By DATo_Diomedies_DATon on
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
In the course of this novel several people undergo a character metamorphosis. I feel that Dickens is making the point that people can change but only after a major resolution of personal conflict following a watershed event in their lives. Below are a few examples including the main climax of the book.
Part 3 : Climax
There are many subplots within David Copperfield's narrative. Each is a story within the main story we are reading. Each of these subplots centers primarily on one individual and their own personal internal crisis. Some of the subplot's main characters resolve the issues germane to their plight and some never do. When the resolution occurs it occurs at a specific moment of each plot. This moment is called 'climax'.
Aunt Betsy is a man hater. She became a man hater as a result of abuse received at the hands of her husband when she was a young woman. Her husband was very handsome and she loved him but he was not worthy of her. In shades of Miss Havasham from 'Great Expectations' Miss Betsy has resolved to take Clara Copperfield's expected "daughter" under her protection. Aunt Betsy vows that she will see to it that her goddaughter does not share the fate that she has experienced. But when the child is born it is a boy and Aunt Betsy storms out of the house never to return. In writing those early scenes Dickens suggests that Betsy Trotwood is not as mean as she appears to be. David's mother believes that in her distress recalling her deceased husband, David's father, that Aunt Betsy might have touched her hair in sympathy but we are never really sure if this happened. It is strongly on the basis of this disclosure that David travels to Dover to seek his aunt's help for he feels that if this simple display of affection and sympathy actually did take place there might be hope of receiving kindness from his aunt.
As we eventually learn, Aunt Betsy does indeed take him in and provides for him as she has done for Mr. Dick. We begin to understand that her hatred of men has its limits and that she places a higher emphasis on charity and kindness than she does on her hatred. Many are led to believe that Miss Betsy's climax occurs when Agnes gives birth to a girl who at long last fills the place desired by Miss Trotwood at David's birth .... but this is not so. Miss Betsy's climax occurs when she cries for her estranged husband when he dies. Much like Traddles skeletons her tears purge the hate that has blinded her for so many years. Perhaps David's birth which led to his subsequent endearment in her heart was the catalyst for forgiveness.
Mr. Peggotty, unlike Miss Betsy, is a person we KNOW we like from the very minute we meet him. We learn of his kindness to Emily, Ham and Mrs. Gummage and his humility in not tolerating any thanks or other mention regarding his kindnesses. But we learn that there is one thing that seems out of character for him. Ham tells David that Mr. Peggotty did not consider Martha, a disgraced young woman and former friend of Emily, even worthy of walking in the shadow of l'il Emily. Mr. Peggotty considers Martha beneath contempt for what she has become though we are led to believe that her circumstances were not the result of her own free will. But it was Martha who eventually saved Emily who was Mr. Peggotty's reason for living. The climax of Mr. Peggotty's subplot is when, through the bravery and efforts of Martha he once again holds his beloved Emily in his arms. The effect this has upon his former prejudice is evidenced in the chapter entitled 'Emigrants' when he asks David if anything is left undone before he and Emily sail away to Australia. David replies "Martha". And then, in one of the most beautiful moments in the entire canon of English literature, Mr. Peggotty touches a woman standing behind him ... she turns ... and it is Martha.
Mr. Peggotty is taking Martha with him and Emily to Australia thus saving her from her current circumstances and giving her life new birth in another land. In so doing he has himself been redeemed from the pit of prejudice and restored to being the generous man we met at the beginning of the book.
Dora is David's "child-wife" and unfortunately for David she is, shall we say, a bubblehead. Dora is very immature and incompetent in all things of a practical nature and though we can find no evil in her we sometimes want to shake her and tell her to get with the program. She comes to realize that she and David are at odds sometimes but David resolutely determines to work on the marriage even though he has just about given up hope that Dora will ever be anything else but Dora. Despite her immaturity it is only on her death bed that she soars in our estimation when she has a secret discussion with Agnes and makes her promise that only she, Agnes, will ever take her place in David's life. In this final act she has achieved nobility in our eyes and the climax of her story is centered in this single act of incisive insight.
Many people consider the climax of the book, for reasons I cannot fathom, to be found in the chapter entitled 'Tempest' and that it is centered in the death of Steerforth and Ham. Actually, the book is about David and the only possible climax would have to be centered in the root of David's own redemption or collapse. The climax of the main story takes place when Mr. Dick brings Annie Strong and Dr. Strong back together. In Annie Strong's supplications to Dr. Strong that he believe the truth of her honest love for him she mentions that age does not matter but rather the likeness of mind (compatibility). It is at this very moment, as David listens to her, that he realizes that Dora is wrong for him and, though they love each other, they will never be happy together because they are so different. David is naive his entire life. It is his naivete' that causes him to blunder constantly. A thief takes his money and his belongings when he is a child, another eats the dinner and drinks the ale he has paid for himself, and most seriously he believes in Steerforth despite the ill treatment of Mr. Mell at Steerforth's hands and the warnings of Agnes. When he hears Annie Strong's words he becomes enlightened to his propensity to err in ways detrimental to himself and others.