David Copperfield (character)

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David Copperfield
David Copperfield character
File:Betsey trotwood by phiz.jpg
David introduces himself to his aunt (Drawing by Hablot Knight Browne)
Created by Charles Dickens
Gender Male
Occupation Writer
Nationality British

David Copperfield, Jr. is the protagonist after which the 1850 Charles Dickens novel, David Copperfield, was named. The character is widely thought to be based on Dickens himself, incorporating many elements of his own childhood.[1]


Scholars believe that David Copperfield's careers, friendships, and love life were most highly influenced by Dickens' experiences, as well as his time working as a child. David's involvement with the law profession and later his career as a writer mirror the experiences of Dickens. Many of David's acquaintances are based on people Dickens actually knew, and David's wives, Agnes Wickfield and Dora Spenlow, are believed to be based upon Dickens' attachment to Mary Hogarth. Dickens keenly felt his deprived education during his time at the blacking factory, and according to the famed Forster biography, it was from these times that he drew David's working period.[citation needed]

Charles Dickens working at Warren Blacking Factory

However, there are many differences in the lives of the two. Unlike Dickens, David grew up in the country as an only child; Dickens was a city boy with several brothers and sisters. Also there were never any wicked stepparents and never any great aunt.[citation needed]

Throughout the novel, David is rarely called by his birth name (except by Mr. Murdstone). Instead, he is called alternately Davy, Trot, Trotwood, Copperfield, Daisy, and Doady. David Copperfield's birth name comes from Dickens inverted initials.

Fictional biography

David Copperfield is pivotal character of the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. He is first introduced in the novel when he is born on a Friday in March in the early 19th century. The pet of his mother Clara Copperfield and faithful nursemaid Peggotty, David lives an idyllic life for the first few years of his life, even though he is fatherless - his father, also named David Copperfield, died 6 months before his son's birth. David's happy childhood is marred by the arrival of his stepfather, Edward Murdstone, and David suffers both physical and mental abuse from his new guardian.

David is soon sent off to Salem House school for biting Murdstone, and is consistently bullied until he befriends the popular James Steerforth. David performs well and is the resident storyteller, until he is forced to return home upon the death of his mother and baby half-brother. Because of his hate for the child, Murdstone and his sister decide to send David to work in the family bottling factory.

Life at the factory is miserable, even though David is befriended by the penniless Mr. Micawber and he soon runs away to his Aunt Betsey Trotwood in Dover, Aunt Betsey adopts him and sends him to Dr. Strong's private school in Canterbury, where David meets his best friend Agnes Wickfield, as well as the slimy Uriah Heep.

The rest of the novel outlines David's struggles through life and his involvement in other plotlines, including his friendship and consequent disillusionment with James Steerforth; his assistance to the destroyed Peggotty family; his concern and suspicion for the Wickfield, Micawber, and Strong families as they are being harassed by Uriah Heep, and the development of his beginning writing career. As David juggles these problems he also must deal with his passionate, sincere, but highly impractical love for the innocent Dora Spenlow. After a humorously sentimental courtship, David marries Dora, whom he loves despite her uselessness in household chores. She soon falls ill and dies, leaving David single and heartbroken. He travels throughout Europe, during which time he publishes his first (unnamed) novel with the help of old school-friend Thomas Traddles, and during this odyssey realizes he loves Agnes Wickfield, praying she loves him too. Upon his return he proposes to her, and the two quickly marry. They later move into a house in London along with their young children, which include at least three girls (Little Agnes, Dora, and Betsey Trotwood Copperfield) and at least two boys. They live a wealthy lifestyle on David's successful writing career.

Film and television portrayals

Year Title Young David Copperfield David Copperfield
1911 David Copperfield Flora Foster Ed Genung
1935 David Copperfield Freddie Bartholomew Frank Lawton
1966 David Copperfield Christopher Guard Ian McKellen
1969 David Copperfield Alastair Mackenzie Robin Phillips
1974 David Copperfield David Yelland Jonathan Kahn
1986 David Copperfield Nolan Hemmings/David Dexter Colin Hurley
1993 David Copperfield Julian Lennon (voice)
1999 David Copperfield Daniel Radcliffe Ciarán McMenamin
2000 David Copperfield Max Dolbey Hugh Dancy


  1. Gavin, Adrienne E. (1992). "Introduction". David Copperfield. by Charles Dickens. Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1-85326-024-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links