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Metaphor And Theme Of David Copperfield English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1252 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The aim of this thesis is to study the metaphor and theme of David Copperfield written by Charles Dickens for understanding of this novel.

2. Introduction to Charles Dickens and David Copperfield

Charles Dickens, the most popular writer of the Victorian age, was born near Portsmouth, England, in 1812 and he died in Kent in 1870. When his father was thrown into debtors’ prison, young Charles was taken out of school and forced to work in a shoe-polish factory, which may help explain the presence of so many abandoned and victimised children in his novels. As a young man, he worked as a reporter before starting his career as a fictional writer in 1833. In his novels, short stories and essays, Dickens combined hilarious comedy with a scathing criticism of the inhuman features of Victorian industrial society. Many of his novels – Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, etc., have been made into first-rate TV and film versions.

David Copperfield is the story of the narrator’s life from early childhood to adulthood. In it, David describes all the obstacles he had to overcome in order to acquire peace of mind and economic stability.

Chapters 1-2: David enjoys a happy childhood with his mother and her faithful servant, Peggotty, until his mother marries again and proves powerless to protect him from the cruelty of his stepfather, Mr. Murdstone.

Chapters 3-4: Mr. Murdstone sends David to a boarding school in London where he makes friends with Steerforth and Traddles. When David’s mother and his baby brother die, David is sent to work at Mr. Quinion’s business.

Chapters 5-6: While he works at the wine-bottling business David stays at Mr. Micawber’s house but when the latter leaves London, owing to his debts, David decides to go in search of his only relative, Miss Trotwood, whom he finds in Dover. Davis is sent to school again and becomes a great friend of Agnes Wickfield’s, at whose house he stays when he’s not at school.

Chapters 7-8: After finishing school David goes to Yarmouth to visit Peggotty, who has married Mr. Barkis. There, he meets Steerforth who seems upset that Emily, Mr. Peggotty’s niece, is marrying her friend Ham. At Mr. Spenlow’s, with whom David is going to study law, he falls in love with Dora, his daughter.

Chapters 9-10: David arrives at Yarmouth after Mr. Barkis’s death. There he hears that Emily has run off with Steerforth. Mr. Peggotty is devastated and starts searching for her.

Back in London David proposes to Dora and is accepted.

Chapters 11-12: When Miss Trotwood informs David that she has lost all her money, all his plans collapse. He starts learning shorthand to find a good job in order to be able to marry Dora. In the meantime, Uriah Heep, a disgusting man who lives with the Wickfields, wants to marry Agnes. Mr. Peggotty keeps looking for Emily.

Chapters 13-14: David and Dora marry thanks to the money he has earned by writing stories. Dora proves to be a very incompetent housewife, but David loves her all the same. Mr Peggotty hears that Emily has left Steerforth and asks an old friend of hers, Martha Endells, to look for her in London. Martha locates Emily and Mr Peggotty decides to emigrate to Australia with her and the Micawbers, now that Mr Micawber has got rid of Uriah Heep and exposed him as a thief.

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Chapters 15-16: Dora falls ill and dies and, in Yarmouth, a terrible storm kills Ham and Steerforth. Moreover, all the rest of David’s friends, except for Miss Peggotty and Traddles, leave for Australia. David travels abroad to try to forget Dora but he falls ill and returns to England. David eventually marries Agnes, who had always loved him, has five children and becomes a famous writer.

3. Metaphor analysis

3.1 Devils and angels

The novel has a clear-cut moral structure, whereby the good characters are clearly distinguishable from the bad characters and on the whole, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.

3.2 Predatory animals

Images of predatory animals are used to convey cruelty, destructiveness, opportunism, and exploitation of other people. In Chapter XXVI, Uriah is described as being “like a great vulture: gorging himself on every syllable that I said to Agnes, or Agnes said to me.” In similar vein, in Chapter XXXIX, Uriah and his mother are “like two great bats hanging over the whole house.” In Chapter XLVIII, David gives up trying to improve Dora’s mind, fearing that if he continues, he will “degenerate into the spider again, and be for ever lying in wait.” There is an implicit reference to Mr. Murdstone, who acted in just such a predatory and cruel way with David’s mother

3.3 Symbols

4. Theme analysis

4.1 The abuse of power

David Copperfield examines those who have power over the weak, and finds that they often abuse it. David’s first experience of this is as a child, when a kind and gentle authority figure, his mother, is supplanted by cruel authority figures, the Murdstones. The Murdstones stop David’s education and send him to work in a factory, where he is unhappy, poor, and hungry. Mr. and Miss Murdstone crush Clara Copperfield’s spirit, make her ill, and arguably are responsible for her death – all under the pretence of improving her mind and firmness of character. There is an interesting parallel to this episode in David’s marriage to Dora. Dora is similar to Clara Copperfield in her childlike nature and unfitness for housekeeping, and David at first tries to “form” her mind by teaching her aspects of housekeeping and educating her. However, this only makes her miserable and defensive, and David, unlike the Murdstones, is sensitive and caring enough to notice this and stop trying to change his wife. By providing a parallel situation with a different outcome, Dickens shows that everyone has a choice about how they exercise their power, and that it is the responsibility of the powerful to treat the powerless with kindness and understanding.

4.2 The importance of kindness and charity

In David Copperfield, Dickens portrays many types of human suffering: for example, poverty, child labor, social disgrace, and betrayal by friends and loved ones. While he does not suggest ways to systematically reform society to lessen these abuses, he does put forward an antidote on the individual level. He emphasizes the vital importance of kindness and charity that is given without thought of return. Such acts are nevertheless generally rewarded, as a kindness given inspires a kindness in return.

4.3. Equality within marriage

In Chapter XLV of David Copperfield, Annie Strong says, “There can be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose.” The novel emphasizes the importance of this kind of equality within a marriage, though Dickens was not so progressive as to embrace modern notions of equality, where neither partner has authority over the other. While Annie and Dr. Strong love, respect, and honor each other, Annie has no objection to kneeling before her husband as a sign that she submits to his authority. Dr. Strong does not abuse his authority, but always treats Annie with gentleness and compassion.



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