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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 37

Thus now she represents they typical angel-in-the-house image: she works efficiently at home, is obeying, giving herself away for others, loving order and always keeping a distant and reasonable view over various things. And David always calls her “my good Angel”[59]. So all in all Agnes is the almost ridiculously exaggerated ideal of the perfect Victorian middle-class housewife. She can rise to anything that is demanded of a woman at that time and she is the perfect example for domesticity.
However, she is decribed sexually less attractive than Dora is.

To finally sum it up, Dickens sets two types of woman in contrast: on the one hand Dora, who shows an obviuos non-conformity with the Victorian demands and expectations towards a woman and instead emphasizes the emotional, sensual and even sexual qualities of a woman. And on the other hand Agnes, who more or less symbolizes all the Victorian virtues and shows less emphasis on the erotical and sexual aspects. The main criticism inherent in this contrast is the fact that women were suppressed in the 19th century society, there was no room for personal development and either they obeyed to the rules of society or ended up in self destruction and death. Probably Dickens knew very well that this was not good, but the death of Dora, who did not fit into society, and the marriage of David to Agnes, who represents the social virtues of that time, could be a symbol that the society was stronger than the individual and that the individual either obeyed or inevitably had to end in self-destruction and death.

59 Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.342

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