David Copperfield

David Copperfield

Mr. Murdstone Character Analysis

Edward Murdstone is Clara Copperfield's second husband, whom she marries when David is roughly eight. Murdstone is handsome and capable of being quite charming, although David instinctively distrusts him from the start (probably in part because of his own jealousy). After the marriage, however, it quickly becomes clear that Murdstone is dictatorial and cruel. Together with his sister, Miss Murdstone, he attempts to teach Clara "firmness"—supposedly for her own good, but more likely because he enjoys bending people to his will. He is even nastier to David, whom he uses as a means of manipulating Clara and eventually beats for botching his lessons. After Clara's death, he pulls David out of school and sends him to work at a counting-house he partially owns. David loses touch with Mr. Murdstone after running away to Miss Betsey's, but he learns years later that he has married another naïve and impressionable young woman he can control. With all that said, there is a hint of humanity to Mr. Murdstone: his love for Clara is possessive and twisted, but he does seem genuinely grieved by her death.

Mr. Murdstone Quotes in David Copperfield

The David Copperfield quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Murdstone or refer to Mr. Murdstone . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin edition of David Copperfield published in 2013.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Ah, what a strange feeling it was to be going home when it was not home, and to find that every object I looked at, reminded me of the happy old home, which was like a dream I could never dream again! The days when my mother and I and Peggotty were all in all to one another, and there was no one to come between us, rose up before me so sorrowfully on the road, that I am not sure I was glad to be there.

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Peggotty, Mr. Murdstone , Clara Copperfield
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 14 Quotes

The two things clearest in my mind were, that a remoteness had come upon the old Blunderstone life—which seemed to lie in the haze of an immeasurable distance; and that a curtain had for ever fallen on my life at Murdstone and Grinby's. No one has ever raised that curtain since. I have lifted it for a moment, even in this narrative, with a reluctant hand, and dropped it gladly.

Related Characters: David Copperfield (speaker), Mr. Murdstone
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mr. Murdstone Character Timeline in David Copperfield

