ppfa9a03b2.gif
Switch to larger text
DAVID COPPERFIELD
LOVE is the theme of Dickens’s wonderful, uplifting masterpiece David Copperfield—and that’s why the book, despite its many sorrows, is so joyful!
In his usual manner, Dickens uses practically every character in the novel to explore his central motif from every angle.
Here are a few examples:
·
Aunt Betsey’s heart-breaking marriage so damaged her that it soured her against the male sex entirely. So when David is born, a hated male, instead of Aunt Betsey’s predicted girl (a girl she intended to protect from the male of the species, “there must be no trifling with HER affections”), she vanishes ‘like a discontented fairy’. Aunt Betsey can live happily with Mr Dick because he’s mad and, to all intents and purposes (and despite his suggestive name), asexual. (The insane in Victorian asylums were treated so badly it would turn a sane person mental. Aunt Betsey’s ‘care in the community’ marvellously demonstrates the healing power of love and affection and Mr Dick’s life is happy and fulfilling.) Young David seeks out his aunt and steals his way into her heart, but her previous bad experience has made her wary and she needs to put his love to the test, so she pretends to lose all (rather than most) of her money—naturally, she puts a different spin on her reasons when explaining to David later, but this is her primary motive. (A recent story in the paper highlighted a lottery winner who, after a couple of bad experiences, led his new live-in girlfriend to believe (for a whole year!) that he was abjectly poor so that he’d know her love for him was genuine.) Aunt Betsey also demonstrates that a warm heart can beat behind a gruff, protective exterior (having been hurt in the past, she’s vulnerable and tries to conceal her softer feelings), and that despite everything her violent husband put her through, love cannot be extinguished entirely.
·
When Steerforth says to David: ‘Daisy . . . for though that's not the name your godfathers and godmothers gave you, it's the name I like best to call you by—and I wish, I wish, I wish, you could give it to me!’, he's expressing a wish that he could truly be called ‘daisy’ as it symbolises innocence, while he's guilty as hell! But the real subtext here is that a daisy is also a symbol of LOYAL LOVE. David, in his attitude to Steerforth, embodies this perfectly, “I believed that if I had been brought face to face with him, I could not have uttered one reproach. I should have loved him so well still”. Steerforth’s great fault, on the other hand, is disloyal love. By running off with Emily he wrongs David, his mother and, when he deserts her, Emily herself. Steerforth can win hearts with consummate ease—a talent he gets a kick out of exercising—but the love he evokes is, at best, only partially returned and certainly isn’t honoured.
·
Mr Barkis’s marriage to Peggotty is designed to show, with comic exaggeration, that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’. Peggotty is no beauty and they haven’t exchanged a single word when—through David—Mr Barkis proposes. What he has done, however, is to sample her cooking. “So she makes,” said Mr. Barkis, after a long interval of reflection, “all the apple parsties, and doos all the cooking, do she?” Peggotty’s cooking, in fact, is the sole reason “that Barkis is willing”. “And I don’t regret it!” is his final culinary-based conclusion.
·
In David Copperfield, love is at the heart of everything. It even accounts for the title itself. ‘David’ means ‘beloved’ while copper is associated in mythology with Venus/Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. (Dickens considered the more explicit ‘Copperstone’ at one point.) David ‘was shown up to a nice little bedroom, with DOLPHIN painted on the door ... very glad I was to turn into the Dolphin’s bed, pull the Dolphin’s blankets round my head, and go to sleep. Mr. Barkis the carrier was to call for me in the morning at nine o’clock . . . “I gave your message, Mr. Barkis,” I said: “I wrote to Peggotty.” The joke here is that, symbolically, the dolphin is (like David for Mr Barkis) a messenger of love. Additionally, Aphrodite is not just a well-known dolphin rider but also a Dolphin Goddess. She's called Galinaie which means “the one who brings calm and the protector of safe journeys and ships” so, having offended the Goddess of Love with his disloyalty, Steerforth would have been well advised to steer clear of the sea.
·
Mr and Mrs Micawber demonstrate that ‘music is the food of love’ and that, as Shakespeare suggests, it fuels the tender emotions: ‘For both of these songs [‘The Dashing White Sergeant’, and ‘Little Tafflin’] Mrs Micawber had been famous when she lived at home with her papa and mama. Mr Micawber told us that when he heard her sing the first one, on the first occasion of his seeing her beneath the parental roof, she had attracted his attention in an extraordinary degree; but that when it came to Little Tafflin, he had resolved to win that woman or perish in the attempt.’ [Dickens has Mrs Micawber sing “Little Taffline” because of the irony of its lyrics. It begins, “Should e’er the fortune be my lot to be made a wealthy bride”!] ‘Like attracts like’ is another aphorism which Mr and Mrs Micawber exemplify, as both have strikingly similar attributes. If Mr Micawber has a particular characteristic,such as the elasticity of his spirits, then, as like as not, ‘Mrs Micawber was just the same’.
·
When Mrs Gummidge’s beloved husband dies her world is torn apart. Like many long-wed wives who’ve lost their other half, she’s inconsolable and becomes lonely and depressed.  “I am a lone lorn creetur’ . . . and everythink goes contrary with me”. Her experience gives her empathy and fellow-feeling, however, and when heartbroken Mr Peggotty ‘loses’ his beloved Emily, Mrs Gummidge is transformed. Finding new purpose in life, she buries her own troubles in his—“Seek her in a little while, my lone lorn Dan’l”—and no longer wallowing in self-pity, becomes Mr. Peggotty’s ‘prop and staff’.
·
Peggotty illustrates the devoted, self-sacrificing love of a ‘servant’. She puts her feelings for David and his mother (her ‘family’) before her own, and loves them with a passion. (“Me leave you, my precious!” cried Peggotty. “Not for all the world and his wife.”) Her marriage to Mr Barkis, on the other hand, (although tranquilly happy) is merely one of convenience. Her main reason for marrying him is that she can’t bear to go into service with anyone else and that Mr Barkis’s horse and cart will make it easy for her to travel over and see David each week!
·
Littimer, unlike Peggotty, has formed no attachments, and like most people who only love themselves, he’s immoral and not to be trusted. “Such a self-contained man I never saw.”
·
Mr Dick—‘there is a subtlety of perception in real attachment [love], even when it is borne towards man by one of the lower animals, which leaves the highest intellect behind. To this mind of the heart, if I may call it so, in Mr. Dick, some bright ray of the truth shot straight.’

Agape Love
tilesmallbottom.gif
kfc-<wbr>banner1.gif
goVEG2.gif
kfc-<wbr>banner2.gif
Home

Agape Love
Bits and Bobs