David Copperfield

In an effort to better understand the term “Dickensian” which gets thrown about so often to describe authors, I picked this up for a re-read. For some reason I threw one of my favorite chapters from Copperfield up on this site over a decade ago, and as I read it in the context of the book, it was again one of the more enjoyable ones. The story, as everyone knows, follows the eponymous hero from a tough early childhood (father dies before he’s born, mother remarries an ogre who drives her to her death, the boy is sent to work as a wine merchant before escaping away to his aunt’s where he begins formal schooling in earnest) through to successful adulthood (famous author, very autobiographical). The writhing Uriah Heep and Mr. Micawber are remarkable characters, along with Agnes, Dora, and Mr. Dick, but Dickens stacks his story full of dozens more, just inserting a new face whenever he feels a tiny bit bored. Written as a serialized piece over many months, he had to make each chapter interesting as a stand-alone. There is something very Bartleby-esque about Micawber’s refusal to heed Uriah Heep during his explosive chapter (“Because I, in short, choose”). So to sum up what the Dickensian epithet means to me, a story crammed with characters, tolerably well written, and for a fifth-grade reading level and above.