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David Copperfield is a novel by Charles Dickens which was first published in serial form in 1850. Its full title is the unwieldly David Copperfield, or The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (which he never meant to be published on any account)
Many of the events in David Copperfield follow the events in Dickens's own life and some critics suggest that it is the most autobiographical of Dickens' novels. However, David Copperfield is by no means an autobiography of Dickens, and is primarily a work of fiction.
"Of all my books," says Charles Dickens in his preface to this immortal novel, "I like this the best. Like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favorite child. And his name is David Copperfield."
When David Copperfield
appeared in 1850, after Dombey and Son and before Bleak House, it became so popular that its only rival was < Pickwick. > Beneath the fiction lies much of the author's personal life, yet it is not an autobiography. The story treats of David's sad experiences as a child, his youth at school, and his struggles for a livelihood, and leaves him in early manhood, prosperous and happily married.
Pathos, humor, and skill in delineation, give vitality to this remarkable work; and nowhere has Dickens filled his canvas with more vivid and diversified characters. Forster says that the author's favorites were the Peggotty family, composed of David's nurse Peggotty, who was married to Barkis, the carrier; Dan'el Peggotty, her brother, a Yarmouth fisherman; Ham Peggotty, his nephew; the doleful Mrs. Gummidge; and Little Em'ly, ruined by David's schoolmate, Steerforth. « It has been their fate,» says Forster, «as with all the leading figures of his invention, to pass their names into the language and become types; and he has nowhere given happier embodiment to that purity of homely goodness, which, by the kindly and all-reconciling influences of humor, may exalt into comeliness and even grandeur the clumsiest forms of humanity.» Miss Betsy Trotwood, David's aunt;the half-mad but mild Mr. Dick; Mrs.Copperfield, David's mother; Murdstone, his brutal stepfather; Miss Murdstone, that stepfather's sister; Mr. Spenlow and his daughter Dora,-David's «childwife»; - Steerforth, Rosa Dartle, Mrs. Steerforth, Mr. Wickfield, his daughter Agnes (David's second wife), and the Micawber family, are the persons around whom the interest revolves. A host of minor characters, such as the comical little dwarf hair-dresser, Miss Mowcher, Mr. Mell, Mr. Creakle, Tommy Traddles, Uriah Heep, Dr. Strong, Mrs. Markleham, and others, are portrayed with the same vivid strokes.
The novel is told through the eyes of its title character David Copperfield. Its main theme throughout is the growth of the hero's emotional and moral life as he learns to go against "the first mistaken impulse of the undisciplined heart". This struggle against the "undisciplined heart" is a theme which is repeated throughout all the relationships and characters in the novel.
You can download the entire text file of the novel here or read it online by turning the pages below.