January 8, 2015

David Copperfield ~ A Book Review

David Copperfield
Book By Charles Dickens
Review by Janelle A. Spiers

"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." ~ David Copperfield, Chapter I

"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." ~ David Copperfield, Chapter XV

WARNING:  Please be aware that if you continue reading this Book Review, you may be subject to reading spoilers and or secrets of the original book.  However, all attempts shall be made to hide the crucial points, in the event that this review encourages you to read this book.  Any information divulged will be deemed by the author of this review necessary to the review, or, not capable of ruining any major surprise. 

            David Copperfield written by Charles Dickens is a first-person narrative about the life and story of the fictitious, David Copperfield.  Dickens created many stories about circumstances that he might have experienced in his life, but it is said that David Copperfield is the most autobiographical of all his novels.  Dickens was an author of great genius and expertise, and his mastery is shown clearly within this book.
            One of the central themes in Dickens’ work is the theme of being strengthened through hardship.  Trial and toil are huge factors in the outcome of every character’s struggle, and they learn to rise up and meet the waves of trouble and adversity and keep their heads above the water.  Dickens did an excellent job of proving to his readers that even the lowest, most afflicted character should never give up, never stop fighting, and always rise higher.
            David Copperfield is the narrator of his own life and as we read, we see that he is looking back upon his entire existence and telling us of his adventures, triumphs, and sorrows.  The opening chapter begins with David telling the story that he heard from others about the night he was born.  His story then continues from that point onward: to his early childhood memories, his nightmarish experiences at boarding school, the trials of home life, and becoming independent.  David meets the oddest of people and the kindest of friends along the way through his early manhood on into full bloom adulthood where he marries and tries to make a name for himself.  By the time the story comes to a close, David is content and happy with his life, with a wife and children at his side, and a touching conclusion to his life story.
            Perhaps what Charles Dickens is most famous for in his writing are his innumerable characters and their extremely unique and fascinating personalities.  David Copperfield, the namesake and main character of Dickens’ novel is a lovable character that shows so much strength and determination.  David is a child in the beginning of the book and the strict way he is raised and treated pushes him to choose a life of discipline or freedom.  In his early adulthood, David is very carefree and chooses friends and surroundings that aren’t healthy for a young man.  Fortunately, when he falls in love, though still very silly, David works hard to find a job, earn a living, and start to provide for his future bride.  He has the fault of human selfishness and his love of gentlemanly ease and comfort get him into trouble on more than one occasion as well.
            The main antagonist of David Copperfield is a very “umble” man named Uriah Heep.  The lanky fellow haunts David’s early years and poses as a formidable foil in his later years when Heep usurps his aunt’s inheritance.  Uriah Heep is vividly described in colorful terms by David and he has a terrible habit of writhing in happiness.  It is certain that Uriah Heep has a face only his “umble” mother could love, and indeed, it appears that Mrs. Heep is the only one who appreciates her thrashing son.
            Dora Spenlow is the beautiful girl of David’s wildest dreams.  When he begins to work for her father he suddenly becomes tangled up in fancy and admiration for Dora.  In David’s love-struck eyes, she is a gorgeous angel, of whom nothing ill should ever be said.  In truth, however, she is a spoiled daughter who knows nothing of cooking, cleaning, or managing accounts, which David finds to be terribly inconvenient when he can look back upon the subject.  Dora is a silly girl who spends most of her time crying when David speaks to her, or caressing her little dog, Jip. 
            One of the most constant and faithful supporting characters in David Copperfield is David’s nurse, Clara Peggotty. She is a loyal old soul who tended to David’s mother and tends to David’s own children in the end of his story.  She has a good natured, motherly heart toward David, and she always cares for him with great devotion.
            During David’s years at school he becomes acquainted with an older boy named James Steerforth.  With eight-year-old devotion towards the teenager, David admires the boy all through out his life, even late into his teens.  Steerforth is the spoiled son of a rich mother and he always got his way with whatever he wanted.  The kindness he showed to David was benefiting himself and in his later years, he breaks David’s long-founded trust and faith.  Steerforth has a very free and easy nature and tends to be a bad influence upon David because of David’s whole-hearted respect. 
