Classic Friday~Dickens' Characters: David Copperfield

Those who are not readers of classic literature will often ask, ‘What’s the big deal with Dickens?’ And my answer would be his characters. Dickens created some of the most enduring characters in all of literature.

We can all argue on which Dickens novel is best, but I don’t intend to discuss that today. One thing that I hope we can all agree on is that out of David Copperfield have come some of the best characters he ever penned. As an author myself, I know how important it is to have memorable characters. Characters tell our stories. Without them, no matter how exciting the plot, the book will fall flat. I’ve learned a lot about characterization from my love of classic literature and a big thanks goes to Mr. Charles Dickens.

David Copperfield is the title character and yet he is probably the most boring of the lot because…well, he is so infernally good. It is interesting that ten years later, Dickens would write Great Expectations with a similar story of a young boy and his journey to manhood. Yet, Pip isn’t the perfect young man that we see in David Copperfield.

The number of characters in the novel are overwhelming, but here are a few of the important ones. Wilkins Micawber (one of my favorites) is habitually in debt but with a good heart who eventually prospers, Uriah Heep is the hypocritical clerk whose plotting eventually leads to his downfall, Clara Peggotty the kind and devoted nurse of dear David, Edward Murdston the stern and cruel step-father, and of course Betsy Trotwood the unbending and austere great-aunt of David’s who becomes his salvation in his young life.

I encourage you if you have not yet read this novel to give it a try sometime soon. You might be surprised at the festival of characters waiting to be discovered. Happy Reading!

P.S. Don't devour Dickens--savor it. Do what I do, download the electronic version from Project Gutenberg and read it off your PDA or e-book reader (if you have one) a chapter at a time or when you have a moment. Or like me, before bed. It may take you a couple months that way but you might enjoy and remember it that much more. Another tip is to watch a movie version of the book before reading. It will help you understand the plot and figure out the characters before trying to go through it on your own. I suggest the 1999 version with Daniel Radcliffe, Maggie Smith, and Ian McKellan. (Even my 10 y/o enjoyed it.)


Michelle said...

I am a big Dickens' fan (from way back when I was forced to read him in HS) so I had to chime in. Although, I will confess that my favorite is A Tale of Two Cities--the symbolism, foreshadowing, motifs all with great characters and plot--love it. Admittantly, they are not 'light read' books, but well worth the savoring!
Sorry to digress from Copperfield.

Michelle Young

Judi Romaine said...

Love Dickens! Force fed him throughout junior high and high school, I'm very grateful I was introduced this way - since I love what I got from them - as you say, great characterizations and simple fantastic writing -
Lynn romaine (

Cindy K. Green said...

Hey Michelle--Digress away. That's what these posts are about. Tale of Two Cities is another good one.

Hi Judi--You know the first Dickens I read was the Pickwick Papers in Jr. High. I just wanted to read it. Loved it. And moved on to others through the years. But yeah, great characters in all his books. Memorable for sure.

Kimber Chin said...

I think Dickens was meant to be savored. Weren't most of his books originally written in installments (or something like that)?

Cindy K. Green said...

That's right Kimber. So yes, savor away. ;)

Judith Leger said...

I agree with Michelle. My all time favorite of his books is A Tale of Two Cities. It's a great story!

Helen Hardt said...

Dickens was indeed a master at characterization. Great post, Cindy!


Sheryl said...

He also wrote with great humour sometimes Cindy, as well as vivid characterisation and evocative description of contemporary life. Did you realise his own father was the inspiration behind David Copperfield's Mr Micawber?

Nice blog! :)

Mary Ricksen said...

Who didn't have to read Dicken's in high school?
And then find themselves surprised when you didn't want to put it down to go set the table?

That's why they call it a classic.

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