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David Copperfield

David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. This book is called David Copperfield, but a relatively small percentage of the novel is directly about David himself. There are plenty of subplots and sidebars. There are even moments told from the perspective of other characters, including Julia Mills's diary of Dora and Mr. Peggotty's explanation of little Emily's fate. What would this novel be like if it focused only on David Copperfield's story? What does it add or take away from the novel to include, for example, the Doctor Strong and Emily plots?
  2. David is an unusually chatty narrator. He's constantly offering us foreshadowing, commentary, and moral lessons that shape our views of what is happening in the book. How would David Copperfield be different if David were a more hands-off first-person narrator? Or if the book were told from the perspective of a third-person omniscient narrator? What are the advantages and disadvantages of David's particular voice in this novel?
  3. We discussed some of the autobiographical elements of this novel in both "Intro" and our "Character Analysis" of David Copperfield. What difference does it make to you to know that at least some of the elements of this novel are autobiographical? For example, how does this knowledge influence your perception of the novel's descriptions of child labor and abusive schools?
  4. Charles Dickens has often been accused of melodrama in his prose. Melodrama is a mode of storytelling that ignores usual rules of cause and effect to exaggerate the emotional affect of the story. Does the emotional content of the characters' interactions overcome any concerns about realism? What scenes in this novel do you find hard to believe? Why or why not?
  5. Even though Dickens began his writing career as a journalist, he is certainly more famous as a novelist than he ever was as a reporter. Yet, his interest in social issues continues across both his journalism and his fiction. Why might it be beneficial for social activists to use fiction rather than investigative journalism to educate the public about issues like abusive schools and child labor? What can fiction achieve that journalism can't?

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