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David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the motifs in Charles Dickens's novel David Copperfield.

David Copperfield | Motifs


The Undisciplined Heart

The motif of the undisciplined heart represents immaturity, particularly in making romantic choices. Several of the characters, including David Copperfield, have a tendency to fall in love based on physical attraction. David is impressed when Annie Strong says she's glad she didn't allow her undisciplined heart to lead her into what would have been a very unhappy marriage to Jack Maldon. David recognizes he's prone to letting his undisciplined heart lead him to make unwise, immature life choices.

The Forest of Difficulty

David Copperfield uses the metaphor of chopping down trees in the forest of difficulty to represent the hard work ahead of him when he decides he must learn the difficult skill of taking shorthand while also holding down two jobs. He needs to learn shorthand so he can improve his income enough to support his aunt and marry Dora. To inspire himself to persist in his task, he imagines himself as a heroic woodsman, clearing a path through the forest of difficulty.

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