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 brilliant, but ultimately unworthy school-friend James Steerforth; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble, yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora Spenlow; and the magnificently impecunious Wilkins Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield – the novel he described as his ‘favourite child’ – Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of the most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. This edition uses the text of the first volume publication of 1850, and includes updated suggestions for further reading, original illustrations by ‘Phiz’, a revised chronology and expanded notes. In his new introduction, Jeremy Tambling discusses the novel’s autobiographical elements, and its central themes of memory and identity.
This novel reads like a soap opera. However, even though I don’t watch many soap operas I can say that many that I have glanced at always seem to involve upper middle class and upper class people. Australian soap operas tend to only deal with the upper middle class (see Neighbours and Home & Away) where as the US ones tend to deal with the uber-rich (Dynasty). What sets Dickens apart is that he deals with the poor and poverty stricken.
Despite my dislike of Dickens’ work, as I have suggested before, they are actually quite helpful and insightful because we see a side of 19th Century England that we do not see in a lot of the other novels. Say for instance Jane Eyre, or the writings of Jane Austin. In these romances we are always dealing with the landed aristocracy. In Dickens we are not. We are dealing with the poverty stricken masses of England. It is especially important because Dickens is writing from experience. While it is very much an ‘oh woah is me’ type experience, if we can step away from that we can see and experience a part of England that we very rarely get to experience. Moreso, we tend to see it in all is dark and dirty unpleasantness.