David Copperfield

by: Charles Dickens

James Steerforth

Steerforth is a slick, egotistical, wealthy young man whose sense of self-importance overwhelms all his opinions. Steerforth underscores the difference between what we understand as readers and what David sees—and fails to see—in his youthful naïveté. David takes Steerforth’s kindness for granted without analyzing his motives or detecting his duplicity. When Steerforth befriends David at Salem House, David doesn’t suspect that Steerforth is simply trying to use David to make friends and gain status. Though Steerforth belittles David from the moment they meet, David is incapable of conceiving that his new friend might be taking advantage of him. Because Steerforth’s duplicity is so clear to us, David’s lack of insight into Steerforth’s true intentions emphasizes his youthful innocence. Steerforth likes David only because David worships him, and his final betrayal comes as a surprise to David but not to us.