78 pages 2 hours read

Charles Dickens

David Copperfield

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1850

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Themes

Memory and the Responsibility of Narrating Memory

Charles Dickens notably proclaimed that David Copperfield was his favorite among all of his novels, and that of all his characters, David was the one he felt closest to. Many critics speculate that this is because Dickens incorporated so much of his own autobiographical experience into David’s fictional autobiography. Thus, when David pauses to contemplate the processes of remembering and writing, his reflections apply seemingly not just to the character of David, but also to Dickens himself.

 

David Copperfield is a bildungsroman (or coming-of-age story) made of memories. As David explains, his goal is to recount his memories and to reflect upon them to learn if he is truly the hero of his own life. He revisits his memories from childhood through adulthood and evaluates himself as a character, analyzing his own process of evolving into maturity. By looking back on his life chronologically, David not only tells his coming-of-age story, but the story of his narrative “becoming” (as he writes himself as the “hero” of his life’s story). 

 

David reflects on the strange nature of memory, musing that distant memories remain freshest in his mind:

 

This may be fancy, though I think the memory of most of us can go farther back into such times than many of us suppose; just as I believe the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy.
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