What is the main theme of David Copperfield?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the central themes in this novel is that of marriage and what a good marriage looks like. The novel presents the reader with various examples, but interestingly, it is important to note that Dr. Strong and Annie act as a kind of example of a good marriage. After Mr. Dick manages to bring them together again to foil the schemes of the evil Uriah Heep in trying to separate them, Annie makes the following comment that could be regarded as the central motto of the story:

There can be no disparity of marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose.

These words strike David to the very core of his being, as he realises that his marriage to Dora is not based on equality of mind and purpose because they are completely different characters who will never be able to be reconciled to each other. Dickens is thus arguing that true marriage can rest on equality of mind and purpose alone, and that these factors are more important than age or class or other differences, as is shown by the massive age gap between Annie and Doctor Strong. Of course, once Dora is fortunately killed off by Dickens, David is free to enjoy the kind of marriage he dreams about with Agnes.

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