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David Copperfield as an example of the Victorian socio-critical novel

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  

Page 17

4. Child Labour – How Industrialism Affects The Children

Child labour was an important issue at the time of industrialism. Reason for this was that many parents did not earn enough money to make ends meet, and so the children often had to earn in addition, so that the families could afford food and accomodation. And as  industrialization was taking place at an overwhelming speed and several branches of the industry were more or less exploding, there was a constant lack of workforce and so many factory owners greeted any kind of worker, even children, with open arms to keep their enterprises expanding. The children, however, were often very young, the work was difficult and the wages were low, this often resulted in physical and mental damage and it was no longer possible for the children to develop freely.

Dickens draws attention to child labour in his book with the example of David Copperfield. After the death of his mother, his father-in-law sees no longer any reason for sending him to school, and as he wants to get rid of him anyway, he sends him to work in his own warehouse called “Murdstone and Grinby”. Here we find another reason for sending children to work:  to get rid of them and have them out of one’s way. Dickens very clearly expresses his attitude towards child labour, when young David says: “How can I so easily be thrown away at such an age.”[13] This is an unambiguous statement against child labour and explains how useless and sensless it is to send young children to work, a mere waste of human beings.

[13] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.150

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