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 does David Copperfield describe himself as a child?

Quick answer:

David Copperfield describes himself as “a posthumous child,” meaning that he was born after the death of his father. To be precise, he came into the world six months after his father passed away.

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The adult David Copperfield gives us a very detailed and fascinating account of his childhood years. Like his creator, upon whom he is thought to be based, David had a troubled childhood, largely due to the loss of his father at a young age.

Poor David has never known his father. He describes himself as “a posthumous child,” which in this particular context means that he was born after his father's death: six months, to be precise.

Yet even so, David felt a great deal of compassion for his deceased father each time he visited his white gravestone in the churchyard. To the young lad, there seemed something unfair about the fact that his late father was lying out there alone at night while the little parlor of his house was “warm and bright, with fire and candle,” with the doors locked against the darkness of the churchyard.

From this description of himself, we can see, right from the outset of the story, that David has a remarkably vivid awareness of his surroundings, a quality of his that we'll meet later on in the book. We can also see just how affected he was by the loss of his father, a condition that would persist throughout his childhood.

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