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University of Latvia

Faculty of Foreign Languages

Foreign Literature Department



Natalya Artjuh

3d year student

Matriculation card: Kole K 96215


I declare that this study is my own and does not contain any unacknowledged work from any source.




1. COPPERFIELDS (SENIOUR): Dicken?s pattern of 6

happy marriage.

2. DAVID&DORA?S MARRIAGE: the reasons of spiritual 8

separation in the family.

3. DAVID&AGNES?S MARRIAGE: Dicken?s ideal of 12


4. MR.MURDSTONE&CLARA: opposite to Dicken?s ideal 14

Of happy marriage.

5. MICAWBERS: the main components of 16

happy marriage.

6. MR.BARKIS&PEGGOTTY: the importance of women’s wisdom 20




David Copperfield became my favorite of all Dickens’ novels. Although the novel is rather long ( 736 pages) I have read it in one gulp for the actions that take place in the novel are developed so dynamically that the process of reading itself was like taking a piece of sweet cake. It evoked in me a lot of emotions and I really have been crying and laughing together with the heroes of this novel. The affect of the book on me was so great that I that was even thinking of it days and nights. That is the reason why I have chosen this book for my term paper in order to develop the theme ?Family in Charles Dickens’ novel ?David Copperfield? ?.

Charles Dickens is one of the most popular and ingenious writers of the XIX century. He is the author of many novels. Due to reach personal experience Dickens managed to create vivid images of all kinds of people: kind and cruel ones, of the oppressed and the oppressors. Deep, wise psychoanalysis, irony, perhaps some of the sentimentalism place the reader not only in the position of spectator but also of the participant of situations that happen to Dickens? heroes. Dickens makes the reader to think, to laugh and to cry together with his heroes throughout his books.

?David Copperfield? was Dickens’ favorite creation. The novel reflects writer?s own life ? his autobiography. The image and character of David Copperfield corresponds to the image and character of Dickens himself. The range of personages of the novel recalls to us people which were close to Dickens: Micowber is comical portrait of John Dickens, the father of the author; the image of Dora ? is the exact copy of the Marry Bindel ? the first sweet-heart of the writer; David?s seeking in marriage repeats the story of Dickens’ seeking in marriage to Catrin Hogart which later became his wife and so on.

The theme of family was very important for the writer and thus we get acquainted with all kinds of families and relationships between their members in this novel. We find love and hatred, fortune and misfortune, happiness and unhappiness in marriages. In David Copperfield the reader becomes acquainted with more than 15 families: Mr.Copperfield and young Ms.Copperfield- father and mother of David, Mr.Murdstone (step-father of David) and Ms.Copperfield, Mr.Barkins and Peggoty, Ms.Trotwood, Mr.Micawber and Ms.Micawber, Traddles and Sophia, David and Dora and later David and Agnes. They are all very different and Dickens goes into careful description of relationships between their members.

What was the family ideal for Dickens? What was the opposite? What is the purpose of marriage? What is the true happiness in it? What are the components which make husband and wife spiritually close or the opposite – separate them? At a close look we can find answers to these and other questions in Charles Dicken?s masterpiece .




1.1. ?Marriage is a case which give a unique opportunity to serve to another human being in a special way and as a result experience one?s human dignity to the highest degree?.

The first family that we meet in the novel ? the family of David Copperfield (the senior) and Clara. Mr.Copperfield was twice older than his wife. From the dialogue of Betsy Trootwood and Ms.Coppperfield (the widow by that time) we can judge that despite of such age-difference they had never ?a word of difference?(*1,p.11).Clara was 20 years old ?gentle dainty creature, obviously not very practical in life. Still seems like the last feature didn?t bring misbalance to the family.

Whether because this marriage hasn?t last long since the death of Mr.Copperfield or rather very indulgent and patient character of Mr.Copperfield. He didn?t go into discourses and quarrels but instead started teaching his young wife sharing with her his experience of life.

???I kept my housekeeping book regularly, and balanced it with Mr.Copperfield every night,? cryed my mother?? (*1, p.11).

Clara loved her husband and moreover her desire was help her husband in a practical way. Thus she was eager to contribute to their housekeeping by learning some practical things from him. Both of them have been committed to satisfaction of each others needs in other words they loved and served to each other.

From that we can assume by now that Dicken?s formula of happy marriage is : ?Marriage is a case which give a unique opportunity to serve to another human being in a special way and as a result experience one?s human dignity to the highest degree?. Marriages where the above mentioned principle is observed by both parties can not only be unhappy but experience spiritual unity with one another for the essence of love is concern about the need of the other one.



