“But, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favorite child. And his name is David Copperfield.” This is Charles Dickens’s final, affectionate judgment of the work that stands exactly in the middle of his novelistic career, with seven novels preceding and seven following it (excluding the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1870). When he began the novel, he was in his mid-thirties, secure in the continuing success that had begun with Sketches by Boz (1836) and Pickwick Papers (1836-1837). It was a good time to take stock of his life and to make use of the autobiographical manuscript he had put by earlier; he did not try to conceal the personal element from his public, who eagerly awaited each of the nineteen numbers of the serialized first publication of David Copperfield between May, 1849, and November, 1850. Dickens is readily identified with David Copperfield, and as Dickens phrased it, he viewed his life through the “long Copperfieldian perspective.”
Although much in the life of the first-person narrator corresponds to Dickens’s own life, the author altered a number of details. Unlike David, Dickens was not a genteel orphan but the eldest son of living and improvident parents; his own father served as the model for Micawber. Dickens’s childhood stint in a shoeblacking factory seems to have been somewhat shorter than David’s drudgery in the warehouse of the wine distributors...
(The entire section is 1468 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of David Copperfield Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!