David Copperfield

David Copperfield Quotes and Analysis

I was not considered as being formally received into the school, however, until J. Steerforth arrived.

David Copperfield (as narrator)

David has been at school for a month, and he has been wearing the placard that reads, "Take care of him. He bites." It seems that the adults are in charge of the school. But in an important way, the social patterns of the school are under the control of J. Steerforth, the boy who cuts his name most frequently and most deeply into the old playground door. Steerforth is the one who will "take care of" David and his seven shillings.

They and the men generally spoke of me as 'the little gent,' or 'the young Suffolker.'

David Copperfield (as narrator)

In significant ways, David is on his own as he works at Murdstone and Grinby's. Unlike the other boys, he matures quickly. He acts like an adult or "gentleman" and even buys his own beer. If he really is living the life of an adult, the working situation and life situation here are so terrible that adulthood is not something to look forward to. In any case, David is an unusual boy.

I half believed it was an imposture to come there as an ordinary little schoolboy.

David Copperfield (as narrator)

David has started school again and, while he has received a gentlemanly welcome, he knows that he is still among boys. The boys have not matured through adversity, like David has, and he is not very well described as the "new boy" at his new school. Truth be told, he knows less of school learning than the other boys, despite his greater worldly knowledge. Yet, he is starting over with a new life, and perhaps he will be able to recapture something of his already-lost youth.

Talent, Mr. Micawber has; capital, Mr. Micawber has not.

Mrs. Micawber

This is the Micawbers' problem throughout almost the entire novel. Mr. and Mrs. Micawber are constantly in financial strife, needing money or capital for their various endeavors. Still, they usually show that they are good-spirited. They keep making efforts to stay afloat. Yet, how much talent can Mr. Micawber have if he keeps failing and keeps needing money? Maybe they spend too much time hoping and asking for money, and not enough time working on ways to earn it and keep it from those who would take it away.

Yes, Agnes, my good Angel! Always my good Angel!

David Copperfield

Agnes is someone who deeply cares for David; she is someone he can trust and someone he eventually marries. She accepts the role of good angel, warning David against Steerforth, his "bad angel." In the previous scene, Agnes saw David drunk--it was partly Steerforth's fault. Although David trusts Steerforth anyway, he is very happy to think of Agnes as his good angel.

I was a captive and a slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction! She was more than human to me. She was a Fairy, a Sylph, I don't know what she was--anything that no one ever saw, and everything that everybody ever wanted.

David Copperfield (as narrator)

Here David meets Dora for the first time. He is gushing with emotion. He is trapped by her beautiful image, and his undisciplined heart is partly to blame. Indeed she is nothing more than an image, an ideal with no real substance. To his mind she is some kind of magical being, some kind of fairy, but nothing specific. She is everything he wants--he imagines, on first sight--yet she is not someone who David truly "saw" for who she really was. The language of captivity and slavery foreshadows a bad end to the eventual relationship.

It's a stupid name ... Child-wife.

Dora Spenlow

Dora is childish and doll-like, immature and not really ready to be David's wife. She realizes this problem and understands that it causes trouble in their marriage. Thus, she asks David to think of her as not a mature wife but a child-wife, so that he will be somewhat more forgiving of her faults. David is willing to oblige, for the name fits, and she is too childlike and sweet for him to say no. Like the financial accounts that Dora tries but fails to keep up with, this marriage does not "add up."

Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest. I have never believed it possible that any natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and hope to gain its end.

David Copperfield (as narrator)

David here identifies a character trait that we have seen throughout the novel. David has told his story as someone who perseveres, and readers are inclined to believe him. Indeed perseverance is one of his strongest qualities, and it is a major theme in the novel; David honors and values those who work hard even in difficult circumstances. David is also demonstrating integrity and consistency. He asserts that ability alone is not enough; to succeed one must also work and exercise that ability towards a goal. In this context, he describes his perseverance in terms of trying to win marriage with Dora, but he also attributes some of his understanding about the value of perseverance to what he learned from Agnes.

He repaid her by breaking her fortune, and nearly breaking her heart. So she put all that sort of sentiment, once and for ever, in a grave, and filled it up, and flattened it down.

Miss Betsey Trotwood

David's aunt, speaking about herself in the third person in order to give herself emotional distance from her sorrow, finally reveals a dark secret in her past: she was once married to a man who treated her badly. The husband "nearly" broke her heart, but she left him before her heart was ruined. Of course, though the husband is in a sense dead to her, he is living, reappearing every so often, and she gives him money to go away. He is no longer part of her life, and she wants it that way. She put her romantic love, her heart, in a grave--compartmentalized, so to speak. Those feelings are gone and buried--they have not disappeared, but she does not want to exhume them. When the husband appears, he must be like some sort of ghost. David, in on the secret, also must bury it, as though the whole thing never happened. Leaving her husband before it was too late has made her stronger, however, and she has been able to go on with her life independent of her former husband.

Theer's been kiender a blessing fell upon us ... and we've done nowt but prosper. That is, in the long run. If not yesterday, why then today. If not today, why then tomorrow.

Mr. Peggotty

It is ten years after David's marriage to Agnes, and readers might wonder how everyone in Australia fared. So does David, and the good news is that Australia met their expectations and they are generally happy and successful. Indeed Australia has been a blessing, but Mr. Peggotty (and, it turns out, Mr. Micawber as well) has worked hard to make the most of the opportunity. He is another character with hope and perseverance; eventually the hard work will pay off. Likewise, David is happy and accomplished now, too.