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David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)

Here's a thread for talking about the classic novel, David Copperfield
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)

From the B&N edition:

 

"Matthew Arnold, with reference to David Copperfield, exclaims, 'what a soul of good nature and kindness governing the whole!'  Other writers as tough-minded as Arnold have made similar judgments.  Does Dickens's kindness lead him to sacrifice realism?  Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?" (739).

 

What do you think?

 

 

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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)


ConnieK wrote:

From the B&N edition:

 

"Matthew Arnold, with reference to David Copperfield, exclaims, 'what a soul of good nature and kindness governing the whole!'  Other writers as tough-minded as Arnold have made similar judgments.  Does Dickens's kindness lead him to sacrifice realism?  Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?" (739).

 

What do you think?

 

 


 

I've always liked Dickens's characters (esp. their names!).  His portrayal of them makes them larger than life, as though he has put them up on a grand stage.  I don't know if I see them as realistic, or even his fiction as a whole as realistic, per se.  He does paint some dark pictures of society at the time that needed light shed on them, but at the same time, he exaggerates these pictures, I think.  It's as though the light he sheds is quite bright--so that it not only exposes but somehow redeems these worlds and characters by pointing out their positives as well as negatives.  I'm not sure if this is making any sense...
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)


ConnieK wrote:

From the B&N edition:

 

"Matthew Arnold, with reference to David Copperfield, exclaims, 'what a soul of good nature and kindness governing the whole!'  Other writers as tough-minded as Arnold have made similar judgments.  Does Dickens's kindness lead him to sacrifice realism?  Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?" (739).

 

What do you think?

 

 


 

Well, David himself is the narrator, and in a sense, can be seen as "governing the whole", both because he chooses to remember and reveal what he does, and also because it is all in reference to his own experience and character.  I would definitely say that David has a good-natured and kind soul.  He generally sees the best in people, like the Micawbers, Steerforth, Dora, etc.  I wouldn't say that Dickens manipulates the plot to make the reader feel good.  David's trusting and optimistic nature is precisely what sometimes causes trouble, pain, and grief in his life.  It is realistic, for example, for someone to take advantage of someone like David, and it does happen here.  I don't think that this novel is as dark as some of the others, but neither is it all sweetness and light.
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)

Connie and Connie, I think Dickens was a master of character and caricature. Mr. Micawber is definitely a larger-than-life caricature, and yet I certainly have met him in my real world more than once. David is a very real person, given to all the weaknesses and vacillations and loves and ambitions that are real to all of us because they are "us." And then there's Agnes. Could there ever really be an Agnes? I hope so. I know one thing: I keep coming back to this book to be in the company of friends I can never forget.

ConnieK wrote:

ConnieK wrote:

From the B&N edition:

 

"Matthew Arnold, with reference to David Copperfield, exclaims, 'what a soul of good nature and kindness governing the whole!'  Other writers as tough-minded as Arnold have made similar judgments.  Does Dickens's kindness lead him to sacrifice realism?  Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?" (739).

 

What do you think?

 

 


 

I've always liked Dickens's characters (esp. their names!).  His portrayal of them makes them larger than life, as though he has put them up on a grand stage.  I don't know if I see them as realistic, or even his fiction as a whole as realistic, per se.  He does paint some dark pictures of society at the time that needed light shed on them, but at the same time, he exaggerates these pictures, I think.  It's as though the light he sheds is quite bright--so that it not only exposes but somehow redeems these worlds and characters by pointing out their positives as well as negatives.  I'm not sure if this is making any sense...

 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)

Well said, Dulci!

dulcinea3 wrote:

Well, David himself is the narrator, and in a sense, can be seen as "governing the whole", both because he chooses to remember and reveal what he does, and also because it is all in reference to his own experience and character.  I would definitely say that David has a good-natured and kind soul.  He generally sees the best in people, like the Micawbers, Steerforth, Dora, etc.  I wouldn't say that Dickens manipulates the plot to make the reader feel good.  David's trusting and optimistic nature is precisely what sometimes causes trouble, pain, and grief in his life.  It is realistic, for example, for someone to take advantage of someone like David, and it does happen here.  I don't think that this novel is as dark as some of the others, but neither is it all sweetness and light.

