By Nibs on
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
As another poster mentioned, Dickens gives almost allegorical names, names that speak to the character and their personality. I'll give you some explantions for some of the main characters and also other names Dickens was toying with:
David Copperfield - obviously, this name was fashioned from Dickens' own inverted initials (CD becomes DC). As the main character, David went through several careful name changes. The most likely of these was either David or Thomas Mag (Mag = halfpenny). Other possible surnames included Trotfield, Trotbury, Spankle, Wellbury, Flowerbury, Magbury, Copperboy, Topflower, and Copperstone. The fact that David receives so many nicknames in the novel shows the way other characters think of him and the way they are willing to change his personality to suit themselves.
Mr. Micawber - um, it sounds like "macabre" but that doesn't seem to relate to me. It may have related to Mr. Wilkins' dismal situations, though!
Betsey Trotwood- a name that sounds clipped and active, like Betsey herself. In early manuscripts, CD calls Aunt Betsey Miss Badger. He soon changes this to her current name.
Mr. Dick a.k.a. Richard Babley - "babbling" as in babbling idiot, but Betsey changes his name too (like she does with David) into something respectable.
Steerforth - pretty self-explanatory, he guides Davy to all sorts of different actions. Steerforth originally had a much less dramatic name in "Appleford", which evolved into "Steerford".
Tommy Traddles - this was a humorous name but also derives from "Thomas Talfourd" on whom the character was based.
Dora Spenlow - Dickens invented the name "Dora" with this character, probably a derivative of "adorable".
Uriah Heep - Uriah has a very interesting story to go along with his name. The surname probably derives from "heaping praises" because he obviously does that. But his first name is Biblical in origin (aligning with his godspeak) and comes from Samuel 12. In Samuel 12:1-25, God sends Nathan the Prophet to speak to King David, who has just committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of loyal soldier Uriah the Hittite. Nathan tells David a parable in which a rich man steals a poor man's only lamb. King David is fiercely indignant until he realizes the story is about him. In David Copperfield, a rivalry is set up between Uriah and David, over Agnes; the name Agnes means lamb. This is an interesting choice on Dickens' part.
I've also heard before that the name "Uriah", being Hebrew in origin, may indicate that Uriah has Jewish origin. In OMF, the "good" Jew is named Riah.
Agnes Wickfield - as mentioned above, the name Agnes means "lamb", and implies the meaning "pure". In Phiz' illustrations the lamb is a recurring theme. I've heard that the last name of "Wickfield" was just a common name Dickens chose, although "wick" indicates a feeling of light.
Murdstone - obviously a blend of "murder" and the hardness of "stone". Possible early substitutions for "Murdstone" were Harden, Murdle, and Murden. But Dickens settled on Murdstone as it tied in with David's idea of a "gravestone father".
Rosa Dartle - at first she is soft and sweet like a rose, later becomes stinging and piercing, like a dart. It refers to her personality.
Hope these help someone!