Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Thirty - David Copperfield - Part One

I am loving this book! I was hooked from the start and am enjoying it immensely. Perhaps the first person point of view lends intimacy and perhaps David is simply an amazing character, or perhaps both are true. A couple of wonderfully witty quotes -
...and he had a white neck-kerchief on, that was not over-clean
It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she was; dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and voice; and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose, as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers, she had carried them to that account.
When someone dies and when [a character who shall remain nameless to avoid spoilers] is given the news, it is told in a most indirect way. It reminds me of that joke about the cat being on the roof -- 

A man goes out of town and asks his friend to check on his cat while he's away. When he calls his friend after a couple of days the friend says, “Your cat died.”

“How could you be so cruel?” he asks. “Did you have to say it so bluntly?”

“How else would I have said it?” his friend asks.

“Well, you could have told me that the cat is on the roof. Next time I called, you could have said that the fire department came out but even they weren’t able to get the cat down from the roof. After another call you could have said that my cat died. It would have been less of a shock that way.”

The last day of his vacation, the man calls his friend to ask how everything is going. His friend says, “Your mother is on the roof.”

The indirect way was the acceptable manner in Victorian times - though Dickens obviously disapproves of unwavering stoicism. But does the rejection of stoicism lead to wimpiness? Just how much emotion is acceptable? The person described in the next quote is a monster –

I do not doubt that she had a choice pleasure in exhibiting what she called her self-command, and her firmness, and her strength of mind, and her common sense, and the whole diabolical catalogue of her unamiable qualities, on such an occasion.
Dickens illustrates that etiquette for its own sake is folly. This woman’s strict adherence to etiquette leads to rigidity, which leads to suppression of emotion, which leads to unkindness. How can unkindness be considered proper? Isn’t the purpose of manners to enable others to feel comfortable?


  1. I love this post and the map. As a child, my grandmother told me stories of when Charles Dickens used to visit the family she worked for as an assistant cook.

  2. I'm so glad you're enjoying it. Interesting that it's told in the first person. One more week until I start. I can't wait!

  3. This is such a wonderfully complex novel. Our favorite Dickens! The cast is amazing and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on some of the people you’re about to meet. What a neat map – I can’t wait to explore!

  4. I read this one earlier this year and just loved it. I've found that Dickens' longer books work much better for me than his shorter ones. Enjoy!

  5. Thanks, everyone! I like it so well that I'm continually itching to get back to it and want to rush through everything else I have to do to read it.

  6. Must be an enjoyable read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

  7. So glad you're liking this one! I've only read Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities and have always wanted to read more. This one and Great Expectations are at the top of my list!