Charles Dickens’s autobiographical novel, David Copperfield, published in 1850, was the author’s favorite and has remained a favorite for generations of readers. In fact, Dickens is arguably England’s most beloved, read, and critically acclaimed novelist. Noted scholar Harold Bloom, in his study of Dickens, praises the author’s “astonishing universality, in which he nearly rivals Shakespeare and the Bible.” This universality is one of the novel’s celebrated qualities.
The novel is a bildungsroman, a story of growing up, that takes the protagonist from early childhood to early middle age. It is a story of the development of a writer, but it is also a portrait of Victorian England at mid-century with a host of characters designed to show various social features, for example, class structure, the penal system, the education available for poorer children, and the sundry forms of child labor and abuse. A novel of social protest, David Copperfield examines social problems while in certain particulars it relates the story of Dickens’s own development into adulthood and into his life’s work as a writer.