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Murdstone appears in David Copperfield. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: I Observe
Home and Family Theme Icon
...a neighbor. She is accompanied by a handsome man whom David will eventually learn is Mr. Murdstone . Murdstone is friendly with David and attempts to pat him on the head, but... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...over whether it is appropriate (and kind to David) for Clara to spend time with Mr. Murdstone . Clara appeals to David about whether she is a "nasty, cruel, selfish, bad mama,"... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Mr. Murdstone and Clara continue to visit with one another, and the atmosphere at the Rookery becomes... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
One morning, Mr. Murdstone takes David with him while he visits Lowestoft, where he introduces David to two of... (full context)
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
When David and Mr. Murdstone return, Clara questions her son about the day he spent, and is visibly pleased to... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Sometime after David's outing with Mr. Murdstone , Peggotty asks whether David would like to come with her to visit her brother,... (full context)
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...left, though he also noticed, as the cart was pulling away from his house, that Mr. Murdstone had arrived and seemed to be scolding Clara for "being so moved." (full context)
Chapter 3: I Have a Change
Home and Family Theme Icon
...has remarried. Peggotty then leads a reluctant David inside, where he sees his mother with Mr. Murdstone . As David watches, Murdstone scolds Clara for her excited response to seeing her son.... (full context)
Chapter 4: I Fall Into Disgrace
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...Clara accuses Peggotty of turning David against her. She grows more and more upset until Mr. Murdstone enters and reminds her to be "firm." He then sends Clara and Peggotty downstairs—though not... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David comes downstairs to hear Mr. Murdstone consoling Clara. Reflecting on this in the present, David says he might have grown into... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
After dinner, Mr. Murdstone 's sister, Miss Murdstone, arrives. She is a stern-looking, unattractive, and "metallic" woman, who, upon... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...not to have a voice in household affairs. Her protests are derailed, however, first by Mr. Murdstone objecting to her description of the house as "hers," and then by Miss Murdstone threatening... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
During this time, David is being tutored by Clara. The lessons terrify David, because Mr. Murdstone and Miss Murdstone are also present and use the sessions as a way of keeping... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
One morning, David comes downstairs to find Clara, Miss Murdstone, and Mr. Murdstone already assembled. Mr. Murdstone, holding a cane, defends the wisdom of beating children to Clara,... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Mr. Murdstone leaves David locked in his bedroom. He remains there, frightened and angry, for the next... (full context)
Chapter 5: I Am Sent Away From Home
Home and Family Theme Icon
...no one is there to meet David. He waits anxiously in the booking-office, wondering whether Mr. Murdstone intends for him to simply be abandoned there. Eventually, however, a young man (later identified... (full context)
Chapter 6: I Enlarge My Circle of Acquaintance
Home and Family Theme Icon
...with Mr. Creakle asking how David has behaved so far, warning him that he knows Mr. Murdstone , and describing himself as a "Tartar." As proof of this, Mr. Creakle warns David... (full context)
Chapter 8: My Holidays, Especially One Happy Afternoon
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...it might have been better to stay at Salem House. Pushing aside his fear of Mr. Murdstone and Miss Murdstone, David enters the house only to hear Clara singing. The sound makes... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Mr. Murdstone and Miss Murdstone are out, so David, Clara, and Peggotty spend a happy afternoon together.... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...household on the basis of her (Clara's) incompetence. She also accuses Peggotty of "insinuating" that Mr. Murdstone is cruel to David, and defends her own "submissiveness" to her husband. David writes that... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
...evening proves to be the "last of its race," and it is cut short by Mr. Murdstone and Miss Murdstone arriving home. Clara sends David to bed, however, and he does not... (full context)
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...to protect Clara, David avoids his mother, spending many evenings with Peggotty. This also attracts Mr. Murdstone 's disapproval, however—ostensibly because David is "sullen," but really because Mr. Murdstone needs David around... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
David complies with Mr. Murdstone 's wishes, and consequently spends most of his time feeling unwanted—or, as he puts it,... (full context)
Chapter 9: I Have a Memorable Birthday
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...suspects that she took "a choice pleasure in exhibiting what she called her self-command." Meanwhile, Mr. Murdstone ignores David entirely, instead pacing and trying to read. (full context)
Chapter 10: I Become Neglected, and Am Provided For
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
...be returning to school. Much to David's relief, however, he is now largely ignored by Mr. Murdstone , and thus allowed to spend time with Peggotty. (full context)
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
One evening, David tells Peggotty that Mr. Murdstone seems to dislike him more than ever, despite David's own wish to bond over their... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Mr. Murdstone and Miss Murdstone largely ignore David following his return, but he feels the neglect keenly... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
One day, David sees Mr. Murdstone talking with one of the men—Mr. Quinion—he had met during his visit to Lowestoft. Quinion... (full context)
Chapter 11: I Begin Life on My Own Account, and Don't Like It
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Throughout this period, Mr. Murdstone pays for David's lodgings, but expects David to pay for his own food and other... (full context)
Chapter 12: Liking Life on My Own Account No Better, I Form a Great Resolution
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...the Micawbers begin to plan for their departure, but he knows he cannot count on Mr. Murdstone to help him into a better situation. (full context)
Chapter 14: My Aunt Makes Up Her Mind About Me
Home and Family Theme Icon
...and David finds her attention alarming. Eventually, she tells David that she has written to Mr. Murdstone , but that she has not yet decided whether she will send him back to... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Over the next few days, David waits nervously for a response from Mr. Murdstone and tries to make himself "agreeable." Finally, Miss Betsey tells David that she has received... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...Miss Betsey tries to shoo her away even after David tells her who she is. Mr. Murdstone then arrives, and he, his sister, Miss Betsey, Janet, and the donkey's owner begin to... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...he stay. She and Miss Murdstone trade jabs over her policy on trespassing donkeys until Mr. Murdstone intervenes. Having confirmed his identity, Miss Betsey criticizes his decision to marry Clara, whom she... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Miss Betsey sends for Mr. Dick, whom she introduces to the Murdstones. Mr. Murdstone then begins to describe the many problems David has caused him, as well as all... (full context)
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Mr. Murdstone says that he intends to take David back, and warns Miss Betsey that if she... (full context)
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Betsey has said, but she cuts them off, explaining that she can easily imagine how Mr. Murdstone must have seduced Clara only to "begin to break her, like a poor caged bird"... (full context)
Chapter 26: I Fall into Captivity
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
...their private opinions to themselves. David agrees, but also says that he thinks she and Mr. Murdstone treated both him and Clara horribly. (full context)
Chapter 33: Blissful
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...bill. When Mr. Spenlow comes to greet them, however, they are surprised to see that Mr. Murdstone is with him. A tense exchange follows in which Murdstone expresses his condolences over Barkis's... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
...is pleased with them, however, and cheerfully tells him that Miss Murdstone is away attending Mr. Murdstone 's wedding. Meanwhile, Miss Mills watches Dora and David with "an air of superior wisdom... (full context)
Chapter 59: Return
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
...It turns out that Mr. Chillip is once again living in the same neighborhood as Mr. Murdstone , who married a young woman with some property there. David asks whether Mr. Chillip... (full context)
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
David, unsurprised, asks whether Mr. Murdstone still claims to be deeply religious, and Mr. Chillip says that he does, according to... (full context)
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...are amused by Chillip's fear of Miss Betsey, they are disturbed by the news involving Mr. Murdstone . (full context)