David Copperfield Topics for Discussion
by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield book cover
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Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Is David Copperfield's childhood at all like that of American children in the nineteenth century?

2. Could an Edward Murdstone exploit a young naive woman like Clara Copperfield today? How has society and the legal system in England or America changed since 1850?

3. Dan'l Peggotty and his family are lower class English people. Has Dickens presented them realistically?

4. While England, even in 1850, was a democracy to an extent, it still had (and has) a rigid class system. How has Dickens presented this in David Copperfield?

5. Dickens is noted for his ability to create character in his fiction. How typically does he present minor characters in David Copperfield?

6. The very name, Little Em'ly, is rather sentimental. She is called this all through the novel. Does the reader ever see her as a realistic human being?

7. Is Dickens more skilled in presenting men than women? How has his experience influenced his views on human personalities?

8. How is London seen in David Copperfield? It was the world's largest city in 1850.

9. Lord Byron is the model Dickens had in mind when he created James Steerforth. Is his character accurately depicted in David's friend?

10. Wilkins Micawber is usually regarded as one of the supreme comic characters in English literature. By what standards is he comic? Have our views of what constitutes humor changed since Dickens' time?

11. Except in rigidly religious circles, the term "fallen woman" seems rather absurd today. Do we actually now value the feminine personality higher than most Victorians did?

12. Some critics prefer the "child bride" Dora to Agnes Wickfield. Why?

13. Uriah Heep is an arch hypocrite. Is he also comic?

14. Comment on David's friend Tommy Traddles. What is his function in the novel?

15. Comment on Aunt Betsy Trotwood. In one sense she is as eccentric as many other of Dickens' characters, but she is also a stable person with a wisdom unmatched by other characters in the novel with the possible exception of Agnes Wickfield. Is she, despite Dickens' intentions, as much a heroine as Agnes?