Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Blunderstone Rookery. Suffolk birthplace and boyhood home of David Copperfield, who often associates the place in his mind with the nearby tombstone of his father. Charles Dickens himself grew up in Suffolk and always tied it to childhood innocence. David’s earliest memories of happy evenings with his mother and nurse Peggotty soon give way to the strict and cruel house presided over by his new stepfather and aunt. He retreats to his room and finds refuge in his father’s books. This same room is a prison for five days of punishment which to the boy seem a nightmare of years. Peggotty tries to send him affection and tenderness through the keyhole, but nothing can forestall Mr. Murdstone’s determination to send him away to school.
*Yarmouth. Norfolk seaport, about 110 miles northeast of London, where Dan Peggotty and his three dependents live in a boathouse. Little David first travels here on a two-week visit, little knowing that he will return to a changed rookery with Murdstone installed as his stepfather. For David, the boathouse is better than Aladdin’s palace; he even has his own special room, something that becomes increasingly important to him. In later visits to the Ark, as he calls it, David brings his school friend, Steerforth, unwittingly leading to Little Em’ly’s seduction. Her surrogate father, Peggotty, then insists on placing a candle in the window as a visible sign that he welcomes her back home.
Yarmouth’s beach is also the scene of the tempest. The foundering ship is Steerforth’s “Little Em’ly,” and Ham swims out to rescue a lone survivor on its deck. Symbolically, both men are lost as the boat sinks, and when Steerforth’s body washes ashore, it lands on the very spot where the old houseboat, now wrecked, stood with its nightly candle.
Salem House. Dr. Creakle’s school, where Murdstone sends the recalcitrant David. Dickens powerfully projects the unhappy boy, the lonely schoolroom, the wicked giant of a schoolmaster. When Ham and Peggotty come to visit David, Steerforth suggests that he would like to visit their boathouse. However, tragedy falls, and David is told that his mother and new brother are dead; he is removed from Salem House on his tenth birthday.
*London. Great Britain’s capital city, in which several sections of the novel are set. The first is at Murdstone and Grinby’s warehouse in the Blackfriars district waterfront. Here ten-year-old David pastes labels on wine bottles in much the same way the young Dickens had been sent out to work in a...
(The entire section is 1092 words.)
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Bloom’s introduction considers the novel as the original portrait of the artist as young man. Eight other essays, all written after 1969, include examinations of the novel’s moral unity and mirror imagery.
Collins, Philip. Charles Dickens: “David Copperfield.” London: Edward Arnold, 1977. Brief study that focuses on the work itself rather than on Dickens or his methods. Discusses the novel’s specific strengths and weaknesses and examines how the novel’s serial publication affected its structure. Most useful for the student who...
(The entire section is 243 words.)