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Why did David marry Dora in David Copperfield?

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alborules | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 31, 2010 at 8:44 AM via web

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Why did David marry Dora in David Copperfield?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 28, 2010 at 7:55 AM (Answer #1)

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It is important to remember that this book is a bildungsroman, or a novel of education, which features a protagonist and his or her journey towards maturity and finding his place in society. As part of this educational process, the protagonist makes many mistakes that he learns from before achieving the maturity that closes the narrative. Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that David Copperfield's somewhat hasty and unwise marriage to Dora is one of those mistakes that marks his path to maturity.

It is clear that their relationship is marked by immaturity on both sides. As David himself comments, "I doubt whether two young birds could have known less about keeping house, than I and my pretty Dora did." They are easy pray for their maidservant, ironically named Paragon, and their married life is full of struggles as David tries to encourage his wife to grow up. He himself describes her as his "child-wife" and charts the way that she emotionally blackmails him into getting her own way. He begins to think of other possible ways that his marriage could have turned out:

I did feel, sometimes, for a little while, that I could have wished my wife had been my counsellor; had had more character and purpose, to sustain me and improve me by; had been endowed with power to fill up the void which somewhere seemed to be about me; but I felt as if this were an unearthly consummation of my happiness, that never had been meant to be, and never could have been.

Of course, we see here foreshadowed the figure of a character who can be these things to David: Agnes, whom he eventually marries after the death of his beloved Dora, whom herself realises that they made a mistake in marrying. Thus David married Dora because of his lack of maturity and youth, which he quickly realises, at least on one level.

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