David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (review by Andrew R. ’17)

David CopperfieldDavid Copperfield by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

According to the introduction to this mainstay of British literature, Tolstoy believed that “if you sift the world’s prose literature, Dickens will remain; sift Dickens, David Copperfield will remain.” What lends David Copperfield its renown and mastery, even among Dickens’s other novels and stories, is the almost unbelievable complexity of its small fifty-character cast, from the ominous, crafty villain Uriah Heep to the protagonist David Copperfield, gallant and righteous despite his crippling naivety. The first third of the novel — which is itself a three-hundred-page section — introduces the major players in Copperfield’s life as he struggles through his childhood, leaving the remainder of the novel to experiment with different mixtures of characters: What happens when the ostentatious pauper Mr. Micawber walks into Heep’s dining room? How will David’s iron stepmother respond when placed in a room with his equally iron great-aunt? The results are often spectacular and always play a role in the larger narrative of David Copperfield’s “personal history.” The humor, symbols, and messages in this novel, still as relevant as they were a century and a half ago, make it worthwhile to any modern reader. – Andrew R. ’17

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