This and some others ideas are developed by Dicken?s through the description of relationships between David Copperfield and Dora in their marriage. Just like David?s mother Dora was young, pretty and remarkable creature. She had the most delightful little voice, the grayest little laugh, the pleasantest and most fascinating little ways. David falls in love with her at first sight, before she has spoken a word: with her form, her face, her manner; and later with her timid innocence, playfulness and trust, her singing and painting ? and everything about her. Although we later are shown by Dickens that it was the case of the heart ruling the head completely. They have got married. David and Dora admired each other. However David had to work a lot in order to support the family and naturally would expect all the housekeeping work to be managed by his wife. But it turned out that Dora is totally incompetent in domestic work.

Somewhere in the back of his mind David knew that Dora was just not created for that. Still he decided to adapt Dora to himself. It would be unfair to say that Dora didn?t care about house-keeping. She loved her ?boy? and tried her best to be a good and caring wife. Under the guidance of David (who by love and patience was trying gently form Dora?s mind) she was trying to do her first practical steps. David?s love, his patience, care about his tender ?hearted wife?s feelings at that time causes admiration. However she kept failing in her domestic activities all the time. She bought a small cask of oysters that wouldn? t open, she tried to calculate the numbers in her house-register but their wouldn?t obey her.

It exhausted her and her husband. She was just not created for practical life. She was like a flower, just ?a Little Blossom? created for everybody?s delight but not use. Dora realized it too – might be even earlier than David did. Therefore she asked him to thing of her as being only a child-wife and not to be angry with her if she disappointed him by something. Finally David had found impracticable to adapt his tender-heated wife?s mind to himself and it remained for him to adapt himself to Dora.

?Better to be natural than anything else in the world?,- assumed David (*1,p.585).

After making such decision David felt that his second year of marriage was happier than the first one. Dora loved him and was eager to make everything so that her "boy" was happy but just couldn?t remake herself. She was happy to keep his fountain pens as he was writing day at night in order to be close to her dear husband and David but he appreciated that. He was ready to do everything so that his "child-wife" be happy.

Seems like at that point we find several messages which Dickens is trying to share with the reader concerning the reasons of the unhappy marriage.

2.1.?Initially the main motivations for getting married should not be just attractive appearance, bright personality, prosperity etc. All other factors should be taken in concern?.

That is Dicken?s warning appealed to the young generations Those who are in love with each other should also think of their future practical life, in other words will he/she cope with all hardships and trials of routine life. Dickens? delivers his moral through the words of Ms.Strong which David often recalled.

?The first mistaken impulse of an undisciplined heart?. (*1,p.586).

We also find it in the confession of David himself:

?I knew now that my own heart was undisciplined, it never could have felt, when we were married, what it had felt in its secret experience.? (*1,p.586).

Dora?s incapability to cope with women part of work in the family gradually resulted in spiritual separation with David. He was very busy with his work. Besides this he had to care about all domestic work. He loved his wife dearly and she responded to him by her gentlest feelings. Although not to hurt Dora David had to keep from her the load of increasing problems and worries.

Dickens again illustrates that breaking of his pattern of happy marriage, which is ?Marriage is a case which give a unique opportunity to serve to another human being in a special way and as a result to experience one?s human dignity to the highest degree and spiritual unity with one’s counterpart?. David could not have an open dialogue with his child-wife, could not expect mature understanding from her, could not find comfort. He had to bear on his own shoulders what he could. Dickens showed us that as a result some shadow felt upon David?s heart as time pasted by. David tried hard but couldn?t remove it. He still loved his wife dearly and was happy with her, but that was not happiness he once enjoyed and there was always something wanting. He missed something.

?It would have been better for me if my wife could help me more, and shared the many thoughts in which I had no partner; and this might have been, I knew.? (*1,p.586).

2.2. "Very deep in our soul each of us has strong desire to love and to be loved, to accept and to be accepted, to share our burden and to be supported. When we feel that somebody cares about us indeed we experience some special feeling inside our soul. This yearning for support and acceptance reflects one side of our necessities"

And that is the second message Dickens delivers to us through his book. He is trying to depict us natural desire which most people feel inside:". That was David?s yearning which could not be satisfied in his marriage to a dainty, little Dora. Seems like in his later marriage to Agnes this missing part was contributed.

