My meaning simply is that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well . . . I have always been thoroughly in earnest.

The adult David offers this statement in an aside toward the end of the novel, in Chapter 42. As David matures, his narrative style also matures, for David is the lens through which the events of the novel are described. As a result, the later parts of David Copperfield are filled with these kinds of musing asides. As David matures, his narration focuses more on his life and emotions and less on the subplots swirling around him. In this remark, David mentions his efforts to be earnest. Indeed, throughout the novel, Dickens portrays earnestness as a morally good characteristic that usually wins out over scheming and sophistication. The characters who bare their hearts and who keep their hearts constant prevail at the conclusion of the novel, while those who plot, contrive, and conceal their true intentions suffer at the novel’s end. Dickens uses both plot elements and these kinds of narrative asides to emphasize the importance of this kind of moral ordering, to imply that we, like David, should try to live our lives in earnest. If we do, Dickens suggests, we will be richly rewarded with happiness.