Dickens Most Personal Book David Copperfield

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      Introduction. As Hugh Walker has asserted there is no exaggeration at all in saying that Dickens had very often dipped his pen in his own blood before writing David Copperfield. What David experiences had already been experienced by Dickens in his life. No hardship or tribulation faced by Dickens in his personal life has failed to be reflected in the characters of his creation in his novels generally and in David Copperfield particularly. The novelist's father himself peeps at us in the form of Micawber. An immortal pen portrait of the various persons that Dickens had the opportunity of coming across and closely observing in his everyday life has been presented to us in this novel. To mention a few, Betsey Trotwood with her oddities of behavior and eccentricities of bearing and deportment, the villain Uriah Heep with his feigned utterances like "umble people", the ruthless Murdstone and the amicable Agnes are characters that would live through the ages in the minds of the English reading public.

      David Copperfield Grew out of Personal Experience. Of all his novels Dickens himself considered David Copperfield the best of the products of his pen. Possibly he re-lived many of the events that had happened in his life while writing this novel. The style of narration in the first person is a clue to us that we can expect some of the events from his personal life in the novel too. Dickens has openly averred, "Of all my books I like this the best" Baker and other critics, while accepting the widely popular belief that there are many autobiographical elements in David Copperfield, feel that Dickens has put a great deal of warmth, moving buoyancy and imaginative theatricality into his novel, drawing a lot of ingredients from his rich experience. He has idealized and embroidered the barest acts of a tale of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, making it more enjoyable through a lot of cheerfulness and confidence in the essential goodness of human nature. In a novel of didactic features and sections, it is essential that the novelist will descend to the level of a sermonising parson. Yet we find the redeeming feature of veiled instruction through the device of poetic justice. These too center round the secondary characters alone, i.e., Uriah Heep after a long period of success through misappropriation and deception ultimately gets exposed and convicted; Steerforth faces a tragic end. As regards the main story we can heave a sigh of relief that moralism and melodrama are fortunately kept out of the narrative. The great truth that virtue has its own reward has not only been expounded clearly but thoroughly drilled into the reader, not by verbal expression, but through the outcome of the activities of the persons concerned.

      In the Words of a Boy. Revelation of the childhood experiences of the novelist through the words of a child is more appealing to the reader than a direct narration of the adult would have been. The intense sensitivity of a child cannot be revealed except by a master narrator of the caliber of Dickens. The boy David and the boy Dickens had been faced with many adverse circumstances. They have realized that no pleasure which is ruined at any stage can ever be retrieved. The emotions surging in the breast of Dickens himself when he read it after many years from the date of its composition had been too poignant. Whatever might have been the effort of Dickens at the time of the production, it could not have been surpassed by the moving experiences of the adult recollecting childhood sorrow. Thus the autobiographical element in the story fascinated many readers of various age groups throughout the hundred-odd years after its publication in the same way as it irresistibly attracted Dickens. Murdstones are not as new to the society then as well as now. They are firmness, ruthlessness and callousness personified. The child David suffers on account of this but the way in which he recounts the enduring recollections of those sufferings is not like the adult who is bitter about it but the child who suffered due to it. All the brutality of the words uttered and the deeds perpetrated come out without the vehemence of the adult.

      Forster's Revelations. Forster, the renowned biographer of Dickens has shed much light on the experiences, ideas and incidents of Dickens's personal life that have crept into the story of David. Much of these were of such a character as would not bear recurrence in the author's own mind without sensitiveness. Dickens's own father who had been imprisoned for debts incurred has been immortalized by the author through Micawber. Dickens had an affair with a young actress, Maria Beadnell, wherein he had to face disappointment. Although Dickens never expressed this to anyone he could not suppress it for long. The story of the idyllic love of Dora and David is but a faint allusion to this.

      Personal Memories and Local Associations. Whenever Dickens described a town or village he enlivens the description by harmonizing his own personal experiences after a visit to the place. In David Copperfield, the atmosphere of Yarmouth has been painted by the author with the freshness of his memory after a recent trip to the place for a holiday sojourn. Unless an author succeeds in recasting all the materials available to him and until his imagination subdues the element he uses as his tools he cannot capture the hearts of his readers.

      Dickens, a Member of a Large Family. David is described as an orphan, an only child born after the death of his father whereas Dickens was a member of a large family with both the parents living when he wrote the novel. Probably Dickens wanted to reveal the sense of frustration felt by the orphaned characters in an allegorical way. There are many such in David Copperfield e.g. Emily, Traddles, Martha Endella and Rosa Dartle who had lost both the parents and many who had lost either father or mother such as Agnes, Dora, Steerforth, Uriah Heep and Annie Strong. The orphaned child needs warmth, love and affection to compensate for the parent or parents he or she has lost. The same child yearns for the security and wisdom which an ordinary child enjoys.

      Two Painful Experiences. Dickens wanted to write a secret autobiography, sometime before starting David Copperfield. He wanted to same to be found out only after his death because he wanted to include two of the most painful experiences of his life-the first one in his twelve year and the second when he was seventeen. His mother compelled him to work in a London blacking warehouse after taking him away from the school when he was only twelve. When yet in his teens Dickens had an unsuccessful and unhappy love affair with a banker's daughter Maria Beadnell. Of course, the writer could not adequately put in autobiographical form the frustrations of a youthful love, but the other experience has been successfully narrated in the said collection of papers published after his death.

      School Experience. Dickens's scholastic career had been interrupted frequently due to the fluctuations of the family fortune. These bitter experiences had been truthfully reflected in his novels generally and in David Copperfield particularly. Inordinately strict schoolmasters of the type of Mr. Creakle had taught him. Schools at the time of Dickens's career as an author used to be run for the exploitation of the good and generous people who were willing to donate. Merciless treatment of the helpless children by corrupt schoolmasters is suitably described by Dickens in David Copperfield. Dickens the author vehemently protested against unhealthy social trends and conditions through his novels.

      Short-hand Writer and Successful Author. Dickens had to learn short-hand and work as a reporter of Parliamentary Debates. Later on Dickens became a successful author of many books. David also has similar adventures and achievements to supplement his income at first and to shine in the sphere of literature later after being a proctor in the firm of Spenlow and Jorkins.

      Conclusion. We can assert that there are many parallels in the lives of the hero and the author of David Copperfield, which goes to prove the truth of the statement that David Copperfield is an autobiographical novel.

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