The novel's protagonist and a representation, more or less, of Charles Dickens himself. David was born in Blunderstone Rookery, Suffolk, later his childhood home. He was born six months after his father passed away, a detail that certainly affected him growing up. He claims to have a very detailed memory like that of a child.
The loyal and trusted household servant to David and his mother when he was a young boy. David describes her as having "no shape at all, and eyes so dark that they seemed to darken their whole neighborhood in her face, and cheeks and arms so hard and red..." She is a large woman, and one of her defining traits is that whenever she hugs someone, buttons pop off of her dress, with the number of buttons lost corresponding to the strength of her hug. She is the aunt of Ham and Emily Peggotty and the sister of Daniel Peggotty. Together she and her brother are "Peggotty and Mr. Peggotty."
Daughter of Mr. Wickfield and a family friend of Miss Betsey. She is very close to David and gives him advice about many issues. She is known for her calm and soothing demeanor. She eventually marries David.
A classmate of David's at Salem House. James Steerforth is a haughty, cocky boy consumed with his upper-class status. He receives much admiration from David because of his class and confidence.
The slimy, sneaky servant of Mr. Wickfield who tricks his way into a partnership with his employer. He steals from and cheats many people, including the Micawbers and Miss Betsey, but he is eventually exposed and forced to give back what he took. He ends up in jail for defrauding the Bank of England.
The niece of Peggotty and Daniel Peggotty. Emily is David's love interest when David visits Yarmouth for the first time. Her father Tom is the brother-in-law of Mr. Peggotty and Peggotty, and he, too, drowned at sea. Because of this, even from a young age, Emily has had a fear of the ocean.
Daughter of Mr. Spenlow, David's employer. She is David's first wife, and he often calls her his "child-wife." She is very beautiful but young and childish, not at all competent at household chores. She also is constantly accompanied by a dog named Jip.
The nephew of Peggotty and her brother Daniel. Ham was present at David's birth but did not actually meet him until David visited Yarmouth for the first time. He is strong, broad, and six feet tall. He has a boyish face and is very boyish in nature. His father is actually Joe Peggotty, Mr. Peggotty's and Peggotty's brother, who drowned at sea.
David's mother, who was widowed when David's father died six months before she gave birth. She is consistently described as being very pretty, like a "wax doll." She married David's father when she was very young, and as a result, she was slightly naive and lacking in some of the knowledge necessary to be a successful housewife. Still, she loves her son very much and gives him a fun, healthy atmosphere to grow up in until she marries Mr. Murdstone.
The man whom Clara marries while David visits Peggotty's family in Yarmouth. Edward Murdstone, often referred to as Mr. Murdstone, is a tall, intimidating man with a dark handsomeness. He has very black, thick hair and black eyes. He is a very controlling husband and stepfather to the Copperfields.
Mr. Murdstone's sister, who comes to help the family shortly after her brother's marriage to Clara. Jane, often referred to as Miss Murdstone, is nearly as dark, intimidating, and firm as her brother. She is often associated with metallic objects and images, especially images of jail cells.
The carrier driver who drives David and Peggotty to Yarmouth near the beginning of the novel and who also drives David to Yarmouth to be sent to boarding school. Mr. Barkis takes a fancy to Peggotty after trying one of the cakes she made for David's journey to London. He tells David to write to Peggotty the message, "Barkis is willin'," which sparks the relationship between the two.
The unusual sister of David's late father. Miss Betsey, or Miss Trotwood, disapproved of the marriage between David's parents because of their significant age difference. She herself had a disastrous marriage with a man younger than she was, and after their mutual separation, she moved to a small house near the sea with one servant and lived a secluded life. She storms out of David's house when he is born, upset that he is not a girl.
Mr. and Mrs. Micawber
The couple with whom David stays when he is first sent to work at Mr. Murdstone's warehouse. David becomes very close friends with them and their family. They are constantly in financial strife but are good-spirited nonetheless. Mr. Micawber is very emotional and eloquent, especially in his writing.
Tommy Traddles, one of David's classmates from Salem House. He is quite good-natured. He gets closer to David after they leave school and live near one another in London.
Dr. Strong and Annie
The married couple whom David meets during his stay with Mr. Wickfield. Dr. Strong is the master of David's school and is much older than Annie. They encounter difficulties when Uriah accuses Annie of having an affair with her younger cousin, but thanks to Mr. Dick, the two reconcile and remain a very affectionate couple.
Miss Betsey's odd, simple boarder.
David Copperfield Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for David Copperfield is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Steerforth's words foreshadow what will come. He is morally lacking.... and even now, he knows that he will alienate David at some point in the future. Steerforths seduction on Miss Emily will sever their friendship.