illustration of two young men standing in 19th century garb and looking at one another

David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens

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Describe David's mother and Pegotty in David Copperfield. How did David spend his childhood with these two ladies?

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David's mother marries very young, has David when she is young, and is widowed when she hardly more than a girl. She is childlike, gentle, and full of kindness—in other words, ill fitted for the world. Before David was born, his orphaned mother became a governess, then married David's father, also named David Copperfield. At the point her husband dies, she knows little of housekeeping. As Miss Betsey says to her:

"You are a very Baby!"

The servant Peggotty is a kind-hearted and loving soul, honest and good, who more or less runs the household when David is very young. Most evenings she sits in the parlor with David and his mother, showing how kind and open-hearted David's mother is in treating a servant as an equal. David loves Peggotty dearly, and she is good to him. He is happy in his simple life with these two women.

It is lucky for David that he is able to spend his earliest youth with such dear creatures as his mother and Peggotty, because it humanizes him. He learns from them what real love and compassion are. Once the Murdstones appear, on the other hand, he is subjected to ruthlessness and cruelty.

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David Copperfield's mother is a kind and gentle woman. But she is also too frail for this world; it is no wonder that David describes her as an angel. Her meek and timid nature makes it all too easy for her second husband, the wicked Mr. Murdstone, to bully, dominate, and control her. But before he arrived on the scene, David lived an idyllic life with his mother and his dear old nurse, Peggotty. Together, the two women create a warm, loving environment for the young David, which makes his subsequent hardships and challenges all the more difficult for him to bear.

For David, at this blissful time in his life, it is almost as if he has two mothers. He spends a lot of time with Peggotty, and he becomes a very good friend to her and her family. It is during one of his visits to Peggotty's family that his mother gets married to Murdstone. The joy and laughter of Peggotty's household contrasts sharply with the misery, cruelty, and domestic tyranny awaiting David when he returns home.

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