The great authors have a way of putting emotions into words. With the David Copperfield characters, Charles Dickens does this in the most magical way.
Every summer, my mom has us read and review six books selected according to our grade level. For my last year of high school, David Copperfield was happily on that list.
When my sister, brother and I were flying home from Mexico, on the flight movie option list was The Personal History of David Copperfield. We all three watched it and loved it so much that I read the novel aloud to my entire family.
Now, what is this wonderfully humorous and interesting story about? Well, it may not surprise you, but it is about a young boy named David Copperfield who, although he suffers much in his childhood, grows into a respectable gentleman with a happy life.
The book also reveals the opposite characters of sweet and charitable Agnes Wickfield and the slimy and base Uriah Heep. With a story so imaginative and full of real-life scenarios, this book will keep you riveted to the pages, even though there may be 826 of them.
"It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two years’ imaginative task; or how an author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him forever. Yet I have nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still), that no one can ever believe this narrative, in the reading, more than I have believed it in the writing."
Words of the author from the preface
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Agnes Wickfield is David’s rock of refuge during all times of his life. When, at a certain time of trouble for David, Agnes pays him a visit, he says of her:
“She filled my heart with such good resolutions, strengthened my weaknesses so, by her example, so directed—I know not how, she was too modest and gentle to advise me in many words—the wandering ardor and unsettled purpose within me, that all the little good I have done, and all the harm I have forborne, I solemnly believe I may refer to her. (Page 486).”
And, indeed, she is all that is good: even-tempered, innocent, and affectionate. It is she who David turns to in all his troubles.
David calls her his “good angel”, because her upright guidance shines on every decision he makes.
When David finds himself in a world of confusion after he runs away from his step-father, Agnes is the largest influence who helps him re-parent himself to be a righteous man. Without Agnes, there would not be a David Copperfield as we know him.
The next of the David Copperfield characters I would like to discuss is Uriah Heep. This character is the arch-nemesis of David. He is unlike David in all aspects.
This man is grasping and mean, always hiding behind a mask of false humility and pretending to be submissive to his superiors. Uriah is not a gentleman, but a clerk who is able to lie, cheat and manipulate his way into his employer’s business and, eventually, his home and life.
Through him, David learns to ward away from false humility as well as the baseness that man can stoop to, thus making David always ready to guard against these habits and thoughts.
In the end, Uriah does receive what he deserves—not without bringing his own character to the place he is put but finagles his way into becoming a favorite even among those who are misfortunate enough to be in his company.
David, the character whom the book takes its title, is the best showcase of Charles Dickens' ability to capture human nature and inspire the reader to rise above any all obstacles life throws.
Finally, David Copperfield is the main character and, whether he is the hero of his own story, reading the book itself can only tell (paraphrase from The Personal History of David Copperfield). Although surrounded by mainly static characters, David himself changes much throughout the novel.
As a young boy, David has only a very sweet and rather silly mother, who is very indulgent and makes David the center of her life. After she remarries, David is abused by his step-father, resulting in his running away to a new life in which he has only a past of being highly indulged and then abused. As such, he has little or no upbringing worth mentioning, save what he was given by his nurse, Peggotty.
David enters his new life naive, weak charactered and still very childish. Throughout the novel, and with the help of Agnes, he must re-parent himself learning and acquiring true humility, true innocence, and true compassion. Seeing the simpering “ ’umbleness” of Uriah Heep, David is able to improve his own real humility.
When he finds immorality in a person where he sought to find only goodness, David has occasion to preserve and guard against dangers to his own innocence. David later finds hurt at the hands of this same person and is compassionate and does all in his power to bring comfort to the afflicted family.
The virtues of humility, innocence, and compassion not only exist in David’s heart, but grow throughout the novel.
The novel David Copperfield, is a book filled not only with rich characters that reflect people everyone is able to identify with in his own life, but also contains literary richness that is always to be found in classical works of literature. Charles Dickens captures ideas, situations, and people in a very masterful way.
In Agnes Wickfield, he embodies all that is good and virtuous in a person. Uriah Heep, on the other hand, is a complete illustration of vice and the most undesirable traits in a man.
With this greatest of the David Copperfield characters, Charles Dickens is able to show us a situation where a young person is left to rely on himself and is yet able to train himself to become, not only a man, but a humble, innocent, and compassionate young man.
This novel is truly not only a good read for its literary interest, but it is also good for the mind because it presents ideas that give culture and training.
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