Great Books: David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

Finally finished David Copperfield,my first Dickins ever. Lush Victorian melodrama. When Dora's little dog lays down its little head - oh, the humanity!

David Copperfield is the original Mary Sue. His initials are the same as Dickens' and his life follows a similar path, with certain elements admittedly drawn from his childhood.

As a result David is a likeable, honest sort of young man who is subject to incomprehensible persecution from those around him. His father dies before he was born. His mother remarries an Evil Step Father. His mother dies. His brother dies. A fortune is gained, and then lost, and his unfortunate friends find themselves subject to the oddest kind of bad luck, gaining and losing fortunes, falling into debt, disgrace, and dishonor with peculiar frequency.

There are some wonderful characters in David Copperfield. His friend Traddles' hair might have been the inspiration for Harry Potter's do. Mr. Micawber, a sometimes father figure, is the picture of penury. Uriah Heep, the pale, redheaded evildo-er, might have been the original Ginger Kid. I haven't even gotten to the midget yet.

That said, I imagine it's of great enjoyment to psychoanalysts. First there's the gender confusion. Then there's the sublimated homoeroticism. Then there's the multiple father figures (all either bad or mad) and the multiple mother figures, not to mention the figurative angel (Agnes) vs. literal whore (Emily). Freud would have a FIELD DAY!

It is an enormously entertaining book, with just a whiff of that 'paid by the word' aura that I also get from fellow serial author Louisa May Alcott. But it is very, very long, and the prose style is going to be a barrier to most readers. The sentimentality makes this less interesting than, say, Austen, whose work presents the same challenge. Moreover some of the characters are irritating (*cough* Dora) and the whole 'I've had premarital sex, ship me off to Australia so I can milk cows for the rest of my life' thing will also frustrate modern readers.

I'm going to read Great Expectations and some other works before deciding, but I doubt this will be the best Dickens for someone to start with.

4 comments:

Maxine said...

Funny you should say that about Harry Potter. Did you know that Daniel Radcliffe played David in the UK TV version? It was his first (and I think only?) role before he landed HP.
Trivia, sorry. I read David Copperfield when 11. They gave us an abridged version at school called "David Copperfield as a boy" and my mother was so disgusted she bought me the full version and gave it me to read so I did. I think I quite enjoyed it, but I have forgotten most of it.

I fairly recently read Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, Martin Chuzzlewit and Bleak House. I did get into them all but they all had their longeurs. I think Our Mutual Friend was my favourite of those. They all seem to feature these amazingly stoical, "accepting" heroines.

Again, I read Great Expectations when very young, I don't think I really understood it, so look forward to your review.

mapletree7 said...

I can believe that. He'd make a good DC. That whole 'why is this happening to me?' thing is common to both characters.

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