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SEBASTIAN LEHNER
David Copperfield as an example of the Victorian socio-critical novel
IN PRINT

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  


Page 13

3. Salem House – A Criticism of the Educational System

Even before David’s mother dies, David is sent away to “Salem House”, a boarding school near London, on behalf of his step-father Mr Murdstone. He had a quarrel with him and bite his hand, so Murdstone is in a rage and sends David away to get rid of him.

The incident of David being sent away to a boarding school, makes it possible for Dickens to bring to speech what is in his mind about schools in the 19th century. It is to be said beforehand, that Salem House can be seen as a representative of many schools at the time of Dickens, so the following is not a single case, but rather what was common in educational institutions at that time.

The first criticism that is raised, is the criticism of the schoolrooms themselves. In the book they are described as a  “(…) desolate place (…), (where) scraps of old copybooks and exercises, litter the floor.” And that “There is a strange unwholesome smell upon the room, like mildewed corduroys, sweet apples wanting air, and rotten books.” and that “There could not well be more ink splashed about it (…)”[9].

[9] all three qotations, Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.81

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