by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Poverty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"It don't matter," said Traddles. "I began, by means of his assistance, to copy law writings. That didn't answer very well; and then I began to state cases for them, and make abstracts, and that sort of work. For I am a plodding kind of fellow, Copperfield, and had learnt the way of doing such things pithily. Well! That put it in my head to enter myself as a law student; and that ran away with all that was left of the fifty pounds." (27.46)
This is a part of a much longer account by Traddles of how he has been working his butt off to try and improve his life by making his way as a lawyer. Traddles's hard work is actually really similar to the long hours David observes Uriah Heep putting in, memorizing law textbooks at midnight while working as a clerk for Mr. Wickfield. Why does Traddles's work seem so much more sympathetic and admirable than Uriah Heep's? What is Traddles doing right that Uriah Heep is doing wrong?
It appears to me, that what Mr. Micawber has to do, in justice to himself, in justice to his family, and I will even go so far as to say in justice to society, by which he has been hitherto overlooked, is to advertise in all the papers; to describe himself plainly as so-and-so, with such and such qualifications and to put it thus: "Now employ me, on remunerative terms, and address, post-paid, to W. M., Post Office, Camden Town." (28.79)
Mr. Micawber spends nearly all of the novel unemployed and looking for a job. Mrs. Micawber gets sick of Mr. Micawber's constant poverty and suggests that he take a more active role in looking for employment by posting an ad in the newspaper demanding a position. But by advertising in the newspaper, Mr. Micawber comes more directly to the attention of Uriah Heep. It's through this advertisement that Uriah Heep hires Mr. Micawber as a law clerk, much to Mr. Micawber's eventual unhappiness. Why might this kind of open advertisement bring such bad results for Mr. Micawber, when Traddles's quiet accumulation of contacts in the legal world brings such good things? Is there evidence in the text that Mr. Micawber is doing something wrong or socially frowned upon by putting an ad in the paper? Or is he just unlucky that his ad gets him hired by Uriah Heep?
Father and me was both brought up at a foundation school for boys; and mother, she was likewise brought up at a public, sort of charitable, establishment. They taught us all a deal of umbleness—not much else that I know of, from morning to night. We was to be umble to this person, and umble to that; and to pull off our caps here, and to make bows there; and always to know our place, and abase ourselves before our betters. And we had such a lot of betters! (39.125)
Uriah Heep grows up poor, from a poor family. He, his father, and his mother have all gone to schools run by charities. And his whole life, Uriah Heep has been reminded of his poverty: he "was to be umble to this person, and umble to that." The humiliation of this steady reminder that Uriah Heep's social position is lower than, well, everybody else's, is what makes him such a complete bastard to David and the Wickfields. Does this detail increase your sympathy for this character? Is an explanation of bad behavior an excuse?