David Copperfield (son of D. Copperfield the elder, who dies) is born to Clara. Against Miss. Peggotty’s and Betsey Trotwood’s wishes, Clara marries Murdstone, who along with his sister, “kills” Clara (and her second baby) and leaves David to fend for himself in London. The first 15 chapters include his initial disciplining (Salem House, etc.), including his friendships with Steerforth and Traddles, his lodging with the insolvent Mr. Micawber; but he runs away to his aunt’s place and eventually lands, through the help of Wickfield, in a comfortable school in Dover under the tutelage of Mr. Strong. He meets Agnes, the boring lady whom he’ll evnetually marry (after Dora dies). He battles with Uriah throughout for his good name. Steerforth seduces his childhood friend Emily (part of the Peggattoy family living on the boat at Yarmouth) and then abandons her. her whole family will move to Australia to escape the disgrace. Steerforth drowns in a shipwreck. Micawber indicts Uriah for stealing from Wickfield. Mr. Dick, a simpleton, solves the martial problems of Mr. and Mrs. Annie Strong (who almost had an affair with a sailor/childhood friend). David marries Agnes in the end and has a bunch of kids. The book closes with a scene of writing.
Memory: Can be read as critique of Wordsworthian mnemonics. instead of recollecting in tranquility, we could take the Wolf Man paradigm (David bites Murdstone and wears a beware of dog sign around for a while), which claims that memory is constantly being made according to the psychological demands of the present. Perhaps connect this to Peter Brooks argument.
Time: The tense oscillates between past and present. The “Recollections” are done in the present, but are describing past scenes. The compresses the affective registers of experience and writing. Recollections could be thought of as a way of compensating for experience that could not be previously ordered by the phenomenological subject. So he narrates in the “present tense” as a way of patching over the inability of the past tense to contain various affective experiences such as an engagement with Dora, etc. The book also dramatizes those times when the past tense is breaking down without the solution of the retrospect. When he is drunk, the phenomenological subject is split, which double the spilt between the narrating subject and the narrated. Given this, we could talk about how time solves a spatial (identity) problem.
Names: David has a bunch of names given to him by other characters. This diagetic naming is different from early phase, marks transition to Bleak House and Mutual Friend. Dick lives up to his name Richard–fulfills its potential.
Novelistic Convention: David is constantly imagining himself as the hero in a romance…but again, it’s unclear whether this imagining is taking place in the temps de recit or the temps d’histoire. Is this a continuation of Romanticism or a laying bare of its mechanism?
Sleep: Moments of falling asleep are crucial psychological moments, interesting in terms of the capacity fro dreaming (backwards and/or forwards)
Homosexual bonds – David is constantly described as effeminate (by both characters and critics), and he fulfills many of the domestic roles of a Victorian female heroine. Further, Steerforth acts as a threat that needs to be fully repressed as perverse (unweidly and therefore expendable) for David to move from Dora straight to the boring Agnes. On top of all this, his aunt treats him like the girl he always wanted him to be.
Autobiography – Compare to JS Mill in terms of the Bildungsroman.
Foils, repression, subjectivity – Littimer and Heep, two doubles of David (infact, productions of his unconscious) need to be produced by the social-text in order to adequately effect David’s consolidated ego. Int his way, the prison becomes a synecdoche for the text (even if that very social system–its ineffective at change) is what Dickens wants to bring under critique.
Imbedded Critiques, excised characters – Micawber (sorta like Skimpole in Bleak House) is used to critique the Victorian system of capital that constantly excises him. other unassimilable character (Steerforth, Rosa Dartle, Heep, Annie) are let fall, killed off, showing the embarrassment of a fictional writer attempting to uphold bourgeois norms–but also, at the same, registering the sensitivity to passions that, however muffled, live in these pages.
Mr. Dick is a case of trauma that runs into desire that is no longer bound to the original loss. Condensation and displacement becomes goods in themselves.