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

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  

Page 18

Furthermore, the conditions under which the children had to work, were mostly very bad ones. This is also expressed in the novel, when David describes his place of emplyoment as a “crazy old house (…) abutting with water (…) and (…) mud, and (…) overrun with rats”[14]. The children often suffered not only from physical, but also from mental destruction and psychological damage, because of the horrrible conditions they were exposed to. Dickens even intensifies this criticism with sentences like “No word can express the secret agony of my soul (…)”[15].

It makes clear that he wants to draw attention to the lack of love and affection, the children had to cope with and criticises that many children in his time were not given even the slightest perspective of a happier life. Also Dickens’ use of a somewhat ironical language adds to the social criticism in his novel. David is “informed”, he “discovers” and there is a boy with the “extraordinary name Mealy Potatoes”[16]. So very rational and selected words are employed to describe a very emotional and desperate situation. Thus, a contrast is achieved that helps to emphasize and convey what shall be criticized.

To sum it up, with the example of David working in that warehouse, Dickens evidently shows his detest of child labour and, though he probably knew that he would not be able to change the misstandings of his times by mentioning them in his book, he possibly just wanted to draw some attention to them and make his readers think about what was going on in the world of industrialism and how the children were treated.

[14] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.151    [15] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.151
[16] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.151

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