UChicagoLaw's Reviews > David Copperfield

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
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"Actually, I'm listening to it as an audiobook, read by a gifted and hilarous reader, and today as I ran I reached the wonderful part where Mr. Micawber denounces Uriah Heep. I practically skipped around the track. I've been smiling so much as I run these days, both because of the book's humor and because of its generous humanity.

Dickens is childlike, compared to the sophistication of Trollope and the intellectual penetration of George Eliot. But this also means that he has access to the child in himself, to what David the narrator describes as the fresh delight in the world that children have and that a few adults manage to retain. He also has a child's sense of evil. His bad characters are nightmare figures, and grotesque in the way that dreams are grotesque. One should not forget, however, how real they also are:

I've seen the school where "Wackford Squeers" of Nicholas Nickleby tortured unwanted children; and in David Copperfield we see a range of examples of all-too-real domestic cruelty, from Mr. Murdstone, who slithers into the Copperfield household and destroys David's trusting mother, to the minor character of the gypsy woman David meets on the road, bearing telltale bruises from her abusive husband. (One thing I realized this time through is that Amy Chua's "tiger mother" view of education is neither new nor particularly Asian: it is exactly the Murdstone doctrine of "firmness.") The child's view of evil is uncompromising and unapologetic. Like the fresh delight of childhood, we lose it at our peril. But the child also understands that love can overcome evil, and the novel's most memorable characters are those who, though abused, do not succumb to bitterness or revenge: Betsey Trotwood, Daniel Peggotty, David himself. For all these reasons, reconnecting with the novel is a way of reconnecting with parts of ourselves that are fragile in a world of uncertainty." - Martha Nussbaum
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