Poor Society in The Novel David Copperfield

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     Introduction. Dickens is well known for his sympathetic attitude towards the less privileged members of the society, the oppressed, downtrodden, semi-literate and destitute masses who seldom find people to advocate their cause. He describes their miseries, and the torture inflicted on them by the hard-hearted people. He appeals to the good sense of the thinking, intelligent few to find ways and means to bring happiness and pleasure in their otherwise uneasy life.

      How Children React. As a child David in his innocence reacts very favorably to the assistance rendered by Mr. Mell. "It always gave me pain to observe that Steerforth treated him with systematic disparagement, and seldom lost an occasion of wounding his feelings, or inducing others to do so. This troubled me the more for a long time, because I had soon told Steerforth, from whom I could no more keep such a secret, than I could keep a cake or any other tangible possession, about the two old women Mr. Mell had taken me to see, and I was always afraid that Steerforth would let it out, and twit him with it." The author also describes the wretched condition of the teacher through Tungay's words, "The cobbler says inn't a bit of the original boot left and he wonders you expect it (mending)."

      Sorrow and Sufferings of Peggotty. Peggotty is the nurse of the boy David. She is kind-hearted and very lovable. Mr. Peggotty, her brother, Ham, Little Emily. Mrs. Gummidge and Mr. Barkis, the coach driver-all these are painted very realistically. Despite their lack of education, they have excellent virtues of the heart-kindness, magnanimity; unselfish generosity and other qualities are not the prerogatives of the educated rich and aristocratic elite of the society. This fact is clearly pointed out by the author. The poor face sorrows and sufferings uncomplainingly and finally succeed in having a life of bliss which they richly deserve.

      Micawber, a Pen-portrait of His Father. Dickens must have been thinking of his parents while delineating the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. The lady with the babies at her breast promises never to desert her husband despite the successive and disquieting financial difficulties. Their impecunious condition arouses our sympathy though the author puts in more of satire and humor in the way in which he describes it.

      Poetic Justice. Rewarding virtuous people and meeting out punishment to the villainous ones is invariably the way with our author. All those who suffer are amply compensated through the generosity of discerning people like Aunt Betsey. She herself regains her lost capital. She helps David also in starting his career.

      Moral Vision. An author with a moral vision cannot have any sympathy for hypocritical swindlers and Dickens is the last man to have compassion for them whether rich or poor, erudite or ignorant. Crimes and criminals are to be hated and rooted out of society by means of ruthlessness. Reformation and rehabilitation of criminals were not probably thought of by Dickens when he wrote David Copperfield but after a decade when he wrote Great Expectations he became a supporter of the Reformatory theory.

      No other Victorian writer can have credit for having championed so well the cause of the poor. Dickens was a great humanitarian. Poverty cannot be made an excuse for committing crimes, petty or persistently great. Injustice to the poor cannot be tolerated. This is clear not only in David Copperfield but in all of Dickens's novels.

University Questions

Write a short note on "Dickens as a champion of the poor" with reference to David Copperfield.
It is certain that Dickens's stories did more to correct the general selfishness and injustice of society towards the poor than all the works of other literary men of his age combined. Elucidate this statement with reference to David Copperfield.

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