Charles Dickens' David Copperfield by Holly Hughes

By Holly Hughes

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Extra resources for Charles Dickens' David Copperfield

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Murdstone brings a cane to the lessons, and the threat of being beaten drives everything else from David’s mind. (Note Mr. ) Though David has become sullen and passive, at this showdown his fighting spirit rises, and in the physical struggle he instinctively bites Mr. Murdstone. Dickens understood how natural a child’s sense of guilt is. After he’s been beaten and locked away, David feels like a criminal, the more so because he is treated like one. Like a life force, Peggotty breathes hope to him through the keyhole.

Simple sentences at the end of the chapter describe his departure poignantly. Yet Dickens adds an extra level of meaning by slipping in without comment details of the behavior of Mrs. Copperfield, Mr. Murdstone, and Peggotty, suggesting the power struggle that’s going on. At Yarmouth, David is charmed by Peggotty’s brother’s house- a barge lodged on dry shore, with a chimney, doors, and windows stuck in. He sees it as a fairy-tale place and admires how tidy and cunning everything is inside. At the same time you can see the barge from an adult’s perspective- cramped, cluttered, fishy-smelling.

In the melancholy epilogue, David marries Agnes. 2. The book falls into two parts because Dickens has different motives for writing each half. First he is remembering his own childhood, up through the time David goes to London. Then he starts writing a novel about the education of a novelist. 3. This novel is divided into four parts by the four “Retrospect” chapters, XVIII, XLIII, LIII, and LXIV. Each retrospect catches David at a moment when he has achieved a goal or acquired new knowledge of the world- and will soon be moving on.

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