Besides another message Dickens shares with us is:

2.3. ?You can not be happy in marriage if your intention is to change your counterpart. And as soon as you have got married accept each other as you are and don?t try to mould your partner?. Desire to change your husband or wife would not bring happiness to yourself and your marriage. Later we will see that breaking of this last principle in marriage of Mr.Murdstone to David?s mother lead to terrifying consequences.



In the marriage of David and Agnes Dickens portrays his ideal of perfect marriage. Agnes, the perfect woman, has all the virtues that Dora has not, but probably not so much of Dora?s fascination. She was always David?s quiet, good, calm spirit in other words his ?angel? to the image of which he referred in his thoughts at different periods of his life.

She was a ?little woman? even as a girl. Everyone who knew her consulted her and was guided by her. David had a very close friendly relationships with her since they were children. Every time he sew her then he admired her.

?You are so good and sweet-tempered. You have such a gentle nature, and you are always right (*1,p.234).

He trusted all secrets of his heart to her, even his love affairs. She has always been a guide and good support for him. We could only wonder why he had not married her earlier. Perhaps he thought she was too good for him. At the end of the novel Agnes confess:

?I have loved you all my life?. (*1, p.726)

Dickens is trying to show us here that there is a difference between falling in love and real love. The foundation for the marriage of David and Dora which was described in the previous chapter is totally different from the marriage of David and Agness. The foundation in the second case could be called "patience".

It is difficult to understand how Agnes could keep her love through all these years. The love that she had to David was patient and not-selfish. She had such love that was able to help him in his relationships with his girlfriend and later with his wife. She was able to love him without desire to posses him. The foundation for David’s second marriage was absolutely different from foundation for his marriage to Dora which was defined by Dickens earlier in the novel as " the first mistaken impulse of an undisciplined heart".

This marriage brought peace to David’s and Agnes’s hearts, harmony and peace to the hearts which was longing for that all those years. After a lot of trials and hardships including loss of his dearly Dora David abided in the light of his ?angel? who was shining on him like a heavenly light and pointing upward, who became his inspiration and the sense of his life. Agnes had got a supporter and comforter on her earthly path, a man to whom she could trust and to whon she became a blessing- her second part.



5.1." You can not be happy in marriage if your intention is to change your counterpart. And as soon as you have got married accept each other as you are and don?t try to mould your partner"

In the novel we also meet another family which seems to be a complete opposite to Dickens? ideal of happy marriage. That is marriage of Mr.Murdstone to Clara Copperfield . Through this family Dickens shows us very negative example of the marriage in which one partner is imposing his will upon the other trying to mould her character in accordance with his own standards.

In the description of Mr.Murstone and his sister Ms.Murdstone appearance we already are given the impression of something obscure. And really after their coming into the lives of Ms.Copperfield ?young, pretty widow?, her little son David and their faithful servant Peggotty a dark shadow felt upon their sunny nest of love.

This is the description of greeting scene after David’s arrival from Great Yarmouth and his getting to know that he had got a ?new Papa?:

??After a moment of suspense, I went and kissed my mother; she kissed me, patted me gently on the shoulder, and sat down again to her work. I couldn?t look at her, I couldn?t look at him (Mr.Murdstone), I knew quite well that he was looking at us both; and I turned to the window and looked out there, at some shrubs that were drooping their heads in the cold.? (*1,p.39).

Depressive, subjugate, reticence fear had started ruling in the family. Imposing ?firmness?, ?control over oneself?, ?recollection? on Ms.Copperfield in her relationships with one?s own child can be defined as threads of Murdstones? cobweb in which they dragged her. Mr.Murdstone was cold and cruel towards his adopted son and built his relationships with his wife in such a way that she had to hide her natural gentle feeling to her Davy. Ms. Copperfielf suffered a lot because of that but was too mild to defend her son and even herself from Murdstone?s imposing will. Her own will was defeated at her first attempt to show that she is still a person to respect and a mistress of the house and may have a word to say about domestic matters. Mr. Murdstone accused her in being ungrateful to him and to his sister which resulted in Ms.Copperfield’s repentance. His reproaching speech appealed to his wife uncovers his true intention for this marriage.

?Yes, I had a satisfaction in the thought of marrying an inexperienced and artless person, and forming her character, and infusing into it some amount of that firmness and decision of which it stood in need?(*1,p.54).

He had chosen the wrong source for satisfaction in marriage. It wasn?t satisfaction of his wives needs at all although he was trying to perform it like that. In reality he acted as truly consumer totally ignoring his wife?s feelings, emotions and needs. That lead to unpredictable consequences.

