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

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  

Page 31

9. Australia – The Substitute for the lost American Dream

The following feature of the novel is probably not the most striking one to prove that “David Copperfield” is a socio-critical novel and one can never be sure, if Dickens meant it the way it is interpreted here. But it is very interesting that in the end of the novel Australia gains a more and more important role. It almost seems that Dickens takes each of his unlucky characters, who have not found a solution for their lives yet and sends them to Australia, which more and more symbolises the country of opportunities and success: may it be for the poor Peggoties, a family of fishermen, that have “done nowt but prosper”[46] in Australia and make a living of sheep and stock-farming there and thus have improved their poor living conditions extremely.

May it be for little Em’ly, who rose and fell with Steerforth and now cares for and teaches children in the Bush, looks after sick people, works as a nurse in the Outback and helps organizing weddings of other girls.[47] And so has finally got a firm grip of her life and become a “lady” in her own terms of the definition. Or may it be the unsuccessful, but ever optimistic Mr Micawber, who is finally able to pay his depts and has gained the honoured and very respected position of a “Magistrate”[48] in an Australian city called Port Middlebay. No matter, how bad their situation in Great Britain is, Dickens takes them all and sends them to HIS land of opportunity and equal rights for everyone. However, HIS land of opportunity is no longer America, as it used to be the refuge for those who were “yearning to breathe free” for a very long time.

[46] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.797     [47] cf. Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.798
[48] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.800

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