Author: Charles Dickens
Pages: 1024 pages
Publisher: Bradbury and Evans
Publication Date: Serialised - May 1849, November 1850; Book format -1850
Genre: Autobiographical Novel, Bildungsroman
The novel's full title is The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. David Copperfield is the story of a young man's adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist.
Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr Murdstone; his brilliant, but ultimately unworthy school-friend James Steerforth; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble, yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora Spenlow; and the magnificently impecunious Wilkins Micawber, one of literature's great comic creations. In David Copperfield - the novel he described as his 'favourite child' - Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of the most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. This edition uses the text of the first volume publication of 1850, and includes updated suggestions for further reading, original illustrations by 'Phiz', a revised chronology and expanded notes. In his new introduction, Jeremy Tambling discusses the novel's autobiographical elements, and its central themes of memory and identity.
Throughout David Copperfield, the powerful abuse the weak and helpless has been portrayed. Dickens focuses on orphans, women, and the mentally disabled to show that exploitation—not pity or compassion—is the rule in an industrial society. Dickens draws on his own experience as a child to describe the inhumanity of child labour and debtors’ prison.
The ‘weak’ in this story never escapes the domination of the powerful. David, for example, doesn’t stand up to Mr. Murdstone and challenge his authority. Instead, he flees to the wealthy Miss Betsey, whose financial stability affords her the power to shelter David from Mr. Murdstone.
In the world of the novel, marriages succeed to the extent that husband and wife attain equality in their relationship. Dickens holds up the Strong’s marriage as an example to show that marriages can only be happy if neither spouse is subjugated to the other. Indeed, neither of the Strong’s views the other as inferior. Conversely, Dickens criticizes characters who attempt to invoke a sense of superiority over their spouses.
Throughout the novel, Dickens criticizes his society’s view of wealth and class as measures of a person’s value. Dickens uses Steerforth, who is wealthy, powerful, and noble, to show that these traits are more likely to corrupt than improve a person’s character. Steerforth is treacherous and self-absorbed. On the other hand, Mr. Peggotty and Ham, both poor, are generous, sympathetic characters.
Trevor Blount comments on the fascination that Dickens has always exercised on the public, He mentions the lavishness, energy, vividness, brilliance, and tenderness of Dickens's writing, along with the range of his imagination. Blount also refers to Dickens's humour, and his use of the macabre and of pathos. Finally Blount celebrates the artistic mastery of an overflowing spontaneity, which is conveyed carried with both delicacy and subtlety.
Film and TV Adaptations:
- 1911 David Copperfield, silent film directed by Theodore Martson
- 1913 David Copperfield, silent film directed by Thomas Bentley
- 1922 David Copperfield, silent film directed by A.W. Sandberg
- 1935 David Copperfield, a film directed by George Cukor
- 1956 David Copperfield, a 13-part TV serial shown on BBC
- 1966 David Copperfield, a 13-part TV serial.
- 1969 David Copperfield, a film directed by Delbert Mann
- 1974 David Copperfield, a 6-part TV serial directed by Joan Craft.
- 1983 David Copperfield, an animated film by Burbank Films Australia
- 1986 David Copperfield, a 10-part TV serial directed by Barry Letts, shown on BBC
- 1993 David Copperfield, an animated TV film, shown on NBC
- 1999 David Copperfield, a 2-part TV serial shown on BBC
- 2000 David Copperfield, a film directed by Peter Medak
- 2019 The personal history of David Copperfield a film directed by Armando Lannucci
About the Author:
Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. He wrote chapter summaries after the chapters were completed. Some aspects of the story were fixed in his mind from the start, but others, like the obsession of Mr Dick with Charles I, the profession of David Copperfield as a writer, and the sad fate of Dora, were not decided by Dickens until the serial publications were underway; August 1849, December 1849 and May 1850, respectively, were the dates when those decisions were made.