David Copperfield

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Author: Charles Dickens, an English writer of the Victorian Era.
The story is written in first-person narrative by the protagonist David, beginning with his childhood and continuing with the events of his life up to the point of writing as an adult. David’s earliest memories are of his mother, the young widow Clara, bringing up her husband’s posthumous child in Blunderstone Rookery, with the help of his nurse Peggotty. The three have a blissful existence till his mother starts seeing Murdstone, an attractive but brutal gentleman. Peggotty takes David to her home at Yarmouth, and he returns to find he now has a stern and ruthless stepfather.
At Yarmouth, David meets Peggotty’s brother Daniel and the two orphans he is bringing up as his own – nephew Ham and niece Little Em’ly. They live on the coast in a grounded boat, and David spends a pleasant week there. Back home, Murdstone and his sister Jane make the life of mother and son miserable. When David retaliates to a beating by biting Murdstone’s hand, he is locked in a room for five days, and subsequently sent off to school at Salem House near London. There David makes friends with Steerforth, a popular and influential boy; and Traddles, who is most ridiculed and penalized. The headmaster Creakle regularly gives a flogging to the boys. Only Peggotty and Ham visited him in school once.
David comes home on vacation but barely spends time with his mother due to the Murdstone siblings’ interference. He finds a new little brother there. David returns to Salem House and soon turns ten. His mother expires not long after, allegedly from a heart broken by Murdstone’s ill-treatment of her. This time David leaves the school never to return.
Miss Murdstone had dismissed Peggotty, who married Barkis, the carriage driver. Nobody cares for David at home any longer, and his one respite is a short visit to Yarmouth. He is eventually sent off to London. There he washes and labels wine bottles at Murdstone’s warehouse Murdstone and Grinby. He puts up with the family of Wilkins Micawber, a pathologically optimistic and compassionate man who, unfortunately, does not live within his means. When he lands up in the debtor’s prison along with his loyal and supportive wife and subsequently moves away from the city, David decides to leave London as well.
He reaches Dover on foot and looks for his paternal grandaunt Betsy Trotwood whom he had never seen before. David’s austere but benevolent aunt takes him in, then speaks to the Murdstones and is offended by them. David also meets the eccentric simpleton Mr. Dick living in her house. Aunt Betsy had offered David’s mother to be godmother to her daughter, but she had a son instead. Now his aunt appoints herself David’s guardian and sends him to Dr. Strong’s renowned school at Canterbury, where David performs very well through the years.
Aunt Betsy arranges for him to live at the house of the lawyer Mr. Wickfield while attending school. Mr. Wickfield’s daughter, the lovely Agnes, becomes a good friend of David. The lawyer’s clerk is Uriah Heep, a scheming, manipulative and treacherous young man. He exploits his weak and alcoholic master and takes control of the firm.
David finishes school, and still uncertain about the choice of a profession, he travels to London. He comes across his old schoolmate Steerforth, who takes him home. Later, the two travel to Yarmouth where Ham is now engaged to his cousin Little Em’ly. Upon return, he enters Doctor’s Commons to become a proctor, where the other school friend Traddles is also preparing for a career in law. David is articled at the firm Spenlow and Jorkins, sponsored by his aunt. He becomes besotted with Mr. Spenlow’s daughter Dora and starts composing poetry.
David comes to know that Barkis is dying and hurries to be with Peggotty at Yarmouth. He hears that Little Em’ly, who always aspired to be a lady, has eloped with Steerforth. In London, Aunt Betsy, along with Mr. Dick, comes to stay with David having lost all her money to her former husband. Micawber now works for Uriah Heep, who has maneuvered successfully to become a full partner in the firm. Heep had also insinuated to Dr. Strong that his wife Annie was having an affair with cousin and childhood sweetheart Maldon, who lived with them. Mr. Dick’s mediation mitigated the misunderstanding. David secures part-time employment with Dr. Strong. Moreover, Traddles helps him to learn shorthand with the aim of becoming a parliamentary reporter.
David exerts himself to earn enough to marry Dora, though Mr. Spenlow’s approval is unlikely to be forthcoming. This problem is solved most unexpectedly as Dora’s father passes away in an accident. Though David is happy with Dora as his wife, she is inept at keeping house, and David wonders how good a mother the pregnant Dora would be. As things turn out, the infant dies at birth, and the invalid Dora dies after spending weeks in bed. Agnes consoles the distressed David and helps him recover from his grief.
By this time, David had become a successful reporter and also published his first novel to wide acclaim. He had earlier helped Daniel Peggotty to trace Em’ly, who had left Steerforth. Daniel takes Em’ly to Australia to start a new life. Micawber also moves to Australia with his family after he exposed Uriah Heep with Traddle’s help, as having embezzled Aunt Betsy’s money and having deceived the Wickfields. Aunt Betsy then gets her money back.
Ham dies trying and failing to save a shipwrecked man at Yarmouth, who is revealed to be Steerforth. David travels abroad for three years after Dora’s death and only returns when it dawns on him that he had always been in love with Agnes. He meets Mr. Creakle, now a magistrate, in whose prison Uriah Heep is incarcerated. David marries Agnes and lives happily with her and their children, along with Peggotty, Mr. Dick, and his aunt.

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