David Copperfield

The protagonist and narrator of the novel. David is innocent, trusting, and naïve even though he suffers abuse as a child. He is idealistic and impulsive and remains honest and loving. Though David’s troubled childhood renders him sympathetic, he is not perfect. He often exhibits chauvinistic attitudes toward the lower classes. In some instances, foolhardy decisions mar David’s good intentions.

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Agnes Wickfield

David’s true love and second wife, the daughter of Mr. Wickfield. The calm and gentle Agnes admires her father and David. She suffers patiently through David’s other romances, and although she loves David, she is not overcome by jealousy. Agnes always comforts David with kind words or advice when he needs support.

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James Steerforth

A condescending, self-centered villain. From his boyhood, Steerforth possesses a restless energy that he can neither satisfy nor divert. He charms both women and men for the feeling of power it gives him. He also abuses David, although David is too enraptured with him and too grateful for his patronage to notice.

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David’s nanny and caretaker. Clara Peggotty is gentle and selfless, opening herself and her family to David whenever he is in need. She is faithful to David and his family all her life, never abandoning David, his mother, or Miss Betsey. In her kind motherliness, Peggotty contrasts with the cruel and unloving Miss Murdstone.

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Little Em’ly

Peggotty’s unfaithful niece, who is sweet but also coy and vain. Little Em’ly’s desire to be a lady causes her to disgrace herself by running away from her family.

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Uriah Heep

A two-faced, conniving villain who puts on a false show of humility and meekness to disguise his evil intentions. Uriah is motivated by his belief that the world owes him something for all the humiliations he suffered as a young man. Ultimately, Uriah’s veneer of humility proves as empty as his morals.

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Betsey Trotwood

David’s eccentric, kind-hearted aunt. Although Miss Betsey’s intentions are mysterious at the beginning of the novel, her generosity toward David soon becomes clear, and she acts as David’s second mother.

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Mr. Dick

The eccentric older man who lives with Betsey Trotwood. He is extremely devoted to Betsey and she is devoted to him in return. He believes his mission in life is to complete a “Memorial” but he struggles to do so because he cannot stop writing about King Charles I.

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Dora Spenlow

David’s first wife and first real love. Dora is foolish and giddy, more interested in playing with her dog, Jip, than in keeping house with David. Because David cannot bear to displease Dora, he permits her to retain the pouty habits of a spoiled child.

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Mr. Wickfield

Agnes’s widowed father who is dependent on his daughter. David lives with Mr. Wickfield while he attends school in Canterbury. Mr. Wickfield is a heavy drinker who allows himself to be manipulated by Uriah Heep until Mr. Micawber, with the help of David and Traddles, liberates him.

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Mr. Micawber

An optimistic but unlucky man who is crippled by his precarious finances. Mr. Wilkins Micawber first meets David when David is a young boy, but David runs into him several times throughout the narrative until Mr. Micawber and his family eventually emigrate to Australia at the end of the text. 

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Mrs. Micawber

Mr. Micawber’s wife and mother to their five children. Though her family doesn’t approve of their marriage, Mrs. Emma Micawber stands by her husband despite his flaws, resolving never to leave him regardless of the hardships that they suffer.

Tommy Traddles

Young David’s simple, goodhearted schoolmate. Traddles works hard but faces great obstacles because of his lack of money and connections. He eventually succeeds in making a name and a career for himself.

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Clara Copperfield

David’s mother. The kind, generous, and goodhearted Clara embodies maternal caring until her death, which occurs early in the novel. David remembers his mother as an angel whose independent spirit was destroyed by Mr. Murdstone’s cruelty.

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Mr. Murdstone

David’s cruel stepfather.  He is strict and abusive, not only toward David, but toward David’s mother as well. He believes Clara coddles David and makes every effort to correct this, crushing Clara’s spirit in the process.

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Miss Murdstone

Mr. Murdstone’s sister who comes to live with her brother and his new wife after they are married. She assists her brother in abusing both David and Clara. She returns to the novel when David is a young man because Mr. Spenlow hires her to look after Dora.

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Mrs. Steerforth

James Steerforth’s mother. She is a wealthy, proud woman who adores her son to such a degree that she doesn’t see, or refuses to see, his faults. She has a great disdain for David. 

