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SEBASTIAN LEHNER
David Copperfield as an example of the Victorian socio-critical novel
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Page 11

2. Orphanage and the Problem of Single Parents


Orphanage was an important topic at the time of industrialism, because many parents had to work very hard and there were bad working conditions in the factories or workhouses. Subsequently, the parents were often physically worn out, many mothers not rarely died during or shortly after the birth of their children, and many fathers often died during their difficult, inhuman and mostly dangerous work. And the children they left were orphans, many of them still too young to care for themselves and facing a world they were not ready for, yet.

And this topic of orphanage is also raised in David Copperfield. As already can be seen under “1.” David’s father is dead yet and his mother dies shortly after the birth of her second child, presumably suffering from the tortures of her cruel husband. So that makes David an orphan, though he is not the typical child left by working-class people. His family has a higher social-standing, and even if he  also has no one to turn to, he does not suffer from hunger or bad physical conditions. However David is not the only orphan to appear in the book. There are for example Ham and Em’ly, whose fathers have been “Drowndead”[8] So presumably their fathers have been fishermen, more or less ordinary working-class people, and this makes them the typical working-class orphans.  It is a clear case where children became orphans, because the work of their parents was so dangerous that they finally died.

[8] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.40

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