by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
What a change in Mrs. Gummidge in a little time! She was another woman. She was so devoted, she had such a quick perception of what it would be well to say, and what it would be well to leave unsaid; she was so forgetful of herself, and so regardful of the sorrow about her, that I held her in a sort of veneration. (32.32)
After Emily leaves and Mr. Peggotty decides to seek her, Mrs. Gummidge's whole grim attitude turns around: suddenly, she's unselfish and always ready to help those around her. When Mrs. Gummidge was unhappy among a group of happy people, she could never stop reminding them of her own sorrow. But now that Mrs. Gummidge is sad among a group of miserable people, she forgets herself in favor of helping others. She gets resentful when other people are happy, but she's really great in a crisis – a handy kind of friend to have around.
What I cannot describe is, how, in the innermost recesses of my own heart, I had a lurking jealousy even of Death. How I felt as if its might would push me from my ground in Dora's thoughts. How I was, in a grudging way I have no words for, envious of her grief. How it made me restless to think of her weeping to others, or being consoled by others. How I had a grasping, avaricious wish to shut out everybody from her but myself, and to be all in all to her, at that unseasonable time of all times. (38.92)
David's doing something rather brave here, because he's confessing to an all too human, but still not exactly praiseworthy, emotion: jealousy of Mr. Spenlow's death. When Mr. Spenlow dies suddenly, Dora is left in deep mourning. And David hates that his beloved Dora can be thinking of someone else so much, even if that person is her dead father. David is selfish in seeing Dora's suffering, and he wants to keep it all for himself. Perhaps this is a further sign of the fundamental problem of David's relationship to Dora: he has this intensely possessive love of her that makes Dora seem child-like and in need of David's care. With Agnes, on the other hand, David trusts her to look after herself – she's a true partner for David in his mind.
I went away from England; not knowing, even then, how great the shock was, that I had to bear. I left all who were dear to me, and went away; and believed that I had borne it, and it was past. As a man upon a field of battle will receive a mortal hurt, and scarcely know that he is struck, so I, when I was left alone with my undisciplined heart, had no conception of the wound with which it had to strive. (58.2)
David doesn't really seem to feel the full impact of Dora's death until he goes to Europe to recover; before then, he's got the support of his family, including Miss Betsey and Agnes. It's only when he's abroad that David is really alone. And loneliness seems to be the worst kind of suffering of all in this book.