After sending David to Mr. Creakle?s School which Murdstones considered to be essential, for his ?stubborn character? should have to be reformed, the light of life had started fading in Ms. Copperfield and she died in early ages after a birth of the second child.

Dicken?s let the reader know of how dangerous imposing reformation of somebody?s character might be, for the relationship in this family could easily be called a ?spiritual prison? in which young and gentle nature of Ms.Copperfield was just exhausted to death.



Gradually we are coming to the description of one of the happiest families in the novel. And that is the family of Micawbers. It wouId be useful to analyze relationships inside this family in order to figure out the main components of perfectly happy married from Dickens? point of view.

Mr.Micawber is a thoroughly good-natured man, and as active a creature about everything but his own affairs as ever existed. He is middle-aged, stoutish and completely bald but, though his clothes are shrubby, he sports an imposing shirt-collar, and carries a cane and quizzing-glass. We very soon learn that his weakness is an inability to get or to keep remunerative employment; and that he is constantly being dunned by creditors. But despite the squalor of the pawnshop and the debtors prison, Micawber retains his dignity, chiefly by means of his verbosity and magniloquence.

He is genuinely attached to Ms.Micawber and his children.

?In our children we live again and that, under the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, any accession to their number was doubly welcome?.(*1, p. 356.)

5.1. One of the essential needs of wife is the

assurance she is loved

Micawbers lived in perfect harmony despite of continual financial problems. He will never act contrary to her desires neither did she. Dickens shows to the reader that one of the essential women?s need is assurance that she is loved and Mr.Micawber did his best to let her know that all the time. They supported each other .

Looking at Mr.Micawber from aside someone might say that he was just the unlucky fellow but that would definitely be not his wife. She has indeed a profound admiration for his talent, and is convinced that any lack of success he may have in the business world ? is due to the failure of others to recognize his great qualities. She had the greatest confidence in his abilities and qualifications and was somewhat saddened by the fact that her family did not also appreciate them ? which she regarded as due to their blindness.

?They have never understood you, Micowber. They may be incapable of it. If so, that is their misfortune.?(*1,p.765).

5.2. One of the essential needs of husband is

the assurance that he is respected

Ms.Micawber had very wise approach to her husband’s personality. In her image we are shown by Dickens the essence of women?s wisdom. Any husband would appreciate hearing such words from his wife, for they mean acknowledgement and respect of his authority, which increase his personal significance and enriches understanding of his personal value which is one of the purposes in marriage.

5.3. It should really matter for you what others

might say about your spouse-don’t allow them to interfere.

Besides we observe that Ms. Micawber didn?t allow her relatives and other people influence the way she regards her husband and thus didn?t allow anybody to interfere into their family relationships. That was very wise approach which also propped spiritual unity with her husband.

Ms.Micawber would always find effective words in order to comfort and encourage her husband in times of despair. It was her who persuaded him "to throw down the gauntlet?, who realized his ?ulterior potentials? and so on.

Dickens was very realistic in portrayal of this family, for it is a common knowledge that there is no one marriage that wouldn?t experience difficulties. Micawbers had hard times in their marriage caused by Mr.Micawber?s preoccupation with his villainous employer Uriah Heep. The way which Ms.Micawber followed in order to overcome hardships in their relationships is worthy of admiration.

The behavior of Mr.Micawber at that time was very unusual and even terrifying. He became alienated from his family. ?Mystery and secrecy? became his principal characteristics.

??the slightest provocation, even being asked if there is anything he would prefer for dinner, causes him to express a wish for separation,?on being childishly solicited for two pence, to buy ?lemon-stunners? ? he presented an oyster-knife at the twins!?( *1,p.591).

The situation in the family was ?beyond the assuaging reach even of Mrs.Micawber?s influenced, though exercised in the tripartite character of women, wife, and mother?. That was Mr.Micawber?s own evaluation of his wife?s behavior in this situation. We may assume from it that she wasn?t irritated by her husband?s behavior, she would not make quarrels, would not shout at her husband but instead like a consoling mother she was trying to find the route, the true reason of such strange behavior and changes in her spouse. ?The quick eye of affection is not easily blinded?- that’s how Dicken’s emphasizes the importance of right attitude in critical for the marriage situations.