 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)


Laurel wrote:
Connie and Connie, I think Dickens was a master of character and caricature. Mr. Micawber is definitely a larger-than-life caricature, and yet I certainly have met him in my real world more than once. David is a very real person, given to all the weaknesses and vacillations and loves and ambitions that are real to all of us because they are "us." And then there's Agnes. Could there ever really be an Agnes? I hope so. I know one thing: I keep coming back to this book to be in the company of friends I can never forget.

Yes, indeed; characterization has to be one of Dickens's strongest skills, don't you think?

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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)


dulcinea3 wrote:
Well, David himself is the narrator, and in a sense, can be seen as "governing the whole", both because he chooses to remember and reveal what he does, and also because it is all in reference to his own experience and character.  I would definitely say that David has a good-natured and kind soul.  He generally sees the best in people, like the Micawbers, Steerforth, Dora, etc.  I wouldn't say that Dickens manipulates the plot to make the reader feel good.  David's trusting and optimistic nature is precisely what sometimes causes trouble, pain, and grief in his life.  It is realistic, for example, for someone to take advantage of someone like David, and it does happen here.  I don't think that this novel is as dark as some of the others, but neither is it all sweetness and light.

Great point, dulci, about David being the narrator.  Readers have to keep in mind that David may not be a 1-for-1 stand-in for Dickens.

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Undertaking

I'm reading chapter 30 of David Copperfield and visiting Mr Omer, the undertaker of Yarmouth, once again. I got to thinking how very different this kindly man is from Oliver Twist's Mr. Sowerby--no stock characterizing for Dickens. Then I started rolling scenes from the novels of Dickens through my mind and realized there's a lot of undertaking in his works--a pair of grave robbers in one,  a corpse-retrieving ferryman in another, and probably others I'm not think of right offhand. A lot of dying and, for that matter, a lot of being born. There's much of reality in Dickens's works, to be sure.

ConnieK wrote:

From the B&N edition:

 

"Matthew Arnold, with reference to David Copperfield, exclaims, 'what a soul of good nature and kindness governing the whole!'  Other writers as tough-minded as Arnold have made similar judgments.  Does Dickens's kindness lead him to sacrifice realism?  Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?" (739).

 

What do you think?

 

 


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Dickens's Characterization

[ Edited ]

I think one of the elements of Dickens's writing that I've been trying to explain is alluded to in this question from the B&N Classics edition.  I'll excerpt it here:

 

"...Clearly part of Dickens's method is to take a trait from someone he has observed, isolate it, and exaggerate it.  He also usually invents a characteristic habit of speech for this character" (738-39). 

 

The question invites the reader to go on and "think of a public figure who lends him- or herself to such treatment" and "Try to improvise a Dickensian sketch of this figure" (739).

 

It's this element of exaggeration in his characters that I notice, and seem to remember most, when I read Dickens.  Often, it seems the exaggeration is playful in nature, as though Dickens feels sympathy with all of his characters, villains included.  There's humor, too, in this playfulness.  Writers, like actors, do need to feel sympathy, or at least empathy, for their characters.  A villain, as actors often tell us in interviews, does not usually see him/herself as a despicable human being.  Dickens puts light on characters, it seems to me.  This light, this exaggeration of certain traits, makes them stand out.  Yet, I don't think of them as shallow caricatures, either.  Do you know what I mean?  I've always liked this about Dickens's work--how he manages to put a spotlight on a character and make him/her memorable through only a few traits but without turning that character into a cartoon.

 

 

Message Edited by ConnieK on 03-11-2009 11:59 AM
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers, ok)

My eyes are puffy this morning. Last night I got to the part that makes me break into sobs every time I read it. Why do you do this to me, Charles? And did you have to add a dog to the mix?
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Re: David Copperfield: The Book (spoilers!)

Connie posted: 

Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?"

