by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
And we fell back on the guitar-case, and the flower-painting, and the songs about never leaving off dancing, Ta ra la! and were as happy as the week was long. I occasionally wished I could venture to hint to Miss Lavinia, that she treated the darling of my heart a little too much like a plaything; and I sometimes awoke, as it were, wondering to find that I had fallen into the general fault, and treated her like a plaything too—but not often. (41.151)
Because David is quite childish himself, he willfully ignores the signs that he and Dora are actually not in perfect sympathy with each other. But we also find it intriguing that David treats Dora just the same way all the other people around Dora do: like a "plaything." Dora loves the guitar and the flower-painting because all she knows how to do is play; she can't work and she won't work. But this isn't just a problem of gender. It's also a problem of having too much money. None of the poorer women in this novel can afford to spend all day singing "songs about never leaving off dancing."
"How can I go on as I am, a solitary curse to myself, a living disgrace to everyone I come near!" Suddenly [Martha] turned to my companion. "Stamp upon me, kill me! When she was your pride, you would have thought I had done her harm if I had brushed against her in the street. You can't believe—why should you?—-a syllable that comes out of my lips. It would be a burning shame upon you, even now, if she and I exchanged a word." (47.39)
When David and Mr. Peggotty manage to track down Martha Endell in the streets of London, she lets forth this torrent of guilt and self-reproach. She thinks that she brings disgrace to everyone she's close to, and worries that she somehow inflicted shame on Emily just by talking to her. Does the degree of Martha's shame strike you as realistic? Are there any reasons we can think of for why Dickens might want to exaggerate the dramatic effect of this scene?
I was very happy, very. But, as years went on, my dear boy would have wearied of his child-wife. She would have been less and less a companion for him. He would have been more and more sensible of what was wanting in his home. She wouldn't have improved. It is better as it is. (53.42)
As Dora is dying, she lies there and tells David not to worry: in a way, she's glad she's dying. Because that saves David from getting tired of her. What?! We find this ethically suspect: Dickens is making a character release her husband to go off and be happy because she's about to die, just so that David can get the happy family life that is the goal of this novel.