Although David narrates his story as an adult, he relays the impressions he had from a youthful point of view. We see how David’s perception of the world deepens as he comes of age. We see David’s initial innocence in the contrast between his interpretation of events and our own understanding of them. Although David is ignorant of Steerforth’s treachery, we are aware from the moment we meet Steerforth that he doesn’t deserve the adulation David feels toward him. David doesn’t understand why he hates Uriah or why he trusts a boy with a donkey cart who steals his money and leaves him in the road, but we can sense Uriah’s devious nature and the boy’s treacherous intentions. In David’s first-person narration, Dickens conveys the wisdom of the older man implicitly, through the eyes of a child.
David’s complex character allows for contradiction and development over the course of the novel. Though David is trusting and kind, he also has moments of cruelty, like the scene in which he intentionally distresses Mr. Dick by explaining Miss Betsey’s dire situation to him. David also displays great tenderness, as in the moment when he realizes his love for Agnes for the first time. David, especially as a young man in love, can be foolish and romantic. As he grows up, however, he develops a more mature point of view and searches for a lover who will challenge him and help him grow. David fully matures as an adult when he expresses the sentiment that he values Agnes’s calm tranquility over all else in his life.