David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
821 pages (w/t intro+notes)
First published 1849
1/4 Dickens (2013 Book Challenge)
As one of the most famous Dickens novels, semi-autobiographical, and highly praised by Virginia Woolf and loved by Leo Tolstoy, David Copperfield filled me with expectations.
Virginia Woolf called it “the most perfect of all the Dickens novels”, but it did not seem so extraordinary to me…
It had the usual bright wide spectrum of Dickensian characters, the expected twisting path of Dickensian plot, and everything else that comes to mind when one thinks of anything written by Charles Dickens. …Which leaves one only critiquing factor to the Reader — personal enjoyment.
There are a lot of similarities between David Copperfield and Great Expectations. In minor elements, the characters are similar, so is the unfolding of the plot, the presence of lawyers (and the familiar ‘good lawyer’ – ‘bad lawyer’ nuance), and other generalities. But while Great Expectations made me go through such a range of emotions, this novel was comparatively dry… I could not really become attached to David, as I got attached to Pip in a much shorter span of time.
I really enjoyed the beginning of the novel, and basically all of David’s childhood until he is safe with aunt Betsey. I hated the Murdstones, pitied and adored little David, and frowned upon his mother’s life choices.
After that, the story fell into a relaxed narrative, which I accepted as part of any novel, necessary for the next climatic point to arise. But I kept waiting and waiting for that climatic point, and when it did arise in the story it was not very powerful.
When I reached the halfway point in the book, I was beginning to be let down on my expectations. Yet I hoped that in the remaining four hundred-something pages the story would soar up again, as is typical with Dickens, and leave me in awe. Meh, that didn’t really happen.
So, again, I was hanging on to that expectation of something greater that never did quite come up…
I disliked Steerforth from the very start, and I easily predicted that something was going to happen with him and Little Em’ly, although I did not think it would be as drastic (as what actually happened).
I was disappointed with several storylines that were pursued. For example, Rosa Dartle and Steerforth; their ‘secret’ had much more potential.
So, let’s mention the parts I did like: the characters.
In his novels, Dickens creates such a balanced combination of comical characters, serious, sad, dramatic and satirical characters! They work so well together without hindering each other. There are really comical passages and really heartbreaking passages, and they are balanced so well than neither harms the other, which is hard to do wihtout making the novel seem ungenuine. But Dickens manages to write it realistically, because his novels are a very true reflections of life.
I absolutely loved Mrs. Trotwood, who reminded me of a version of Lady Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey. Mr. Dick was also adorable, and I was thankful to Dickens for redeeming his ‘lost’ character by, well, making him do something.
Dora made me go mad with annoyance at her. All passages involving her made me exhale a monstrous AARGH because I could connect her with some people from real life, and this translation boosted my dislike for that type of girl even more. To this I might add that foolish David in love was very uncomfortable as a narrator. 🙂 But towards the end (insert mysterious connotation here) I understood her more, if not enjoyed.
The scene where poor Jip dies at the same moment as his mistress did make me shed some tears, and that is where I realized that Dora was not all that bad, just very very silly. And David all the sillier for marrying her.
The final character I will mention: Uriah Heep. OH MY GOD. What a creep! If I were David, I would not have the same self-restraint, and I would slap him everytime he opened his mouth. But he deserved what he got in the end.
Overall I enjoyed it as I would any Dickens novel, but not as much as expected. I suppose I am to blame for not enjoying the novel due to my expectations, but when you are so used to Dickens outdoing himself in every next novel you read, expectation becomes part of the reading experience.