Rating: 4/4 (A journey of a lifetime!)
Are all the great literary works of man already written? That is what I was left wondering after closing the final page of David Copperfield. This semi-autobiographical novel by Charles Dickens took me several failed attempts before I finally acquired the taste for it and tore through it. It was written and published towards the middle of his writing career in the form of 19 serial installments. It is the bildungsroman of the protagonist David Copperfield, following him from birth, through his hard life filled with colorful characters of all shades.
[ A bedraggled David appears at his aunt’s garden. Illustration by Phiz. ]
David Copperfield is born to a young widow who has no pecuniary problems. He is brought up with love by her and his nurse Peggotty. But, his mother remarries and Murdstone, his stepfather turns his rosy life into hell. He is sent off to a horrible boarding school where he befriends Steerforth, the top student. After his mother’s tragic demise, David is removed from school and put to menial work in London. Sick of this, he runs away to find his great aunt Betsy Trotwood, who takes him in. She helps him finish his schooling, while he boards at the house of Wickfield. Agnes, the daughter of Wickfield becomes his close friend. After education he joins as an intern at a firm of proctors. David soon falls madly in love with Dora, the daughter of his boss. Just when David’s life is reaching its zenith of happiness, everything he has in his life is taken away, people he knew turn evil and he is tested. David and his good friends together emerge from all these setbacks to a happy ending.
[ The cheap Penguin Popular Classics edition which I read. ]
David Copperfield is a long, but fantastic read. Hats off to the master of prose that is Charles Dickens. I had previously read several of his works only as abridged editions, which I now think do no justice to the originals! Dickens has an extremely close eye for detail, with which he creates his myriad characters, places and situations. Much like The Adventures Of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield will be remembered for its well etched characters who span the spectrum from funny to honest to plain evil. It is hard to not be repulsed by a character like Uriah Heep or not to fall in love with Agnes (who I felt was like Betty in Archie Comics). An adult reader is sure to relive his entire life while turning the pages on that of David Copperfield. Written in 1849, the book plunges the reader into a world before the advent of electricity, automobiles or wireless media. People rely on post, travel by horse driven wagons and ships and spend nights by candle light. It is mindblowing how vividly Dickens is capable of pulling the reader into the world of his creation. David Copperfield takes the reader on a journey of a lifetime!
- List of characters: Due to the sheer number of characters and my bad memory, I prepared this list while reading the book. It proved to be useful whevever old characters reappeared.
- The Phiz Illustrations of David Copperfield: Phiz was the original illustrator when David Copperfield was first published as serials. I wish my Penguin edition had included these beautiful illustrations, which put a face on the characters.