"This narrative is my written memory", declares David Copperfield in the last section of this elephantine novel, a sentence that strongly implies an autobiographical imprint of the author in the making of his famous middle-class hero. But is that aspect what I most value of this work
Far from it.
This thick volume is quite an ambitious journey: partly a comic story, which often verges on a tale for children, and partly a picaresque book tinged with distinctive dramatic intention that fluctuates in the cyclical calamities and climaxes that sway a long list of memorable characters back and forth in the tide of Dickens' fluent storytelling.
Marriage, friendship, betrayal, the multifarious forms of parenthood, and the eternal battle between good and evil are the axes around which the personal growth of naive, almost seraphic-like David will revolve.
As I followed David from boyhood to adulthood and all the tragedies and unexpected gifts life throws on his way, I started to wonder about his real role in the story.
Is David the "real protagonist"
Or is he a mere bystander, a passive witness that chronicles events unfolding around him without taking action in them
Maybe the real protagonists are the motley array of characters, so rich in description and recognizable for the repetitive idiomatic expressions that identify their eccentricities and foibles that make them unique.irreplaceable.
Peggotty's mother's love, in spite of her being childless, Uriah Heep's humble meanness, Mr. Micawer's bountiful utterances, the always willin' Barkis, Mr. Dick's innocent intelligence, Mrs Gummidge's repetitive lament "I'm a lone lorn creetur and everything goes contrairy with me", Dora's childish capriciousness, Agnes' patient wisdom, Mr. Peggotty's huge heart
This extended cast of characters paints the canvas of intricate humanity on David's quiet countenance, transfiguring him into a mirror that reflects the reader's own nature staring back in his eye, with all his vices and virtues glowing with renewed light. David doesn't move forward the pace of the narrative, he is the moving point on which everything else; plot, characters, essence; converges.
But for this particular reader, David Copperfield goes beyond the realm of literary fiction; he has won a permanent place in my personal journey towards wholeness. He is a role model to look up to. His observant glance bespeaks of obstinate compassion and blind (blindness is not always bad!) faith in mankind, of the virtuous circle of goodwill and good intention, of the power of positive attitude in front of adversity.
There is not an ounce of cheap sentimentalism in the numerous pages of this epic tale, but one will find an overdose of tenderness and smart humor that shine with intelligence and soul, that dares to approach life and its archetypical structures from other perspectives, that embraces those who are different as dear life.
The concept of family has drastically expanded and reached a superior level for me. Family is now an unknown "valley, with the evening sun shining on the remote heights of snow, that close it in, like eternal clouds", an open door that welcomes the future, wherever it might lead me.