Just a few of the many points made in our discussions last week:
more discussion of the parallel between Uriah and David
not much narrative arc; just the rise of David, plus incidents
David is a surprisingly passive figure
the self-made is a new kind of victorian person
self-made man? - David didn't make it on his own - C Nicole Mason says explicitly that she had some luck and help
How old was David when he marries Agnes?
young David Copperfield is sort of like Harry Potter
a reader identified with Pip from Great Expectations and Oliver Twist when he read those as a young man - didn't have the same reaction to David - the character was a cipher
most troubling line for Miriam - it's better as it is (Dora, about her own death) - this allows David to be off the hook
Dora's loss of a child is described in one line and it's very obscure: I had hoped that lighter hands than mine...p 704 ch 48
No real explanation for Dora's decline - she needs to die
Pregnancy was the one taboo in victorian fiction
Dora is inadequate to what a professional man needs - what kind of partnership is required of women for this 'new victorian man'
reader: Dora is at least real, Agnes is not real
So many characters die - even Jip - so sentimental - it's almost comical, but people at the time wept over that
was anyone else surprised that he married Dora?
what would have happened if Dora had survived?
Betsey points out - you know I never realized how much work goes into being an author
Betsey didn't stay with her husband, but she didn't divorce him
Character Littimer: character has no reason for being as despicable as he is - he exists in relation to steerforth = what does steerforth need to carry out his designs - very one-dimensional
Subplots: Annie and Dr Strong,
Rosa Dartle - she turns on Mrs Steerforth and Emily - what is the source of her rage
Rosa is more tragic than evil
The Murdstones are never punished
Traddles' Sophy - another miracle woman
Why can Martha remarry but not Emily? Dickens wants to save Emily as someone we can admire and look up to - she is divided from 'real' prostitutes
Traddles character - shows virtue of restraint, hard steady work
Micawber - a stretch that he turned out so successful
Uriah lost his Cockney accent during the period when he was confronted by David et al., picked up again in prison
Was Ham's body recovered after drowning? confusing to figure out this scene - why does David devote himself to Steerforth's body rather than Ham's?
Ham is the son of Noah. Dickens loves boats that are shipshape
Mr. Dick - purely virtuous - precursor of Forrest Gump
Mr Dick - is the implication that in order to be truly good, having an intellect is a hindrance - he is so good, and supposed to be of limited intellect
Mr Dick - (Dixon per Micawber) - connection to Dickens' name
Steerforth had ambiguity, he did some good
Women: Fallen women, fallen angels, women are the motive force here. David is saved by Betsey and her money; Agnes of course, always pointing upwards, many consequential women
emigration to Australia is a common piece of Victorian fiction
every episode has its own dramatic peak and then fades away
only people of color in DC - Julia Mills comes back from Australia with a servant who was a woman of color
Notion of respectability - the word is repeated many times in connection with Littimer
the prison scene is startling - who are these perfect inmates? Uriah and Littimer - Dickens was interested in prison reform - is Dickens questioning the possibility of reform? He felt that the system was soul crushing, esp. solitary confinement. Who was successful in the system? Those two know what to do, how to grease the wheels
drowning is a central metaphor - the caul is supposed to save a sailor from drowning - it's significant that steerforth
Dickens always talks about cleanliness, not just in DC
Uranus house - a charity Dickens started with philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts - it was a home for homeless women (prostitutes)
significance of place in the novel - yarmouth vs canterbury - canterbury is a cathedral town - Agnes is in the cathedral town - Uriah is the worm who destroys the sanctified place
Yarmouth is where the working poor live -DC goes to yarmouth when he needs a break. But he is the worm who ruins Yarmouth - he introduces Steerforth.
vulnerability of asking for help - David and C. Nicole Mason - (also appears in Hillbilly Elegy)
Was Dickens just getting sick of writing the book when he wrote the prison chapter?
Was fun reading and listening to audio in combo - the reader used great accents, and I heard them when I went back to the text
Is the jail system scene a comment on Jeremy Bentham / utilitarianism / the Panopticon prison?
The book is an interesting commentary on the status of women, and class distinctions without hitting you over the head with it