Rosa Dartle

James Steerforth’s relative and Mrs. Steerforth’s ward. She is a haughty and bitter spinster who is secretly in love with Steerforth. She has a prominent scar on her lip from when Steerforth struck her with a hammer when they were young. 

Mr. Peggotty

The kind-hearted brother of David’s nurse, Clara Peggotty. He is a simple sailor who is profoundly devoted to his family, especially Little Em’ly, and to David. He takes in Em’ly and Ham, his niece and nephew, after both are orphaned. 

Ham Peggotty

Mr. Peggotty’s amiable nephew who builds boats for a living. He is engaged to Little Em’ly until she runs off with Steerforth. 

Mrs. Gummidge

A sailor’s widow who lives with the Peggottys. Her deceased husband was Mr. Peggotty’s business partner. Where initially she spends much of her time complaining about how “everything goes contrary” for her, she changes her tune after Little Em’ly runs away.

Doctor Strong

The director of the school that David attends in Canterbury. He is a kind, older man who dotes on his wife, Annie. He is writing a dictionary, a laborious process which, by the end of the novel, has only reached the letter D. 

Annie Strong

Doctor Strong’s young and devoted wife. She and her husband exemplify the best of married life. Doctor Strong and Annie Strong are faithful and selfless, each concerned more about the other than about himself or herself. Their deep love for each other enables them to survive Uriah’s attempts to disrupt their bliss.

Mr. Barkis

A simple but kind cart driver who drives David places and decides that he wants to marry Peggotty after he tries one of her baked goods. He eventually convinces her to marry him and he leaves all of his money to the Peggottys and David when he dies. 

Martha Ednell

Little Em’ly’s childhood companion who flees to London and becomes a prostitute after committing a social transgression that isn’t explicitly stated, though is implied to be an affair. She is instrumental in helping David and Mr. Peggotty track down Little Em’ly after she runs away from Steerforth. She eventually emigrates to Australia with the Peggottys where she marries a farmer. 

Mr. Creakle

The headmaster of David’s first boarding school, Salem House, and a friend of Mr. Murdstone’s. Mr. Creakle is abusive and cruel toward his students and particularly David. He eventually leaves the school to run a prison.

Mrs. Heep

Uriah Heep’s mother who has taught her son to appear obsequious in order to gain an advantage over people.

Jack Maldon

Annie Strong’s lazy and entitled cousin, who wants Annie to leave her husband to be with him instead. The two were childhood sweethearts, but Annie apparently grew tired of Jack and married Mr. Strong instead. Uriah attempts to use Jack’s interest in Annie to destroy the Strongs’ marriage but he is unsuccessful. 

Julia Mills

Dora’s friend who assists David in courting Dora. 

Mrs. Markleham

Annie Strong's mother who attempts to take advantage of Annie’s marriage to Dr. Strong and has earned the nickname "The Old Soldier,” for her strict and stubborn demeanor. 

Mr. Spenlow

A lawyer who, it later transpires, is deeply in debt. He is Dora’s father and David’s employer. He did not want David to marry his daughter but his sudden death allows David and Dora’s engagement to proceed without issue. 


Steerforth’s cordial but condescending servant who assists in his seduction of Little Emi’y. He is eventually arrested for stealing from his next employer after he leaves Steerforth’s service and winds up in Creakle’s prison. 

Miss Mowcher

Steerforth’s witty and loquacious hairdresser, who assists in Littimer’s arrest.  

Mr. Mell

One of David’s teachers at Salem House, and the only adult who is kind to David while he is at school. Mr. Mell is eventually sacked when Steerforth, having had this information relayed to him by David, tells Mr. Creakle that Mr. Mell is using his wages to support his mother, who is living in a workhouse. Mr. Mell eventually emigrates to Australia and becomes headmaster of a school there.

Sophy Crewler

Traddles’s devoted and sweet-tempered betrothed, and later his wife. As one of ten daughters, and the one who runs the house, Sophy is vital to her family, who don’t want to her marry Traddles and leave them. She does marry Traddles, but continues to help her family.

Miss Lavinia Spenlow and Miss Clarissa Spenlow

Dora’s aunts who become her guardians after the sudden death of Mr. Spenlow. Lavinia, a romantic, is more open to David’s courting of Dora.