full title The Personal History and Experience of David Copperfield the Younger
author Charles Dickens
type of work Novel
genre Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel)
time and place written May 1849–November 1850; England
date of first publication May 1849–November 1850 (serial publication)
publisher Bradbury and Evans
narrator An older David Copperfield narrates the story of his childhood from his happy home in London.
point of view David writes in the first person, limiting his viewpoint to what he sees in his youth and his attitude at that time.
tone David reflects upon his youth fondly and remembers his naïve youth wistfully.
setting (time) 1800s
setting (place) England
protagonist David Copperfield
major conflict David struggles to become a man in a cruel world, with little money and few people to guide him.
rising action David loses his mother and falls victim to a cruel childhood but then has a happier youth with Miss Betsey and Agnes.
climax David realizes, while watching the reconciliation between the Strongs, that marriage cannot be happy unless husband and wife are equal partners. This realization forces David to contemplate his marriage to Dora in a new light and reconsider most of the values he has held up to this point.
falling action The various subplots involving secondary characters resolve themselves. David realizes his love for Agnes, marries her, and comes to grips with the treachery and death of his good friend Steerforth.
themes The plight of the weak; equality in marriage; wealth and class
motifs The role of mothers; accented speech; physical beauty
symbols The sea; flowers; Mr. Dick’s kite
foreshadowing The opening scene’s observation that David’s birth is inauspicious; the adult David’s remark that Little Em’ly would have been better off if the sea had swallowed her as a child; Agnes’s distrust of Steerforth; Agnes’s blush when David asks her about her love life