How Does Dickens Use Contrasting Pairs of Characters to Illustrate Good and Evil in the Novel?
The author of the novel David Copperfield tells us the story of an aspiring writer. Therefore, the symbols of good and evil are closely associated with the theme of “great expectations.” They are presented through the prism of perception of the protagonist of the story – the future writer, who seeks to comprehend the essence of the nature of good and evil. “We can see how even the opening pages of David Copperfield set up a reciprocal relationship between development and loss” (Vicinus et al. 2008, 47).
There is a division of characters into positive and negative in this novel (“good” and “evil”). Dickens always motivated belonging of a character to one of these groups and it was never made randomly. These categories might constitute of persons of different social statuses. And just as the author begins characterizing people with their appearance (face, manner of speech, comportment), he describes various sectors of society starting with their external manifestations. When Dickens divides his characters, in contrast, by the principle of good and evil, he does not forget that a man is complex, and a defining moment for him is not a place of a particular character in the society, but the attitude of each of them towards people around, regardless their exterior features. Among both positive and negative characters, Dickens has noble and beautiful, unremarkable and ugly people. Moreover, in the process of their portraits’ description the nature of characters is disclosed.
Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield reveals positive characters (Peggotty, Betsey Trotwood, Agnes Wickfield, and Mr. Dick) opposed to negative (Merdstone, Steerforth, Uriah Heep, Creakle). “It was naturally followed by the discovery of the duality of good and evil” (Hamby 2014, 187). In addition, he pays not much attention to the portrait of good personalities.
The borderline between good and evil is very precarious. The writer, exploring this theme, is convinced that even positive characters (David, Peggotty, Micawber, Mr. Spenlow and, finally, even Agnes) transcend this vague line. Such notions, as good and evil, are certainly not clear and not easily recognizable. David Copperfield earned the ability to distinguish between them by hard work on the way, called the “lifeline.”
Vicinus, Martha J., Hannoosh, Michele A., Kucich, John Richard, Pinch, Adela N., & Giordano, Caroline. (2008). Developing Character in the Nineteenth-Century Novel.
Hamby, James. (2014). David Copperfield : Victorian hero. Middle Tennessee State University.
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Essay/Term paper: david copperfield: a novel of hypocrisy, sexual degradation, selfish exploitation, and fraud
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David Copperfield: A Novel of Hypocrisy, Sexual Degradation, Selfish Exploitation,
"David Copperfield" is a novel of "Passionate jealousy sniveling hypocrisy
cold hearted fraud, sexual degradation, selfish exploitation and much more; but
the final impression is one of joy tempered and mellowed wisdom" Discuss.
David Copperfield is probably one of the most successful novels of all time.
I believe it has inspired many readers to a full life with great success. The
novel itself is so real that it has even been said to be 'more real than life' I
am one of those who agree and I will try and explain why in the following essay .
The terms used to describe David Copperfield in the question are all very true
in their own respect. This is basically because Dickens chose to write about
life and in life all these terms apply.
By the time that Dickens began writing David Copperfield he was already a
profound author with great popularity. I believe he wanted to portray life as
best he could, he wanted to show what life was to him: and what better way than
a biography closely related to Dickens himself. We could call it a 'Novel of
personal memory' but we have to keep in mind the full original title: 'The
Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield,
the Younger, of Bluderstone Rookery. (Which he never meant to published on any
account.) This complete title strongly suggests that this is one man's story
written for himself. It was also supposed to 'never have been published on any
account.' Later in chap 42 this condition is repeated: 'this manuscript is
intended for no eyes but mine.' Of course this is part of the fiction, after all
we are reading David's story ourselves when we reach this sentence. What is
David Copperfield about? I pose myself this question to help illustrate how much
of an autobiography this book really is, the simplest answer is of course that
it is about David Copperfield himself and his development as a man. Although
after having read several biography's done on the author Charles Dickens, I was
led to believe that this book is very near Dickens own life, for example his
father, John Dickens does seem to have been a warm and pleasant father, but his
lack of responsibility, especially with money, later led his family into serious
difficulties. This is very much like Mr.Micawber. Infact his unhappy loves in
life were portrayed also, similarly he wanted to become a journalist and later
as David Copperfield a well-known author.
