David Copperfield

David Copperfield


Charles Dickens

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Themes and Colors
Coming of Age and Personal Development Theme Icon
Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality Theme Icon
Memory and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Womanhood and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in David Copperfield, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Coming of Age and Personal Development

David Copperfield is a classic example of the Bildungsroman, or "novel of education." It not only traces the events of its protagonist's childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, but also (and more importantly) aims to demonstrate the role that those events played in David's growth and development. The ideal Victorian man was active and independent—that is, able to control the course of his own life through force of character rather than allowing his character to…

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Ambition, Social Mobility, and Morality

Nineteenth-century England was a highly socially stratified society, but one in which it was theoretically possible to move upwards. Although the Industrial Revolution had in many ways worsened the wealth gap by creating a new class of poor, urban laborers, it also held out the promise of social mobility: capitalist ideology maintained that hard work and perseverance would ultimately pay off, and some individuals did in fact manage to rise from poverty to wealth and…

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Memory and Nostalgia

In addition to being a Bildungsroman (a novel of education), David Copperfield is a fictional memoir, ostensibly written by David himself. However, while David is a writer by profession, he says more than once that he does not want to publish his memoir, and in fact intends it "for no eyes but [his]." This raises the question of what exactly David hopes to achieve or accomplish in penning his life story, and the answer seems…

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Womanhood and Gender Roles

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that its protagonist is a man, David Copperfield is deeply interested in questions surrounding womanhood and the place of women in Victorian society. Although Dickens is often criticized for writing one-note female characters, femininity actually takes multiple forms in the novel—a fact David himself underscores early on, when he says of the matronly servant Peggotty, "I thought her in a different style from my mother, certainly; but…

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Home and Family

Although it overlaps to some extent with David Copperfield's treatment of gender roles, the question of what constitutes a home or family is also an important theme in its own right. The ideal Victorian home was one that served as a refuge from the outside world, with the wife/mother providing an atmosphere of calm for the husband/father, whose work took him out into a realm of stress and competition. It is only at the…

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