David Copperfield Check-In #1

David Copperfield Read-Along

Post 1 – Chapters 1-20 (Pages 1 -270)

Welcome to the first checkpoint for our read-along of the Charles Dickens classic, David Copperfield.  This is the first read-along hosted right here at Roof Beam Reader, so any questions, comments, or suggestions as we go along would be greatly encouraged and appreciated.  

I should start off by saying that, somehow, I managed to entangle myself with three books simultaneously this month, none of which are yet completed.  I’m also about 100 pages behind in this particular read-along, something I hope to correct by the end of the weekend.  Starting a new job and the excitement that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 definitely put a slow-down on my typical reading habits.

Speaking of Harry Potter, did you know that Dan Radcliffe, the boy who has played Harry Potter in all eight movies, was first selected for an audition because of his role as David Copperfield?  Radcliffe did not even audition (in fact, his parents turned down the audition multiple times, as they did not want him to become a film star), but the producers enjoyed his David Copperfield performance so much that they kept at it until his parents said yes.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I do plan to watch it once I’ve finished the book!

Quotes and Meaning:

“-‘To insult one who is not fortunate in life, sir, and who never gave you the least offence, and the many reasons for not insulting whom you are old enough and wise enough to understand,’ said Mr. Mell, with his lip trembling more and more, ‘you commit a mean and base action.  You can sit down or stand up as you please, sir. Copperfield, go on.’

‘Young Copperfield,’ said Steerforth, coming forward up the room, ‘stop a bit.  I tell you what, Mr. Mell, once for all.  When you take the liberty of calling me mean or base, or anything of that sort, you are an impudent beggar.  You are always a beggar, you know; but when you do that, you are an impudent beggar.'” (P. 92)

I think this particular passage will come to sum up much of what the book is about – the wealthy classes, even those who appear kind or generous- abusing with insults, mimicry, and other un-kindnesses, the lower classes – even those who least deserve the insults.

Likes and Dislikes:

So far, the two things I like most so far are the characters and the prose.  As is not unusual with Dickens, I find characters who I instantly love (in this case, the Peggotty family) and characters who I instantly hate (in this case, the mother, Steerforth, and Mr. Creakle, and the Murdstones).  There are also those who I don’t have much of an opinion about and, interestingly, the main character tends to be one.  So far, I’m neither a fan of, nor an enemy of David Copperfield.  This was the case in Oliver Twist, too.  I don’t find David to be quite so innocent, angelic, or naive as Oliver Twist was (which annoyed me to no end), but he is not a stand-out character in any other way yet either.

What I dislike thus far is the story in general.  I’m ignoring Dickens’s robust prose, as one must, because we all know he wrote per word – so there are many, many words that could have been removed and likely made the story more digestible.  Still, that’s Dickens so I’ll leave that be.  I’m just not yet attracted by what’s happening.  Maybe this will change – I hope it will – and as there are nearly 700 pages left of the book, I assume quite a bit more will happen between now (David Copperfield arriving at Windsor Terrace) and the end.

What are your impressions so far?  Likes? Dislikes?  Are you all on pace with the timeline? 

Post 2: To be posted on July 31st. Will cover Pages 278 – 562 (Chapters 21 thru 41)

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10 thoughts on “David Copperfield Check-In #1

  1. This book is a bit of a slow boil. Things start happening very late in the book, I really needed to be patient. I am with you on David, I found him the most boring character in the book.

  2. He wasn’t paid by the word, he was paid by installments that didn’t necessarily have a pre-set length requirement. As one of the most popular authors of his time, it seems that that audience relished his descriptive writing. I think we’re just not used to it. Modern readers have shorter attention spans.

    • Ehh, it’s the same thing. He wrote long-winded, wordy prose to lengthen his books to make more money. It’s fine, plenty of people did it AND I agree that it was likely more welcome because attention spans were greater – reading was a much more common form of entertainment (thanks t.v., internet, cell phones.. sigh). In the serial form, too, it makes a lot of sense – people would get one installment at a time and have to wait for the next, so you wouldn’t necessarily want to get through a chapter a day.

      Still, wordy is wordy and, in my opinion, there’s a difference between a lengthy book where every word seems to serve a purpose (Tolstoy or Hugo for example) and one where, well, there are just a lot of words that don’t need to be there (Dickens, Proust).

  3. I’m pretty sure I’m behind schedule, but so far I am enjoying the story. It is funny that you don’t find David to be innocent or naive, while that is two words I would have used to describe him. Maybe I haven’t gotten far enough along to know for sure. So far the long-winded prose hasn’t bothered me. Overall, I’m happy to be reading David Copperfield. 🙂

  4. I’m a little behind on this one, but I’m not sure how far along I am because I’m reading it on my iPad. I think I’m only about chapter 8. I have more positive feelings about this one than Oliver Twist, but I agree that it’s a bit slow going. I love Dickens but this one really hasn’t pulled me in yet (which is probably why I’m behind).

  5. It’s strange how make allowances for Dickens wordiness, playing our own lack of attention, as opposed to his unnecessary verbosity, is it because he’s a classic writer who’s stood the test of time etc. Blah blah. And yet wouldn’t make the same allowance for a contemporary writer if they were as wordy. I’m not a great fan of Dickens which I’ve said before, I put it down to over-exposure.
    PS. On a slightly different tack, I actually live only 7 miles from Bleak House.

    • Haha – I don’t make too many allowances. I think a certain amount of allowance must be given for the time period and mode/fashion of popular fiction at the time, but I don’t hide the fact that I think he’s overly wordy.

  6. It took me almost a week to get through the first 20 pages. I just could not connect or care about anything that was happening. I agree – he’s so wordy that I found myself glazing over and having to go back.
    I stuck with it and now I’m starting to care about the different characters (or hate a few like Steerforth). I do hope that things pick up soon though. There isn’t much of an actual story yet, it has almost an autobiographical feel to it even though it’s fiction.
    I am finding that I like it more than I thought I would.

    • Interesting that you and I are both disliking Steerforth – I think Dickens tried to play with his character a bit, but he’s pretty easy to figure out (or so I think, right now – we’ll see). Also, I think this one reads semi-autobiographically because it is. Dickens said this book was the most like his own childhood – I think he was closely attached to this story on a personal level, and as the narrator is an older man looking back on his childhood, writing about it (and interjecting from time-to-time) it definitely comes across as an autobiography.

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