David Copperfield is the titular protagonist and narrator of the novel. Orphaned as a young boy, he's sent to work in a rat-infested London warehouse, but he sets out on his own to become a success in life. Imaginative, naive, earnest, and kind, he gains the love and support of family and friends. Through persistence and hard work, he overcomes challenges and heartache as he makes his way in the world.
Peggotty is a cheerful presence in David Copperfield's early childhood years. After the death of young David's mother, Peggotty marries Barkis, the stage driver, but she sets aside a bedroom for David so he can stay with them whenever he likes. An important mother figure in David's life, Peggotty continues to be a source of love and constancy for him.
James Steerforth is the son of a wealthy widow. His proud, haughty demeanor, good looks, and easy self-confidence inspire a kind of hero-worship in David. David enjoys showing off his charming friend to the Peggottys, but he comes to regret the introduction when Steerforth's true nature is revealed and he betrays their friendship.
Uriah Heep is a few years older than David Copperfield and is Mr. Wickfield's clerk when David first meets him. He's a suspicious, conniving character who feigns humility as a way of gaining power. Heep uses manipulation to become partners with Mr. Wickfield and comes close to causing Mr. Wickfield to lose everything, including his home, before his plans are foiled by Mr. Micawber.
Dora Spenlow is young, pretty, and totally impractical. David Copperfield falls in love with her at first sight. His determination to marry Dora inspires David to work hard to achieve financial stability and success. Dora's childishness and David's own naïveté cause their marriage to be less than fulfilling. A few years into their marriage, Dora becomes ill and dies.
Miss Betsey Trotwood adopts David Copperfield when he runs away from his warehouse job. She's eccentric, opinionated, and kind. She has strong opinions about marrying too young, having made the same mistake herself. Still, she's supportive of David and Dora, and as David's third mother figure, she helps him along his career path, giving him wise and loving guidance along the way.
Agnes Wickfield and David Copperfield become friends when David attends school in Canterbury and rooms in Mr. Wickfield's house. He thinks of her as his sister and his "good angel," confiding in her and seeking her advice on many things. She keeps house for her widowed father and copes with his depression and tendency to overindulge in wine. Agnes becomes friends with Dora after David's marriage, and years after Dora's death, she and David finally admit their love for each other and marry.