Betsey Trotwood: Character Analysis in David Copperfield

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      Betsey Trotwood was David's great-aunt. She was a tall, hard-featured lady, but by no means ill-looking. There was inflexibility in her face, in her voice, in her gait and carriage but her features were rather handsome than otherwise, though rather unbending.

      When David ran away from the warehouse of Murdstone and Grinby, he went to her at Dover. She befriended him and sent him to a good school in Canterbury, and paid for his articles at a law office in the legal district of London. She lost her money, however; and they had to economize. Accompanied by Mr. Dick she came to London to see David. Together they made the best of the changed circumstances, though she still acted the part of a staunch friend to David. She forced Uriah Heep to restore her fortune to her. She dealt severely with Mr. and Miss Murdstone when they came to take back David. She has a strong prejudice against donkeys and the barbaric name of Peggotty.

Her Unfortunate Experience in Marriage

      Her character is largely colored by her unfortunate experience in marriage. We are told in the first chapter that she had married a man younger than herself who had treated her badly, and from whom she had separated taking her maiden name once again and thereafter living as a single woman. It is common thought that her husband had died but this turns out not to be so, and he appears as a mysterious stranger to whom she gives money until his death. She had loved him originally with all the earnestness of which she was capable, but, finding him worthless, had decided that all husbands must be worthless, and she appears a propagandist of spinsterhood for example, with her maidservants. But one wonders how serious she is in character, despite her gruff and forthright manner of speech.

The Fairy Godmother

      Miss Betsey Trotwood resembles the fairy godmother of the nursery tales, hiding a soft heart beneath in harsh exterior. And with a single wave, at its were, of her wand, she sends the hateful Murdstones reeling backward, and for David, the warehouse, that dark place of childhood grief, disappears forever. Her noble motto, too, makes a great impression on the boy David; "Never be mean in anything, never be false, never be cruel."

Her Suffering in Life

      Miss Trotwood has suffered a great emotional setback. Early in life, she married a handsome man who was much younger than her. She was in love with him but she was badly treated by him. She was often beaten by him. Her life became miserable. She ultimately sought legal separation from him. The mother instinct was strong in her. She craved for the love and affection of children. But she lived alone like a spinster. She was now an old and unmarried lady.

Her Eccentric Nature

      Miss Trotwood has eccentricities and oddities because of suffering and disappointment. She is psychologically injured. She quarreled with everybody. Her manners are strange and ridiculous. But in heart of hearts, she has the milk of human kindness. In the novel, at times she expresses her love for her worthless husband which indicates the purity of her heart. She is well aware of the fact that her husband squanders away her money but she gives him money occasionally on account of her deep and profound love. She has deep rooted love for David. David says: "My poor mother herself could not have loved me better, or studied more how to make me happy"

      There are so many other examples which indicate the eccentric nature of Miss Betsey. She has affection for David's father but she differs with her brother over his choice of Clara as his wife. She subsequently leaves Blunderstone. She never returns again in the lifetime of her brother. She comes to Blunderstone at the time of David's birth. She is shocked to learn about the birth of a male child. She gives a blow to Dr. Chillip's nose and later on leaves Bhmderstone Rookery: She takes an oath never to return to this place again. We see her again in the thirteenth chapter. Our attention is arrested because of her eccentric and ridiculous manners. Her dealing with the donkey-boys of her locality are really eccentric. Moreover, she has some peculiar and queer ideas about London. Finally, she has fear of fire which is entirely ridiculous and eccentric. When Miss Betsey finds that Uriah Heep had misappropriated her property, she catches hold of him by the collar with both the hands. This reveals her abnormal behavior.

A Woman of Strong Convictions

      Miss Betsey is a woman of independent nature and strong views. She drives her coach herself through the streets of Canterbury which is in defiance of public opinion. If she does not like a person, she tells him bluntly and fearlessly. She is quite blunt in her speech to Uriah Heep. She hates the meaness, hypocrisy and cruelty of Uriah Heep. She always advises David to act upon the sound principles of life.

Her Affection for Both Dora and Agnes

      Miss Betsey is sure that Dora is a wax doll. So, she advises David to be more patient with her. She calls her affectionately "Little Blossom." After Dora's death she tenders advice to David, to love Agnes and marry her. She makes a correct estimate of Agnes's character.

Her Love for her Friends and Acquaintance

      Miss Betsey offers financial assistance to Mr. Micawber at the time of his departure for Australia. In fact, it was she who compels Mr. Micawber to start, a new life in Australia and to get rid of all the difficulties in England. Again she is sympathetic to Mr. Peggotty; although she has great disregard for him. In his distress Mr. Peggotty finds a sympathetic adviser in her. Finally; Mr. Dick finds a permanent shelter in her house, although he is a mad man. But for her charity; he would have been a street beggar. Miss Betsey's love is all-embracing. All her actions are based upon love which is the mainspring of her career.

A Dominating Personality

      Miss Betsey Trotwood is a lady of great courage and determination. She can struggle against the world all alone. She does not at all lose heart, when she is ruined and poverty stares her in the face. She does not grumble at all. She does not blame anybody for her misfortune instead she endeavors to make the best of a bad situation. She finds ways and means to make both ends meet for practical purposes. At his critical juncture, she does not allow David to get his articleship canceled. In this manner, she does not wish to get back the fees. She advises David to face the hardship boldly: we must learn to act the play out, we must live misfortune down." This act reveals her mental strength and determination. She suppresses her private sorrows. She reveals to David her suffering only when her husband dies. Thus we note that Trotwood possesses the highest virtues like charity, gratitude, a firm will and fortitude. In this manner, Charles Dickens has presented the picture of a lovable but eccentric old woman in her. The novelist as a social reformer, lays much emphasis on individual charity which is possessed by Miss Betsey Trotwood. He feels that the society will be decent if people behave decently. So he has created some good characters in his novels.

Her Generous and Kind Nature

      Miss Trotwood is a kind and generous lady, although she possesses certain eccentricities and oddities. She is not hard-hearted, although she has suffered immensely in her life. She is always ready to help others at her cost. She adopts David because she takes pity on him. She does her best to settle him in his life. She gives him the best possible education and makes comfortable arrangements for his stay; Subsequently, she pays the heavy fees of 1,000 pounds to get him articled with Spenlow and Jorkins. In other words, her generosity and sympathy knows no bounds. She looks after Mr. Dick, a mentally ill man who has been mistreated by his brother. She helps Mr. Micawber to emigrate to Australia; she nurses Dora during her illness.


      "My aunt was a tall, hard-featured lady, but by no means ill-looking. There was an inflexibility in her face, in her voice, in her gait and carriage; but her.... features were rather handsome than otherwise, though unbending the austere." David's aunt Betsey is so disappointed at his birth (because it is not a girl) that she stops going to the family after her eccentric departure from the "Rookery" in the opening chapter. When David runs away from his uncongenial employment in London, he goes to her at Dover. She befriends him, puts him to a good school in Canterbury, and pays for his articleship with a firm of Proctors in Doctor's Commons. Later; Miss Betsey loses her money and has to economize, although she still acts the part of a staunch friend to David. It transpires that she had been married to a man who habitually obtained money from her. She is left in the story 'in stronger spectacles, an old woman of fourscore years and more, but upright yet, and a steady walker of six miles a stretch in winter weather."

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