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SEBASTIAN LEHNER
David Copperfield as an example of the Victorian socio-critical novel
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Page 38

2. Betsey Trotwood – The Example of an Early Emancipated Woman


The image conveyed with the character of Betsey Trottwood, David’s Aunt, is by far less complicated than the Dora-Agnes-Nexus. Still it is very interesting, because it may be a bit surprising to find this type of woman in a 19th century novel, which clearly shows that Dickens might have been ways ahead of his time. The striking features of Betsey Trotwood are that she is married, however lives seperated from her husband, she owns a house of her own, lives on her own account and is completely independent from any male person, whatsoever. In the novel she is even described a bit “eccentric and masculine”[60], which could easily be a result of her lack of “feminine physical qualities”[61]. And finally she has enough resolve to help the child David get away from his cruel stepfather Mr Murdstone and it all “ends with Aunt [Betsey] adopting him”[62]. So the woman portrayed here is surely not fitting into the picture of a woman during the Victorian Age: she is reasonable, sharp-mimded and more or less what would now be called cosmopolitan. But on the other hand she is also loving and caring towards David and leading a houshold, of course. So Dickens is drawing the picture of a woman, who is emotional, sensual and able to show motherly qualities and at the same independent, responsible for her own life and able to show steely resolve and determination to hold her own ground in a world dominated by men. Subsequently, it should not be wrong to call her one of the earliest emancipated women in literature.

[60] Ayres, Brenda, Dissenting Women in Dickens’ Novels, The Women of David Copperfield:The Choice of an Undisciplined Heart, p.17        [61] Ayres, Brenda, Dissenting Women in Dickens’ Novels, The Women of David Copperfield:The Choice of an Undisciplined Heart, p.17f           [62] Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, p.825 

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