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Book Review by Sheila Hollinghead
Coming-of-age novels have been popular for over a hundred years and one that has stood the test of time is David Copperfield. It is the favorite book of many, including Charles Dickens himself who wrote “… like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.”
Dickens based the book heavily on his own life making this, perhaps, his most relatable story.
David Copperfield does what the best books always do–it strikes a chord with readers, showing us, in vivid detail, circumstances similar to our own.David early learns his beloved, child-like mother is flawed, putting herself and her child into the hands of Mr. Murdstone–the stepfather with a heart of stone. Dickens had a knack for naming his characters to intimate just who they are, from the notorious Uriah Heep who makes your skin crawl to the comforting, always faithful, Peggotty.
The book shows us again and again people betraying David’s innocent friendship. David’s deepest battles, both internal and external, are with Murdstone who tries to beat David into submission and Steerforth who seduces Emily.
Even Dora, poor Dora, who holds David’s pencils while he writes, is a betrayal, although in this case it is David’s own foolish infatuation that leads him down that path. Dickens possessed a keen awareness of people, right down to the depths of their souls. He shows us the good, the lovely and loving Agnes Wickfield, the bad, Edward Murdstone, and the ugly, Uriah Heep, in vivid imagery.
David endures trial after trial. However, through it all, he never gives into bitterness or despair, or, at least not for long. He has friendships that help him to cope with the harshness of life. Tommy Traddles, the Micawbers, and Peggoty’s family all support and encourage him throughout the novel.
And with their help, David successfully emerges from his dreary adolescence. Dickens is a master at showing the human condition and how, even in the worst of circumstances, “happy ever afters” await those who maintain their integrity and goodness.
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