David Copperfield is a bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel)

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.


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


The novel is written in the past tense.


David Copperfield is set in the first half of the 18th century and takes place in various parts of England.


The novel’s 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, and Agnes’s blush when David asks her about her love life are all examples of foreshadowing in 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.


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.