Referring back to the discussion title I'd like to give a few examples that
show how the terms applied actually relate to the novel. 'Passionate jealousy,'
this can be seen majorly in Uriah Heep who throughout the entire novel displays
a strong jealousy towards David. Hidden behind his 'umbleness he despises
society and is very disagreeable therefore he applies to most negative words
used in the discussion title. One example of his jealousy was when he thought
that David was trying to steal the love he dreamed of: Agnes. So Heep forced his
own mother to spy on David. Another character who came across as having
passionate jealousy was Ms.Dartle who loved Steerforth dearly all her life even
though he had been cruel to her and even ruined her beautiful face by breaking
her nose when he was younger. When Steerforth fled with lill'Emily, Ms.Dartle
took it to heart that Em'ly had stolen her Steerforth. There was a lot of
jealousy from Rosa Dartle's part.
"Sniveling hypocrisy," again we see Heep classified under this category but
more so there are two other very evil characters which are very hypocritical:
Mr.Creakle, the cruel headmaster of Salem house school. Initially he is the
cruelest most disrespectful headmaster alive but towards the end of the novel he
has turned into a very nice, polite warden at a jailhouse who has respect even
for the greatest criminals such as Heep and Littimer, Steerforth's despicable
servant. Similarly Mr. Murdstone seems at the beginning to be very polite and a
great gentleman; until he gets what he wants! He marries rich young widowed
women whom he slowly destroys with his odious 'firmness'
'Cold-hearted fraud' this is probably the most serious offense that is
committed in David Copperfield because it actually means: trickery or scheme to
deceive. In other words it is a crime, there were only a few occasions where
this occurred and mostly they were to do with Heep: firstly the way the evil and
slimy character deceived Mr. Wickfield accounts on several occasions with the
faking of his signature to transfer documents, once he even managed to take all
of Aunt Betsey's money that was supposed to have been her life savings and 'all'
she had. Also under serious offense we see Littimer's name appearing once again
for his robbery to the bank of England, it is even suggested that both Heep and
Littimer were in on things together. But luckily, with the help of Mr. Dick and
the spiritous Miss. Mowcher they are both caught and put into Mr. Creakle's
'Sexual degradation' is also portrayed and again I'd like to step back
and point out how important it is that we understand that these describing terms
apply to real life, and therefore if they come up in Dickens biographical novel,
he has been successful in describing how 'real' life is like. Mainly the
characters who acted with sexual degradation are: Steerforth towards Emily by
lying to her and basically tearing her away from her home, and Murdstone towards
'Selfish exploitation' is done by quite a lot of characters mainly:
Steerforth-thinks he's at the top, Heep-disguised beneath his 'umbleness he's
actually very conceited, Jack Maldon-the way he thinks only of himself and takes
full advantage of Doctor Strong's caring heart, the Old Soldier (Annie's
mother)-again taking selfish advantage of Doctor Strong, and lastly Mr.
Murdstone-thinking only for what's best for him; he even abandoned David to his
Aunt Betsey whom was a complete stranger for him, just because he wanted to get
poor David out of his life. Would an unselfish step-father do that?
The initial title also says that: 'the final impression is one of joy
tempered and mellowed with wisdom.' This is very true and it is what has given
this book the success that it has: when we begin to read David Copperfield we
start to feel as if the bad luck is all happening to him, his mother re-marries
a cruel man, he goes to an awful school, his mother, he has to work unfairly
ect... Steerforth's servant Littimer once calls David 'young innocence'
(chapter 32). This name is appropriate. David is sensitive, honest and loving as
a child, and remains so all his life. He is intelligent and observant, but he
learns the harder facts of life very slowly. That is why we can say all those
describing terms about this novel are correct and that is why we can say it ends
marvellously with great expected achievment from david. In fact, also because it
was written as a series rather than a novel, Dickens manages to settle
everything left hanging between characters, in the last chapter. So in
conclusion I can say that I profoundly agree with the initial statement because
it properly describes this masterpiece of life.
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