heep is depicted as a spoiled child for whom veritable moral values cost nothing. His character becomes synonymic to hypocrisy and corruptness. He is regarded as one of the most memorable villains whose “snaky twisting of his throat and body” identifies him with the devil. Being self-effacing and repulsive, Uriah is the child of coddling of his doting mother, whose desire to dominate leads him to imprisonment.

In a conclusion, it should be stressed that Dickens’s novel reveals the great importance of love and respect for a person. In other words, this novel is a classical narration about morality and virtues that a person should possess in case he/she wants to be succeeded in his personal life and career. David Copperfield is therefore the result of pure love cherished by a strong woman; only love but not connivance can create a full-fledged personality, which is especially seen when opposing the main hero to Uriah Heep, the fruit of coddling.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. The Complete Works of Charles Dickens. US: Cosimo, Inc., 2009.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 2). “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/david-copperfield-by-charles-dickens/

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