Emily: Character Analysis in David Copperfield

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      Emily first makes her appearance in the novel David Copperfield as little Emily; She is the niece of Mr. Peggotty and is adopted by him for being an orphan. She is a lovely child and is the pet of the Peggotty family. When the title David comes there, he and Emily become friends. She is very charming but timid. She says that she is afraid of the sea. She likes to become a lady so that she might help the poor fisherfolk in their need. David develops a puppy love for Emily. David's brief holiday being over, they part company for the time being.

Charming Maiden

      A few years later, Emily grows up to be a young charming maiden. She is sly and shy. Having been brought up along with her cousin Ham, it is natural that Ham and Emily become lovers. It is the wish of their uncle old Mr. Peggotty too. Ham declares that he has offered his love to Emily and she has accepted it. She too declares it. In fact, Ham is very much in love with Emily. He loves her truly and she is more than everything to him.

Her Company with Steerforth

      The entrance of Steerforth at this stage begins to mark a change in the fortunes of Emily. This is Steerforth's first visit to the Peggotty family in the company of his friend David. Emily is not yet spoiled. She is not aware that Steerforth has already his eye on her. She does not know that Steerforth has remarked to David that Ham is a dull-headed fellow, too dull for such a pretty girl as Emily. But Steerforth takes advantage of his introduction to the family, buys a boat and calls it 'little Emily.' This is his secret way of adoring Emily. But she is still loyal to Ham. Emily and Ham always walk together hand in hand and are inseparable. Steerforth does not get any chance of finding Emily alone, for him to play the seducing serpent.

      It is only later on that poor Emily falls a victim to Steerforth's seduction. Long after David has gone.

      Steerforth pays occasional visits to Yarmouth to strengthen his old friendship. He catches advantageous moments of finding Emily alone and whispers his love in her ears. He is very beautiful; polished and wealthy, quite a contrast to plain, simple Ham. No wonder that Emily yields to the temptation and one evening runs away with Steerforth. She believes that he will marry her. She never foresees that he is a villain and will rob her virginity. She writes a letter to her uncle that she expects to become a married lady when she next visits him. Later she begs pardon of Ham that he must forget their love. She wishes that Ham may love some good girl. Such are the contents of her letter to her uncle.


      It has to be guessed that Emily has an exciting round of pleasures in Steerforth's company. They tour abroad. While she expects him to marry her, he dodges the matter. Finally, he leaves her to her fate. This is a terrible shock for her. She runs about almost losing her mind and swoons. But for the mercy of some unknown woman, poor Emily would have lost her life. She falls ill for a long time, almost loses memory: At last she recovers and comes back to London. She dedicates her life to virtue and noble works. She nurses sick people and teaches children and decides that she will never marry. When she gets back to England she accidentally becomes the victim of Rosa Dartle’s jealous fury. But in a dramatic way, her uncle comes to her rescue. He takes her into his protection. Of course, it is impossible for Emily to be taken back by Ham. The result is that Emily must live separately from Ham. Her problem is solved by her uncle taking her along with him to Australia. Such is the career of Emily.

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