      _____________________________________________________________

 

Thinking back on how I felt as I read DC and at the end, I found myself unhappy many times with the way the plot was going.  So I can't say that I feel Dickens wrote to make his readers feel good.  Though the ending for David and some of the other characters was good, it wasn't good for all.  On the other hand I'm not sure that he doesn't sacrifice realism sometimes.  I have mixed feelings about this. 

 

I couldn't always understand David's feelings or decisions.  Particularly his attraction to Dora & Steerforth.  I also struggled with David's decision to take Steerforth's body home and to leave poor Ham's body with no one to mourn for or care for him.  Ham was worth so much more as a person than Steerforth.

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The Women In David's Life (spoilers!)

I have been thinking about this since I finished the book, thought I'd put it out here for discussion.  We've heard it said that men/women sometimes marry their mothers/fathers.  I was relating that idea to DC. 

 

First, Dora is in many ways like David's mother, a child wife.  Aunt

Betsey calls Clara a baby and asks her if she knows anything about housekeeping.  She comes to care for Dora but sees her in the same light.  Dora seems to be less able than Clara to accomplish anything.  but they are both very beautiful, sweet and loving towards David.

 

Peggoty is a second mother to David.  She and Agnes share some of the same characteristics, loyalty, caring, able to take care of others, concern for others beyond their own needs.

 

Aunt Betsey, David's third other is also in someways like Agnes, intellegent, a caretaker, wise and longsuffering in love.

 

Any thoughts?

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Re: The Women In David's Life (spoilers!)

I certainly agree with your point.  David finds in Dora the thing he lost with his mother, at least in the way he writes it.  As someone else has pointed out, David is the controlling perspective within the narrative.  Without going into psychological criticism, which I am not in any way knowledgeable enough to use, it would seem that he found what he longed to regain and for a time, has replaced his mother.  Your identifications to me are spot on, and with Peggotty performing the strong woman role, it only fits that Agnes fulfills her spot and carries on the place David wants a woman in his life to have. 

 

By the way, I'm new to this so I hope what I wrote makes sense!

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Re: The Women In David's Life (spoilers!)

I definitely agree that David was attracted to Dora because she resembled his mother so much.
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Re: The Women In David's Life (spoilers!)


Scrooge wrote:

 

By the way, I'm new to this so I hope what I wrote makes sense!


Welcome, Scrooge!  Your post made perfect sense.  Keep at it!

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Re: The Women In David's Life (spoilers!)

Watching the PBS film version of DC makes me appreciate Dickens's richness even more.  We are getting an excellent depiction of the core of the story, but many of the sidelights of the story have been passed over.  This is fully understandable, but reflecting on what's been left out makes me realize that part of the richness of Dickens is what he adds that's not part of the core story line but adds depth and bredth to his writing.   Like Shakespeare, he is a master at creating highly individualized and beautifully presented minor figures. 
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Re: Dickens's Characterization

[ Edited ]

ConnieK wrote:

I think one of the elements of Dickens's writing that I've been trying to explain is alluded to in this question from the B&N Classics edition.  I'll excerpt it here:

 

"...Clearly part of Dickens's method is to take a trait from someone he has observed, isolate it, and exaggerate it.  He also usually invents a characteristic habit of speech for this character" (738-39). 

 

The question invites the reader to go on and "think of a public figure who lends him- or herself to such treatment" and "Try to improvise a Dickensian sketch of this figure" (739).

 

It's this element of exaggeration in his characters that I notice, and seem to remember most, when I read Dickens.  Often, it seems the exaggeration is playful in nature, as though Dickens feels sympathy with all of his characters, villains included.  There's humor, too, in this playfulness.  Writers, like actors, do need to feel sympathy, or at least empathy, for their characters.  A villain, as actors often tell us in interviews, does not usually see him/herself as a despicable human being.  Dickens puts light on characters, it seems to me.  This light, this exaggeration of certain traits, makes them stand out.  Yet, I don't think of them as shallow caricatures, either.  Do you know what I mean?  I've always liked this about Dickens's work--how he manages to put a spotlight on a character and make him/her memorable through only a few traits but without turning that character into a cartoon.


