Poetic Justice in The Novel David Copperfield

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      Thomas Rhymer in Tragedies of the Last Age (1678) used the term Poetic Justice to convey the idea that the good is rewarded and the evil punished. Some critics attach great importance to Poetic Justice in literature. And Dickens too as a moralist attaches great importance to it.

      In Dickens, Poetic Justice prevails because basically, his novels are like morality plays in which the good characters ultimately triumph over the bad ones.

      In David Copperfield Dickens tries his best to convince us that ultimately it is good that triumphs and not evil, that evil ones will have to pay the penalty of their crime in some way or the other.

      A critical survey of the fortunes of the good character in the novel reveals that honesty and hard work paid them rich dividends.

      David's story is a rags to riches story. He begins his life as a poor fatherless child and ultimately becomes a wealthy novelist, Dickens develops the story in such a way that we are convinced that his rise is due to his capacity for hard work and honesty.

      Mr. Micawber is depicted in the novel as a man of talent but the way Dickens has developed his character we feel that his talent is of a dubious nature. We have a feeling all the time that Mr. Micawber is a man who can never succeed in anything. But when we find him prosperous towards the end of the books, we are hardly convinced. For once the moralist in Dickens came in the way of the artist in him. Mr. Micawber is honest no doubt; he may be even hard-working but there is some flaw in his character which we feel will never let him succeed in life. And yet Micawber succeeds. He exposes the evil doings of the slimy Uriah and ultimately becomes of Magistrate in Australia.

      Dickens presents another good character Mr. Mell who is poor and suffers simply because he is poor. Steerforth insults Mr. Mell, and Mr. Creakle sides with Steerforth and kicks him out of the school. Mr. Mell had to suffer simply because his mother lived on charity in an aims house. But in the end, he gets justice. The author creates poetic justice to him by sending him to Australia where he is happy and satisfied.

      Then there is Mr. Peggotty as honest though ignorant man. Steerforth seduces his niece Emily and the poor old man suffers intense mental agony Mr. Peggotty goes hunting for his niece to different countries. At least Martha is able to find Emily and all of them leave for Australia where they live happily ever after.

      Thus, these are the good characters in the novel who ultimately achieve lasting happiness whereas the evil characters, no matter how successful they initially are, end up in a bad way, Uriah Heep, Steerforth, and Littimer - all meet sorry ends. Uriah Heep and Littimer are jailed for their misdeeds and Steerforth meets a violent death at sea.

      Summing up, we may state that 'poetic justice' is of great importance in David Copperfield. As a moralist, Dickens inflicts punishment on the evil characters and rewards the honest, hardworking characters. He attaches so much importance to the idea of poetic justice that he commits a mistake from the point of view of art by making Mr. Micawber, who is always inefficient but congenitally optimistic, a colonial Magistrate in Australia.

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