David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr. Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora; and the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure.
Let's set the scene...
Still in her first class at Chilton (we're going to be sitting in this seat for awhile, people. Get comfortable.), Rory's teacher is speaking about some of the most renowned literary giants and their influence on each other's work.
Teacher: And while French culture was the dominant outside cultural influence, especially for Russia's monied class, English culture also had its impact. Tolstoy's favorite author, for instance, was. . .
Paris: [raises her hand] Dickens.
Teacher: Yes. And of course, last week we discovered Dostoevski's main authorial influences. . .
Paris: [raises her hand] George Sand and Balzac.
Teacher: Good. As Tolstoy commenced writing both War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Count Leo would turn to. . .
Paris: David Copperfield.
Teacher: Correct. He would turn to David Copperfield for inspiration.
David Copperfield begins our foray into all things Dickens. And as it's the holiday, what's a more appropriate author to focus on?! No... the Statue of Liberty isn't "disappeared" and there's no appearance by a mostly-forgotten supermodel in this book, but it's interesting nonetheless.
As I stated previously, I was under the impression that I hated Dickens. I read Hard Times in high school and the title perfectly explained how my brain felt during that assignment. I got that Chucky was supposed to be hi-freakin-larious (or whatever the old school British version of funny is) and the names of the characters were supposed to be brilliantly connected to the personalities and stories of each individual. Yeah... that's not how I felt about it. Which rather disappointed my dad, who is a big fan of Charles Dickens. Well Daddy... I think you can un-disown me now!
As most of you know by now, I love an author who can write a character that absolutely enrages me... andDavid Copperfield did not disappoint. Between "that Murdering man and woman" and Uriah Heep (or "Lots O' PeePee" as I prefer to call him... I'm a riot), there was plenty of rage available to me. It's natural to prefer to love all of the characters and for everything to be happy and sunshine-y, however I don't believe that necessarily is the sign of a good writer. That type of character tends to feel one-dimensional and I believe does not really add to the reader's ability to relate to a person and their story.
The thing that struck me most about this book was the theme that ran throughout regarding life mistakes and how one pays for them... whether they punish themselves or are punished by society. We watch as "Trotwood" is born and grows, how his personality and values advance in regards to who he is being raised by at that time. I love the way Dickens was able to really capture the growth of a young man and the lessons he learns about life in general throughout events both important and seemingly benign. In this same vein, the following quote really stood out to me:
"I had considered how the things that never happen are often as much realities to us, in their effects, as those that are accomplished."
Regrets can be both about things that are done and things that go undone. And both can hold equally powerful and destructive consequences for a person. Another quote? Why... I think that's a stellar idea!:
"It's in vain, Trot, to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present."
In Mr. Copperfield, Dickens created a character that can make and embrace his mistakes for what they teach him along the way. And it's interesting that the ultimate downfall of the villians in this story is due to their refusal to accept blame and to learn the necessary lesson.
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
There is something good and innocent in Sookie's outlook on life that I believe would fall in love with David Copperfield . I also believe that same naivete would get the reaction out of her that Charles Dickens had in mind when he conceived of The Murdstones and Uriah Heep.