David Copperfield Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
With her own sweet tranquillity, she calmed my agitation; led me back to the time of our parting; spoke to me of Emily, whom she had visited, in secret, many times; spoke to me tenderly of Dora's grave. With the unerring instinct of her noble heart, she touched the chords of my memory so softly and harmoniously, that not one jarred within me; I could listen to the sorrowful, distant music, and desire to shrink from nothing it awoke. How could I, when, blended with it all, was her dear self, the better angel of my life? (60.38)
At last we get a description of David's model lady. What he wants from a woman is someone who "[calms his] agitation" and helps him to reflect back on memories of his life without pain. In other words, he wants a woman who will allow him to talk and think endlessly about himself. How well rounded is Agnes as a character? How much do we know about her personal sorrows and concerns?
Some thinks,' he said, 'as her affection was ill-bestowed; some, as her marriage was broken off by death. No one knows how 'tis. She might have married well, a mort of times, "but, uncle," she says to me, "that's gone for ever." Cheerful along with me; retired when others is by; fond of going any distance fur to teach a child, or fur to tend a sick person, or fur to do some kindness tow'rds a young girl's wedding (and she's done a many, but has never seen one); fondly loving of her uncle; patient; liked by young and old; sowt out by all that has any trouble. That's Em'ly! (63.30)
It's odd that the novel seems to insist that, to recuperate Emily's character as a virtuous woman, she can't just immigrate to Australia. It's not enough that she has to leave her country and go somewhere else. Oh no, the novel also demands that she renounce all thought of marriage and dedicate herself to teaching children and tending sick people. This fate for Emily is clearly a product of its time – it seems way out of proportion to the crime that Emily has to give up her country and her sexuality.