Home                  Podcasts                  Book Overviews                  Contact Us


David Copperfield

         WHO MIGHT ENJOY THIS BOOK: David Copperfield is a great book for teenagers and adults. It has some wonderful themes for people entering adulthood including advice on relationships, choosing one's career, and dealing with hardships. Younger readers may also enjoy the book if they have an adult to discuss it with. (David is the victim of some violence as a young boy and there are some social themes that are less common to us today, such as the treatment of one of the unmarried female characters after she runs away with a male character.) Reading a book written in the 1800's brings with it an opportunity to read a very different style of writing compared to modern books. But David Copperfield is very accessible especially when read with someone else who can help understand it.



"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." (This first line of the book is delightful. By the end of the book, the reader should be able to determine whether he was the hero of his life or not. It's also a revealing question to ask of yourself!)


"...if ever in my life, I have had a void made in my heart, I had one made that day." Chapter 3 (I wonder if the reader has ever felt something like this.)


"My father had left a small collection of books in a little room upstairs, to which I had access...They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time..." Chapter 4 (It is wonderful how Dickens as a writer gives his main character books which give him hope and keep him company.)


"(Mr. Creakle) had no more right to be possessed of the great trust he held, than to be Lord High Admiral, or Commander-in-chief: in either of which capacities, it is probable that he would have done infinitely less mischief." Chapter 7 (This is Dickens' classic humorous way of making a social commentary in a lighthearted way.)


"When I call you a ridiculous creature, or a vexatious thing, or anything of that sort, Peggotty, I only mean that you are my true friend, and always have been..." Chapter 8 (Though David's mother has a funny way of showing it, she admits how much Peggotty means to her.)


"But fashions are like human beings. They come in, nobody knows when, why, or how; and they go out, nobody knows when, why, or how. Everything is like life, in my opinion, if you look at it in that point of view." Chapter 9 (The man who is making David's new suit has a very deep thought.)


"...how I prayed that I never might be houseless any more, and never might forget the houseless." Chapter 13 (Such a young David to have such a mature and compassionate thought.)


"Never," said my aunt, "be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you." Chapter 15 (Simple life advice from Aunt Betsey.)


"It is wholesome to have you here." Chapter 16 (This phrase says so much more than just, "We like having you around" or "You're a swell guy." To be called wholesome means something greater.)


"...as this knotty point is still unsettled, and as we must not make a mistake in our decision if we can help it, I think we had better take a little breathing-time." Chapter 19 (David has finished his schooling and will be deciding on his future career. His aunt's advice is so wise. Since he'll have to stick to his choice, he'd better do whatever he can to figure out what he might like to do. There's no use rushing into it and then being stuck.)


"It was a wonderfully fine thing to walk about town with the key of my house in my pocket..." Chapter 24 (David has such pride in his new situation and such confidence and hope for the future. It's refreshing to be around someone at this time of life.)


"But you are a young gentleman, Mr. Copperfull, and my adwice to you is, to cheer up, sir, to keep a good heart, and to know your own walue." Chapter 26 (I left Mrs. Crupp's words as she said them. David is feeling in very low spirits lately and she has noticed that he's not been looking well. As David is falling for a girl, it is such a good idea for him to know his own value.)


"Try not to associate bodily defects with mental, my good friend, except for a solid reason." Chapter 32 (The very short-statured Miss Mowcher has solid advice for any of us.)


"We must meet reverses badly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot!" Chapter 34 (Aunt Betsey's words remind David that it's not over until it's over.)


"What I had to do, was, to turn the painful discipline of my younger days to account, by going to work with a resolute and steady heart." Chapter 36 (As David begins his new path with determination, he admits that the struggles of his youth have made him the kind of person today that can so that he can see himself through his new situation. While living through difficulties it is sometimes hard to remember that upon reflection at a later time, we might see the workings of something good through it. This makes him similar to Joseph from the Old Testament.)


"It will be your duty...to estimate (your wife) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not have. The latter you must develop in her, if you can. And if you cannot, child...you must just accustom yourself to do without 'em." (David has committed himself in marriage. His aunt's no-nonsense advice can help him to be content.)


"...there never were greed and cunning in the world yet, that did not do too much, and over-reach themselves. It is as certain as death." Chapter 52 (If Uriah Heep had realized that crime would never pay, he may have avoided all sorts of trouble.)


"As a man upon a field of battle will receive a mortal hurt, and scarcely know that he is struck, so I, when I was left alone with my undisciplined heart, had no conception of the wound with which it had to strive." Chapter 58 (Dickens has a gift for painting a visual picture with his words.)


"The silver will be the brighter when it comes." Chapter 59 (Traddles and his wife have very little money to buy tea-spoons, even, but they are content with what they have. If ever they have silver tea-spoons they will appreciate them all the more.)


"...we thanked our God for having guided us to this tranquillity." Chapter 62 (In many of his books, Dickens uses Biblical references and speaks of religious matters. But this book seems to have more than the usual.)


"O Agnes, O my soul, so may thy face be by me when I close my life indeed; so may I, when realities are melting from me like the shadows which I now dismiss, still find thee near me, pointing upward!" Chapter 64 (It is nice that David knows how much Agnes means to him, and that he is pledged to her for life.)



The book provides a wealth of characters to compare and contrast. This is fun to explore in a book club. I've also used these as student writing assignments...

-Traddles as a friend vs. Steerforth as a friend

-Aunt Betsey with a married David vs. Miss Murdstone with a married David's mother

-Marriages: For example, the Dr. and Mrs. Strong marriage vs. the Peggotty/Barkis marriage

-Repentance of Emily vs. "Repentance" of Littimer

-Emily's home after she runs away vs. Steerforth's home after he runs away (especially as reflected in Miss Dartle's conversation with Emily)

-The goodness and "rank"/place in society of those who love Emily vs. the "rank"/place in society of those who lost Steerforth...Put another way, the character of the "gentlefolk" who think that they are greater vs. the character of the "commoners" who might actually be greater

-Those who take responsibility for their parts in Emily's actions (ex. Ham in chapter 61) vs. those who blame Emily for Emily and Steerforth's actions (ex. Miss Dartle)

-The "humility" of Uriah Heep in prison vs. the humility of Ham or Mr. Peggotty

-Mr. Dick's simplicity vs. Dora's simplicity