Although a work of fiction, David Copperfield purports to be a memoir or autobiography penned by Copperfield himself. Therefore, memory is highly important to the book. A clue as to how memory works as narrative technique appears early on, when Copperfield states:
if it should appear from anything I may set down in this narrative that I was a child of close observation, or that as a man I have a strong memory of my childhood, I undoubtedly lay claim to both of these characteristics.
This describes what the chief narrative technique in the novel will be: the story will move back and forth between life as it is experienced in its powerful immediacy by the young David and through the perspective of the older man looking back at events from the distanced vantage point of adulthood.
For example, the opening of chapter 9, in which David learns of his mother's death, is first told from the point of view of the adult looking back:
I pass over all that happened at school, until the anniversary of my birthday came round in March. Except that Steerforth was more to be admired than ever, I remember nothing . . . . The great remembrance by which that time is marked in my mind, seems to have swallowed up all lesser recollections, and to exist alone.
But when it comes to telling of the news of David's mother death, we are there beside the young David, experiencing the blow right along with him. The more detached narrative of the older David only makes more powerful the grief of the younger hearing the news:
‘Because,’ said she, ‘I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your mama is very ill.’
A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move in it for an instant. Then I felt the burning tears run down my face, and it was steady again.
‘She is very dangerously ill,’ she added.
I knew all now.
‘She is dead.’
This "dual" narrative technique is typical of Dickens when he writes first person novels.