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David Copperfield

Charles Dickens

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full title ·  The Personal History and Experience of David Copperfield the Younger

author · Charles Dickens

type of work · Novel

genre · Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel)

language · English

time and place written · May 1849–November 1850; England

date of first publication · May 1849–November 1850 (serial publication)

publisher · Bradbury and Evans

narrator · An older David Copperfield narrates the story of his childhood from his happy home in London.

point of view · David writes in the first person, limiting his viewpoint to what he sees in his youth and his attitude at that time.

tone · David reflects upon his youth fondly and remembers his naïve youth wistfully.

tense · Past

setting (time) ·  1800s

setting (place) · England

protagonist · David Copperfield

major conflict · David struggles to become a man in a cruel world, with little money and few people to guide him.

rising action · David loses his mother and falls victim to a cruel childhood but then has a happier youth with Miss Betsey and Agnes.

climax · David realizes, while watching the reconciliation between the Strongs, that marriage cannot be happy unless husband and wife are equal partners. This realization forces David to contemplate his marriage to Dora in a new light and reconsider most of the values he has held up to this point.

falling action · The various subplots involving secondary characters resolve themselves. David realizes his love for Agnes, marries her, and comes to grips with the treachery and death of his good friend Steerforth.

themes · The plight of the weak; equality in marriage; wealth and class

motifs · The role of mothers; accented speech; physical beauty

symbols · The sea; flowers; Mr. Dick’s kite

foreshadowing · The opening scene’s observation that David’s birth is inauspicious; the adult David’s remark that Little Em’ly would have been better off if the sea had swallowed her as a child; Agnes’s distrust of Steerforth; Agnes’s blush when David asks her about her love life

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