Dickens is definitely one of my favorite writers. I’ve even read and reread several of his works multiple times. Even though I skimmed through it as an undergraduate for my independent study, this is actually the first time I formally sat down to read David Copperfield
. Especially since this year marks Dickens’ bicentennial, I felt that it was a good time to read Dickens’ favorite novel.
The many characters in this novel, as in Dickens’ other works, are wonderfully unique and so much fun to read. I’ve always loved the visual quality of Dickens’ writing, and even though his novels are long, the pages easily fly by as you’re swept up in the various storylines he dreams up. Also I love the fact that Dickens never forgets a character. Even in David Copperfield
, the storylines of the most minor characters—e.g. Mr. Mell—come to a satisfying conclusion.
In regards to our main character David, yes he is quite naive, and even as he reflects upon his own life’s story as an older man, David generally maintains that same unchanging youthful outlook. This is most readily apparent in his devotion toward Steerforth. Steerforth never really becomes a fallen idol in David’s eyes. He is just as much loved, if not more, at end of the novel as in the beginning. In some ways, I was expecting more growth and reflection from David regarding Steerforth. And I almost wonder how David’s relationship with Steerforth would have turned out if Dickens wrote it alongside his later, darker works. As the book is currently written, at times I felt just like Betsey Trotwood, shaking my head and hoping that things would turn out well for David in the end.
Despite his never changing feelings toward Steerforth, David does grow as a character, ultimately learning that a good and trusting friendship can lead to the best kind of love.
While I do enjoy David’s story, my favorite part of this novel is Betsey Trotwood’s backstory and that “mysterious” shadow figure who occasionally crosses her path. At times, I wished Dickens could have included more about it, though the story we do get is quite satisfactory. Ultimately, I think Betsey’s story could have easily made a very good gothic novel in and of itself.