The writing quality of David Copperfield is very typical of Dickens writing.  He was paid by the word when he wrote and it seems as though Dickens made every use of that method of payment.  His stories are extremely wordy and some of his sentences are over eighty words long.  However, though Dickens used so many words, which seem unnecessary at times, he has a lovely way of writing description of plot, character, and settings.  Due to his uneducated characters way of speaking in the English eighteenth-century, some of his characters may be hard to understand. 
            Dickens never won any awards for his writing of David Copperfield, however, he did publish it periodically in a newspaper from May 1849 to November 1850.  When it was finally published as a book in 1850, the original title was quite lengthy, running:
The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (which he never meant to publish on any account). It is interesting to see that title no longer is any way connected to the David Copperfield we know now.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in 1812 on February 7, in Hampshire, England, born as the second of eight children.  He was sent to work at a very young age and he was bitterly angry with his father for sending him away.  He began his writing career in 1833 when he submitted a short story, A Dinner at Poplar Walk, to the London Newspaper, “Monthly Magazine”.   From there, his career expanded and developed into such a famous author that he traveled to America to read from his stories to the public.  He died on June 9, 1870 at age 58 leaving a huge legacy of writing behind him.
David Copperfield is not a Christian novel, although there are mentions to God, angels, and a few other spiritual elements that can be found in religious works.  Religion does not guide David in his life but he does strive for goodness and success through kindness and faithfulness.  The worldview of David Copperfield is probably neutral, seeing as how religion does not clearly define the characters as who they are.
There is also little to no offensive language in the book, which makes the vocabulary of the book relatively clean and appropriate.  However, there are hints and suggestions of an affair between a young wife and her handsome cousin.  At the end of the story, she is found to have ignored her cousin’s seducing and she remains faithful.  There is an elopement, as well, between two significant characters and it greatly affects the plot line of the story.  Because these sorts of actions and behaviors were very taboo during Dickens’ time, they are hardly discussed in full light, but the consequences of other characters actions do weigh heavily on David and he feels the losses keenly.  There is also mild drunkenness, and in one scene, it is a group of David’s friends and he that stagger through the streets of London and burst into a theatre in inebriated stupor.  It is very clear in the morning, though, that David regrets his actions and he makes amends with those he shocked with his wild manner.
There is little violence in David Copperfield.  His stepfather canes him and in rage, David bites his stepfather’s hand, which induces the man to beat him to unconsciousness.  The school where David attends is infamous for its heavy hand and ready cane, and in another short scene in David’s recollections, he is robbed and nearly mugged by an angry man, but his wife stops him.  There is the death of a mother and child and several significant characters closely attached to David.  While not graphic, two are killed, and the loss is felt deeply by David.
The whole plot line of David Copperfield is excellently thought out.  It is credited to Charles Dickens that he was able to write periodic newspaper installments, yet have a finished and thorough novel by the end.  It is very apparent with this novel that he did just that.  His characters are well developed, too, with Dickensian flare all the way. 
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is a good read filled with memorable characters that will haunt your literary reading for a long time.  Dickens created a story based upon his life and it is wonderfully written and played out with expertise.  Bravo, Mr. Dickens, and thank you!  David Copperfield is a masterpiece that we are lucky and thankful to have.

(Based on a rating system entirely made up of pros and cons, I judge by different categories to ensure that the reader of this review can aptly choose if this book is an appropriate for themselves or others.)

Theme ~ Positive! (For a strong central theme that progressed the story.)
Plot Line ~ Positive! (Well thought-through and beautifully executed)
Characters ~ Positive! (For “human” characteristics and memorable development)
Writing Quality ~ Negative! (Due to length and wordiness, this may be only suited for a higher level reader.)
Mature Content ~ Negative! (Cases of mature content may not be suitable for young readers)
Congruency ~ Positive! (For extreme consistency in plot, characters, and quality)

The total score for David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is 4 out of a possible 6 positive points.

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