Mr. Murdstone, marries David’s mother when David is still a child, is one of the text’s most formidable villains. As is often the case with Dickens, Mr. Murdstone’s name alludes to his characterization. The second syllable in Mr. Murdstone’s name generates the image of a stone or a rock. His conflation with such a hard, unforgiving piece of raw material is evocative of the several times throughout the novel in which David describes Mr. Murdstone as a “firm” man, and the ways in which Mr. Murdstone endeavors to teach his young wife “firmness.” Despite his young age, David is able to see through the charming facade Mr. Murdstone initially presents, and he instantly dislikes and mistrusts him. For example, an uneasy David fixates on Mr. Murdstone’s soulless and “ill-omened” black eyes the first time that the two are introduced. It becomes abundantly clear that David’s suspicions were correct shortly after Mr. Murdstone and Clara are married. Mr. Murdstone, with the help of his sister, repeatedly abuses both David and Clara. He beats David and sends him to a boarding school, he discourages Clara and Peggotty from being affectionate with David, and he criticizes Clara’s every move until she does exactly as he says. All of these examples are rooted in Mr. Murdstone’s desire to control everybody in his household. A traditional Victorian household was governed by a strict, gendered hierarchy in which the husband or father figure was the reigning monarch. Mr. Murdstone is a character in a novel, but his behavior is far from fictitious, and his existence illustrates the dangers that accompany a gender imbalance within the domestic sphere.