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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
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Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 4 Mar 2012 17:28:15 -0800
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

	We pass on the post of John Stoler <[log in to unmask]> without
any comment save that you will be glad you read it.      (pjm)

I hate to disagree with Professor Grossman's view that *David
Copperfield* is not autobiographical except for a few
autobiographical incidents.  I think that such a reading of the novel
ignores the "autobiographical fairy tale" that Dickens has
constructed.  In "Copperfield," Dickens has blended facts of his life
with his vision of how he would have liked those facts to have
transpired.  Freud argues that writers reconstruct the realities of
their lives in narrative to satisfy their visions of what should have
been.  John Irwin in his perceptive book on Faulkner elaborates on
that idea, saying that time is not irreversible in narrative.

While there are many obvious autobiographical elements in
"Copperfield"--David's coming across the eighteenth-century novels
that his father had purchased, his learning shorthand to get a job
covering Parliamentary proceedings, his writing a "story" which leads
him to write a novel and then novels which make him famous, his
traumatic experience at Murdstone and Grinby's, and a number of
minor incidents from his life-- there are many other events in the
novels which clearly are Dickens' attempts to give a fairytale ending
to disturbing elements in his life.  Dickens could not leave Warren's
Blacking House but David accomplished what Charles could not by
running into the arms of a fairy godmother who bathed, clothed, fed,
and renamed him in a symbolic rebirth--the frog turned into the
Prince, a gentleman.  The lack of education Dickens lamented is
resolved in the narrative by his schooling with Dr. Strong.  Dora's
domestic ineptitude reflects Dickens' conception of Kate's
inabilities, but even though he banished Kate, she was still his
wife;  David, however, was "blessed" with the death of Dora which
allowed him to marry Agnes, Dickens' idealized woman based on the
physical attractions of Mary Hogarth and the domesticity of
Georgina.  Dickens' father was a hard worker (Dickens hired him at
one point to help manage one of Dickens' offices) but he could not
manage money, resulting in his imprisonment for debt and his frequent
borrowing of money using Charles's name as collateral; he also was
mocked in his son's letters for his roundabout, flowery speech.
Dickens was embarrassed by these traits but handled them through the
comedy of Mr. Macawber in the novel

There are other fairytale elements in the novel, based on real events
in Dickens' life.  The fairytale nature of this autobiographical
fairytale is supported by the large number of allusions to stories,
fantasies, and fairy tales that run throughout the novel, more such
allusions than occur in any other of his works.

A year before his death, Dickens said that *David Copperfield* was
the favorite of his writings.  He had rewritten his life to conform
with the way it should have been.