I certainly agree that Dickens' characters are one of the delights of his work.  Ironically, I am not referring to the main characters, such as David, Oliver, etc.  Of course we care about them, and the novels are their stories, but the fun is in the secondary characters.  I do see them as caricatures, but you make a good point that they are far from shallow, as many caricatures are.

 

There are physical characteristics, personality traits, and taglines galore!  Uriah would not be Uriah without his red hair, brow- and lash-less eyes, clammy hands, physical contortions, rubbing of chin, or his habitual chant of how "umble" he is (I love it even more when he uses the variant "numble" ).  Mr. Micawber must continually expound and follow it up with "in short,...", talk about "something turning up", and write his most unusual letters, while his wife must keep on about her family and declare incessantly that she "will never desert Mr. Micawber!", even when there is no question that she should do so.  I am sure we would all know Tommy Traddles instantly, once he took off his hat and his hair sprang up on end!  There is just such a wealth of delightful characters in each novel that make reading Dickens so enjoyable.

 

I think that when we read Oliver Twist, I mentioned something that was in the introduction to my edition, where the commentator said that Dickens' avowed motive is to expose the world of his villains for the evil that it is, and yet his villains often seem to lead more interesting lives and have richer scenes than his heroes.  I think that in David Copperfield, David does live a very interesting life, but his character is rather bland, although good-natured, so I can also see that in this novel to some extent, even though this novel does not treat so much with the sordid criminal world as Oliver Twist does.

Message Edited by dulcinea3 on 03-16-2009 03:23 PM
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Re: David Copperfield referred to in Fahrenheit 451

Connie posted: 

Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?"

     ______________________________________________________________

 

I was watching the movie "Fahrenheit 451" today.  If you aren't familiar with the novel or movie, firemen burn books, as all reading is banned, so that people will not think for themselves or feel real emotions.  They are encouraged to watch televison programs that are pure drivil and take medications to keep their moods on an even keel at all times.  Anyway, Montag, a fireman who begins to question the sense of this, begins to collect books and read them.  One day he comes home & finds his wife and three of her friends watching television and he confronts them with the fact that their lives have no meaning.

 

He brings out a book and begins to read an exerpt to them to show them this & it is "David Copperfield".  He begins reading in Chapter XLVIII Domestic at pg. 582 where it begins:

"There can be no disparity in marriage, like unsuitability of mind and purpose." and continued through:  "The spirit fluttered for a moment on the threshold of its little prison, and, unconscious of captivity, took wing."

 

He chooses this excerpt I think because it sheds light on his own marriage and to cause them to feel sadness.  One of the women does begin to cry, and the others stop him and tell him how cruel he is.

 

I found it quite interesting that DC was the book that he chose to read from.

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Re: David Copperfield referred to in Fahrenheit 451

I always cry at that place. Now look what you made me do!

PhoebesMom wrote:

Connie posted: 

Does he treat his characters and arrange his plot to make the reader feel good, rather than show the reader what human life is really like?"

     ______________________________________________________________

 

I was watching the movie "Fahrenheit 451" today.  If you aren't familiar with the novel or movie, firemen burn books, as all reading is banned, so that people will not think for themselves or feel real emotions.  They are encouraged to watch televison programs that are pure drivil and take medications to keep their moods on an even keel at all times.  Anyway, Montag, a fireman who begins to question the sense of this, begins to collect books and read them.  One day he comes home & finds his wife and three of her friends watching television and he confronts them with the fact that their lives have no meaning.

 

He brings out a book and begins to read an exerpt to them to show them this & it is "David Copperfield".  He begins reading in Chapter XLVIII Domestic at pg. 582 where it begins:

"There can be no disparity in marriage, like unsuitability of mind and purpose." and continued through:  "The spirit fluttered for a moment on the threshold of its little prison, and, unconscious of captivity, took wing."

 

He chooses this excerpt I think because it sheds light on his own marriage and to cause them to feel sadness.  One of the women does begin to cry, and the others stop him and tell him how cruel he is.

 

I found it quite interesting that DC was the book that he chose to read from.


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton