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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 1451 words

'In "David Copperfield" Dickens introduces us to a rich array of characters whose adventures enhance our understanding of Victorian life', discuss.

Extracts from this essay...


"David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens is a tale of a boy on his eventful road to manhood. Set in the late 1800's of the Victorian period, the novel portrays many Victorian issues. Themes such as love and marriage, family life and relationships, wealth and poverty, work and education, and law, are illustrated by the individuality of the characters, which are influenced by their surroundings in the Victorian period, and therefore they give an insight into the many varied aspects of Victorian life. Dickens uses the novel to express his feelings about Victorian life, and either present or contradict issues arisen in the novel, that are believed to be unfair, in order to criticise them. The Victorian era was simple when it came to family life. As the man of the house you were expected to go to work, and come home to a peaceful environment where the wife was cooking the dinner or cleaning the floors and serving her husband in an obedient and loving way. As a child you were expected to be "seen and not heard", and as a consequence of this, the children were rarely acquainted with their fathers. Women were an auxiliary to men and therefore were responsible for house keeping and the up bringing of the children. At the start of the novel we see an exception to this - the relationship between Clara Copperfield and her son David.


David's once happy life, with his mother and Peggotty, is transformed into a firm and loveless environment. The Murdstones take it upon themselves to educate David and influence him "like two snakes on a wretched young bird". Their "firmness" affects David and turns him into a "sullen and dogged young boy". David is unable to efficiently learn in this manner, and is beaten by Murdstones cane as a result of his failures Mr Murdstone is represented by Dickens' way of criticizing the patriarchal society of the Victorian era. He illustrates a man utilizing his powers as head of the house, which is typical of men of this time. The strict nature that the Murdstones thrusts upon David is seen to make him a depressed and trapped child. Dickens clearly believes that there should be equality within a family, and that their parents as demonstrated by Clara and Peggotty earlier on in the novel should love children. Education in the Victorian era was only for the rich and was therefore seen as a privilege; children were expected to be grateful of their fathers for sending them to a school where they were to be well educated and successful in life. Poor children had to work to help their family financially, and therefore they had no future. Mr Murdstone had wanted David to learn at home, as he was not prepared to pay for a child who was not his son to receive a good education.


He falls in love with Emily, Dora and Agnes, however for most of the novel the latter is considered his 'sister', rather than at the end as his soulmate. He loves Emily as a child and is heart broken when she falls in love with steerforth; she runs from Ham to escape marrying him as she has always considered ham as a brother. Dora, his first wife dies shortly after the birth and death of their first child. David realises that his close friend and 'sister', Agnes, is his true love and marries her at the end of the novel. Dickens illustrates the characters to show the different types of homes and marriages. Ill-fated Dora, despite her constant efforts, was a bad housewife, while Agnes seemed perfect in everyway; she always listen and was sensitive towards David. Dickens implies that love conquers all and those who suffer are eventually rescued by love and care, (as seen when David goes to live with Betsey Trotwood). Dickens' purpose for the novel was to express his beliefs of what life was like in the Victorian period by showing us a large scale of character, all of which have experiences that can be catagorised into themes, and it is here that Dickens expresses his opinion. The characters he uses in the novel are no more than examples used to the extreme in some cases or softly in others, but nevertheless they are still examples and they are divided into Good, Bad, and the others are the characters who add entertainment to the novel.

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