Agnes Wickfield is David’s true love, and his second wife. She and David meet for the first time as young children after Betsey Trotwood arranges for David to live with the Wickfields while he is at school. David and Agnes grow up together and become quite close in the process. Agnes falls in love with David almost instantly. In fact, at the end of the novel she admits to having loved David “all [her] life.” David, however, does not realize his true feelings for her until they are adults. 

Dickens characterizes Agnes as the ideal Victorian heroine and woman in general. She is the paragon of respectable femininity: virtuous, warm, and self-sacrificing, she uses her strong moral compass to care for and guide the men in her life, namely her father and David. For example, Mr. Wickfield introduces his daughter to David (and subsequently the reader) as his “little housekeeper” and explains that she has been taking care of him and his home ever since she was a young girl because her mother died when she was only two weeks old. This textual introduction is a crucial component of Agnes’ characterization; it classifies her as an Angel of the Home. “The Angel of the Home” is a term for the idealized Victorian woman, popularized by literature and advice manuals in the nineteenth century, who was meant to deny her own wishes so that her family members could feel fulfilled. Dickens solidifies Agnes’s status as the Angel of the Home several times throughout the novel. David first refers to Agnes as an “ angel” during their adolescence, when he calls Agnes his “counsellor and friend, the better angel of the lives of all who come within her calm, good, self-denying influence.” David will continue to call Agnes his “Angel” or his “good Angel” another twelve times throughout the novel. Agnes faces many challenges over the course of the text: caring for her alcoholic father, dodging Uriah Heep’s advances, watching Uriah assume control of her father’s legal practice, enduring David’s various preoccupations with other women, and ultimately watching him marry someone else, to name a few. However, she remains steadfast in her righteous dedication to helping others. Dickens ultimately rewards Agnes for her selflessness and her adherence to Victorian gender roles by the end of the text when David realizes that he is in love with her.