David Copperfield Study Guide

David Copperfield By Charles Dickens

David Copperfield's father died before he was born, so he lived with his mother and Peggotty, his nurse. His mother married Mr. Murdstone, and brings his strict sister, Miss Murdstone, into their home. The Murdstones beat David, and send him away to school.

David meets Peggotty's family, including adopted neice Lil Em'ly and adopted nephew Ham, and moves away to school at Salem House, which is run by a Mr. Creakle. David makes friends out of egotistical young James Steerforth, and Tommy Traddles, a fat boy who gets beaten often.

David's mother dies, and David returns home where the Murdstones continue to neglect and hate him. He works for Mr. Murdstone, and hates it. Finally, he decides to look for his last living relative - his aunt, Betsey Trotwood. He treks far to meet her, and she takes him in, but then sends him off to a new school.

At the new school, David moves in with Mr. Wickfield and his daughter Agnes. Agnes and David become best friends. Also living there is Uriah Heep, who is very nosy. David eventually graduates and goes to visit Peggotty, who has gotten married to Mr. Barkis, and reflect on his future profession.

On the way, he encounters his old friend James Steerforth, and they visit James' mother, then proceed to visit Peggotty, whose family becomes fond of James. David returns to Miss Betesy, who convinces him to try a career as a proctor (a kind of lawyer). David takes an apprenticeship, and quickly falls in love with his boss's daughter, Dora.

Word reaches David that Mr. Barkis is terminally ill, so David returns to visit Peggotty in her hour of need. He learns there that Ham and Lil Em'y are engaged, but Lil Em'ly rus off when Mr. Barkis dies. Peggotty is devastated but vows to bring Lil Em'ly home. Miss Betsey visits to inform David that her finances have been wrecked by Uriah Heep.

David vows to work hard so that he can have a life with Dora, but her father Mr. Spenlow forbids it. He dies in a carriage accident that night, and Dora is swept away to live with her aunts. Dora and David get married regardless, and Dora turns out to be a horrible housewife. David is happy nonetheless,

David then learns where Lil Em'ly is, and she is rapidly returned to her foster father, who decides to move to Australia with her. Ham is killed in a storm, Dora falls ill and dies, and David starts to fall in love with his old friend Agnes. Agnes has long harbored a secret love for David, and the two get married and have children. David becomes a successful writer, and commences writing his memoirs (this very book!).

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