Moral emptiness, like the new for Charles Dickens ethical category, first appears on the pages of the novel “David Copperfield.” Is it accidental? Dickens, having refused in his work from the mechanical forces that cut the knots of contradictions, and dispelling the illusions of self-deception of their heroes, in a certain sense deprived them of “great hopes”, even if they were unreal, fantastic, but hopeful. What is left for them? After all, the greatest insight can not replace even the smallest hope.
In the early novels of the writer, the death of Mr. Spenlow would resolve all the contradictions and lead to a happy ending the story told by the writer. But in “David Copperfield” is already different. The death of Mr. Spenlow, which eliminated David’s obstacle to achieving the goal, not only does not simplify the problem, but on the contrary, complicates it. In David’s heart, a doubt arises: is the choice made correctly, whether
the girl-wife will be his true friend, in fact the twin of another girl-wife-David’s mother.
In fact, in the novel, the ideal of early Dickens – the fairy-tale image of a female child embodying angelic purity – gradually loses its appeal, is debunked by the author himself and finally reveals his moral void. But the threat of moral emptiness, like the “sword of Damocles,” hangs over David Copperfield. And this sword of Damocles is doubt, which also can not replace the lost hopes. It is not without reason that the heroes of Dickens in this novel, endowed with a moral emptiness, Spenlaw and Steerforth, die, and the extreme expression of moral emptiness is embodied in the form of the hideous Uriah Gipa.
The fact is that Dickens does not deprive his heroes of “great hopes”. Even in this “life-filled” novel, in which the writer has so consistently confirmed his life experience, there was still a place for the Christmas theme. But this theme, close to the heart of the writer, is already connected not so much with the warmth of the home as with the idea of fighting
in the stormy sea of life, so alien to the early Dickens.
Thus, instead of the illusions of “high hopes,” Dickens offers his heroes a fight for happiness, for happiness can only be experienced through all life’s trials and tribulations. Struggle in the world’s sea becomes that “cleansing force” that helps David to see clearly and see in Agnes qualities close to the most matured hero. The threat of moral emptiness disappears, defeated by the struggle for happiness, during which the true moral insight and fulfillment of the “high hopes” of the heroes most dear to the writer comes.