Having no success in settlement of this situation by herself Ms.Micawber didn?t gave way to despair. She was ready to do all that was possible in order to bring peace in the family. She decided to write a letter to good friends of their family and ?to implore? them to see her ?misguided husband, and to reason him?. That was very wise decision and it really worked. As a result Mr.Micawber had opportunity to speak out his heart and we all share their joy at the restoration of normal relationships as they both were returned ?to havens of domestic tranquillity and peace of mind?.

?A wife of noble character who can find?

She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband

has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.?

Proverbs 31:10-12

That’s the wisdom which coincides with Dickens’ moral delivered to the reader by illustration of Micawbers’ family.



The same moral we find in the description of Mr.Barkis and Peggotty marriage. Both of them were not young when they’ve got married. Each of them had a load of life experience and yet they managed to create marriage in which both of them were happy. Mr.Barkis made a proposal to Peggotty when David’s mother was still alive. But Pegotty was attached to her mistress and didn’t want to leave her "?Not for all the world and his wife.."(p.96) After the loss of her dear mistress she was very lonely and Mr.Barkis was lonely too. So she accepted his proposal and they’ve got married.

WE may observe that they were almost opposite in their character. Peggotty was lively, energetic, generous. Mr. Barksis – silent, slow and , tight-fisted. Yet they lived in harmony. And the greatest role in the creation of this harmony was played by Peggotty. We may assume that she is one of the most outstanding persons in this novel. Just like Ms. Micowber she showed a lot of wisdom in her relationships with her husband.

Mr. Barkis had one weakness .It was his greediness. To get even the half-guinea out of Mr.Barkis’s box was not very easy for Peggotty. Yet we see that it didn’t become a reason for the quarrels and separation in the family. Peggotty was showing her women’s wisdom and quick witness. One of the illustrations of that was given to us by Dickens when David visited them. Mr.Barkis was in his bed for a long time because of rheumatism. Yet he accepted David with absolute enthusiasm. "He was too rheumatic to be shaken hands with, but begged me to shake the tassel on the top of his nightcap, which I did cordially."(p. 260)"?.My dear, you’ll get a dinner today, for company; something good to eat and drink?", (*1.,p.261)- he said. And then he used the trick which he always used in order to get a money from the box underneath of his bed so that nobody even Peggotty knows about its content. Very noticeable of Peggotty’s behavior is that she being aware of this usual trick did not protested or resisted in any way.

" I’ve got a trifle money somewhere about me, my dear", said Mr.Barkis, "but I’m a little tired. If you and Mr. David will leave me for a nap, I’ll try and find it when I wake."?."When we got outside the door Peggotty informed me that Mr.Barkis, being now ‘a little nearer’ than he used to be, always resorted to this same device before producing a single coin from his store; and that he endured unheard-of agonies in crawling out of the bed alone, and taking it from that unlucky box."(*1, p.261).

Peggotty had loving, tender heart and a lot of wisdom. She was the perfect wife and house-keeper. Her husband even being bounded by rheumatic pain praises her: "She’s the usefullest and best women, Clara Peggotty Barkis. All the praise that any one can give to C.P. Barkis, she deserved, and more!?"(*1, p.261)


Summing up all observations that was made in the present paper we may come to the inference that Dickens? novel ?David Copperfield? is not only a life-story of the main hero but also a brilliant guide in questions of marriage and this particular feature makes his book invaluable.

When the first single edition of ?David Copperfield? was published in 1850 Dickens wrote of the novel, ?Of all my books I like this the best?. Likewise legion readers have come to agree with the author?s own conclusion.

In my paper I tried to trace Dicken’s messages and lessons he teaches the reader on the family issue. By masterly usage of the language the author manages to portray good and bad images in order for us to be able to chose which way to follow and which one to avoid. The principles and components of happy marriage that the author is trying to share with us are simple but at the same time ingenious.

I firmly believe that this book is highly useful for young people and should be included in the list of books compulsory for reading in the University.


*1. Dickens Charles.?David Copperfield?, Wordsworth Edition Ltd., Denmark, 1992, 737 pages.


*1. Lawrence Crabb. ?Marriage Builder?, Druckhaus Gummersbach,Germany, 1991, 160 pages

*2. http://library.utoronto.ca/www/dickens/crit/il.html

*3. http://www.glug.com/homework/copperfield.html

*4. http://www.nagoya.-u.ac.jp.dickens.html

*5. http://www.mitsuka.dickens.crit.html

*6 Jammy Broke "Notes on ‘David Copperfield’", Cambridge University Press, 1991, 50 pages.

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