Dickens also uses Mrs. Gummidge to establish a relationship between suffering and personal development that appears throughout David Copperfield. Mrs. Gummidge only develops as a character after she herself suffers extreme hardship when her beloved Little Em’ly runs away with Steerforth. In this regard, Dickens establishes a connection between suffering and maturity. Even though Mrs. Gummidge’s suffering sometimes comes across as self-indulgent, it leads her to a transformation and ultimately a redemption. Unlike several other characters, Mrs. Gummidge does not really fall from grace before her redemption; rather, she is just tremendously unfortunate. Nevertheless, for Dickens, redemption involves an element of pain, without which real transformation is impossible.
Here, as throughout the novel, Dickens uses characters’ names to indicate some of their inner traits. Mr. Spenlow, for example, does indeed spend low, as he constantly refuses to lower customers’ bills or assist David financially. Likewise, Mr. Murdstone, whose name rings of death and inflexibility, is a hard and cruel character. Steerforth steers and manipulates others. Agnes, whose name is derived from the Latin agnus for lamb, is blessedly calm, sweet, and even-tempered. Miss Trotwood and Mr. Dick are both as silly as their names suggest, and Miss Dartle is as volatile and serpentine as the “dart” in her name indicates. Mr. Creakle cannot speak above a whisper, and Traddles is saddled with ill fortune. This directness regarding names is in keeping with Dickens’s moral structure in the novel, where, generally speaking, good things ultimately happen to good people because they do good things.