In the history of the formation and development of English realism, Charles Dickens’s novel “David Copperfield” occupies a special place. Along with such famous works of the writer as “Cold House” and “Little Dorrit”, this novel marks a qualitatively new stage in his work, characterized by a deeper penetration of Charles Dickens into the psychology of his characters.
“David Copperfield” – the first and only experience of the writer in the genre of an autobiographical novel. And although he himself invariably refuted the criticism of the autobiographical nature of the novel, David Copperfield is still an artistically recreated biography of the writer from childhood to 1836, that is, until Charles Dickens became a famous writer.
There are whole scenes in the novel, very reminiscent of real life situations, in which the writer himself was a direct participant. For example, the matchmaking and marriage of David repeat the story of Dickens’s marriage to Catherine Hoggard, who later became his wife – Mrs. Dickens.
And yet the writer does not recreate specific faces in his novel, but draws typical images. The story of the main character in “David Copperfield” is quite true. And although in this novel Dickens does not put scaled social problems, it already contains all the signs of a social novel. A fairy-tale element with an orphan boy, to which a condition in the form of an inheritance that changes the hero’s long-suffering life in an instant, is already missing from David Copperfield. But there is a real life artistically recreated by the writer with carefully written out household details.
From the first glance in “David Copperfield” there are all the signs of the classic “upbringing novel”, like the Goethe “Wilhelm Meister”. However, in the novel of Dickens, the life path of the hero is recreated not by the consistent observance of the course of events, but by the whimsical play of his memory, which, “in essence, genetically anticipates the prose of M. Proust and D. Joyce.” “David Copperfield” is a novel about the hero’s memories and their role in his life, and therefore about the time and feelings caused by memory. From this point of view, we have not only an autobiographical novel, but also a socio-psychological novel.
At the same time, Dickens not only records the experience of David Copperfield on the pages of his novel, but subjects this experience to the most complicated ethical analysis, on the basis of which a new understanding of the nature of good and evil arises. And in this sense, this novel is also philosophical. Thus, we have every reason to assert that “David Copperfield” is an autobiographical, socio-psychological, philosophical novel.