>The Problem With David Copperfield


It’s tied up too neatly. David starts out as an autobiographical character for Dickens, a revolt against his archetypal heroes, but by the end of the book becomes the packaged “everything’s okay-I’m happy despite all life’s shortcomings” kind of romantic 19th century character. Keep in mind that it took Dickens another ten years to write Great Expectations, a story which ends up not nearly as well tied together, which is arguably why it’s better.

We are able to envision characters like Mr. Micawber, the unctious Uriah Heep, and Little Dora all too well, but by the end of the story we hardly feel like we know David. As Shaw noted, we know nothing of his political leanings, his unconscious desires or anything that is not universal. For the particular we must turn to secondary characters.

The masterpiece David Copperfield is imperfect, similar in the imperfections of Great Expectations: how it takes too long to dissuade Pip to leave Estella. But can we fault Dickens for this? I laughed, cried, learned new words, and generally enjoyed David Copperfield. The only faults I find I must try to correct in my own work. That’s why I read all these works of classic literature.

Here’s to post postmodernism!

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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