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

David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens
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How can I compare Mr. Wickfield and Mr. Spenlow in David Copperfield?

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There are several interesting points of comparison: both men are fathers of women David eventually marries, for instance, and both men are to an extent defined by their relationship to money. While it is true that Mr. Wickfield is in some ways a more sympathetic character, his "kindness" can be...

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There are several interesting points of comparison: both men are fathers of women David eventually marries, for instance, and both men are to an extent defined by their relationship to money. While it is true that Mr. Wickfield is in some ways a more sympathetic character, his "kindness" can be seen as a mask for his inability to see through Heep's plotting. Mr. Spenlow, on the other hand, appears to be a much sharper character, but his opposition to David's attachment to Dora is an example of another kind of blindness. His tendency to mistrust is every bit as debilitating as Wickfield's tendency to trust, and both men end up broken—one by Heep's embezzlement and the other by his own mismanagement of his affairs. It is also possible to draw a connection between the traits of these two men and their daughters; Spenlow's mistrust and protective nature can be seen as a factor in Dora's inability to cope with the real world, while Wickfield's trusting nature teaches Agnes to discern the best in people.

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Mr. Wickfield is Agnes’s father and David’s guardian during his time at school. He is kind and gentle, but unfortunately easily manipulated. He falls victim to Uriah Heep, as does Aunt Betsey Trotwood. He cares for David and Agnes throughout their childhood. He is well off financially, though not excessively wealthy. Unfortunately Uriah Heep is able to finagle much of his wealth from him.

Mr. Spenlow, Dora’s father, is not very kind. He refuses to allow David to court his daughter, viewing him as a mere clerk (and employee). His daughter is meant for better things, much more than David will be able to provide for her. His death is somewhat a release, enabling David to pursue Dora and eventually marry her.

Both of David’s fathers-in-law are influential in his life. However, it is Mr. Wickfield who provides him with a happy life as a child and a happy marriage with his daughter as an adult.

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