Dickens' Portrayal Of The Family In David Copperfield

1015 words - 4 pages

Dickens' portrayal of the family in David Copperfield is an interesting one; almost none of the characters has a complete family. There are countless examples of orphans, single parents, and even completely heretical perversions of the traditional family. The effect of these fragmented homes is to emphasize characters' loneliness, the fragility of the family, and the importance of forming other bonds of friendship and responsibility. Dickens came from a large, poor family and argues that family is not to be solely relied upon; also, that a family must not necessarily be based upon blood ties. A family can be any group of people who love and support each other; in the novel both Mr. Peggotty's family and David's family are such examples. On the other hand, Steerforth's family, albeit more traditional, is a loveless one, and splinters easily.Mr. Peggotty's family is one of the sturdiest families in the novel. At the same time it is most certainly the least traditional. Daniel Peggotty is the head of the family; he is the generous, manly, father figure. He not only takes in Ham and Emily as orphans, but also makes a home for Mrs. Gummidge, the widow of his partner. Mrs. Gummidge's role in the family is an odd one. She had "rather a fretful disposition, and she whimpered more sometimes than was comfortable for other parties in so small an establishment" (35). Mrs. Gummidge would have no proper place in a traditional family, but in Peggotty's family is a loved member who, throughout the plot, changes considerably from a simple nag to a strong support. Ham has the role of son to Mr. Peggotty and brother to Emily. He is strong and becomes a fisherman under the guidance of Daniel. Emily is the baby of the family; she is spoiled and constantly doted on. She is also the binding agent of this family; she is beloved by all, and when she elopes, it is near disaster for the family as all members are broken hearted. It is during this time of fragility where the family could have collapsed that its true strength emerges. Mr. Peggotty and Ham, both realize that it is senseless to be angered and hope only for Emily's return. Even Mrs. Gummidge realizes the time of need and begins to show a quiet strength. When Emily does return, the family emigrates to Australia, but remains together so as to continue to support each other. Mr. Peggotty's family is composed of his partners Widow, two orphans, and himself a "bacheldore" (31). This type of family arrangement would have been rare in Dickens' nineteenth century. But, nevertheless Dickens shows that when a family is one filled with support and love it does not need to be traditional in order to be safe, healthy, and reliable.David's family with Aunt Betsey is a peculiar one at best. Aunt Betsey is no doubt the head of this arrangement, while David and Mr. Dick are its members. Mr. Dick and Aunt Betsey have lived together ever since David's...

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