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David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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David Copperfield | Quotes


My father had once been a favorite of hers, I believe; but she was mortally affronted by his marriage, on the ground that my mother was 'a wax doll.'

David Copperfield, Chapter 1

David Copperfield explains why Miss Betsey, his father's aunt, became estranged from her nephew. She disapproved of her nephew's marriage to Clara because Clara was 20 years younger than him, and Miss Betsey thought anyone so young must be too immature to have a successful marriage.


If I was ever to be a lady, I'd give him a sky-blue coat with diamond buttons, nankeen trousers, a red velvet waistcoat, a cocked hat, a large gold watch, a silver pipe, and a box of money.

Emily, Chapter 3

Young Emily tells David Copperfield she wishes she could be a lady so she could show her uncle how much she loves and appreciates him for taking her in when she was orphaned.


They had persuaded her that I was a wicked fellow, and she was more sorry for that than for my going away.

David Copperfield, Chapter 4

David Copperfield is being sent away to boarding school because he reflexively bit Mr. Murdstone's hand when the man began to beat him. His mother has just said she's upset he has such bad tendencies and he realizes she believes Murdstone's negative characterization of him over her own.


Barkis is willin'.

Barkis, Chapter 5

Shy, socially awkward Barkis asks David Copperfield to pass this message along to Peggotty to let her know he wants to marry her.


He couldn't—or at all events, he didn't—defend me from Mr. Creakle, who was very severe with me; but whenever I had been treated worse than usual, he always told me that I wanted a little of his pluck, and that he wouldn't have stood it himself; which I felt he intended for encouragement, and considered to be very kind of him.

David Copperfield, Chapter 7

James Steerforth hasn't followed up on his promise to protect David Copperfield at school. David's naive interpretation of Steerforth's comment about having pluck is an example of how he misjudges Steerforth.


What is before you, is a fight with the world; and the sooner you begin it, the better.

Mr. Murdstone, Chapter 10

Mr. Murdstone tells David Copperfield he won't continue to pay for David's education; instead, he's sending David off to a warehouse job where he'll have to learn, at age 10, to fend for himself.


Have him measured for a suit of clothes directly.

Mr. Dick, Chapter 14

Mr. Dick's response to Miss Betsey's question about what she should do with David Copperfield helps her decide to adopt him.


They have not very fine natures, and they may be thankful that, like their coarse rough skins, they are not easily wounded.

James Steerforth, Chapter 20

When Steerforth explains to Miss Dartle how working people such as the Peggottys are different from the upper classes, David assumes he is joking.


I caution you that you have made a dangerous friend.

Agnes Wickfield, Chapter 25

Agnes Wickfield warns David Copperfield against James Steerforth, calling him David's bad angel.


Micawber could not have enjoyed the feast more if they had sold a bed to provide it.

David Copperfield, Chapter 28

David Copperfield makes a humorous reference to the Micawbers' habit of pawning their belongings when in debt and then using the money to indulge in sumptuous meals rather than pay their creditors.


'If you're an eel, sir, conduct yourself like one. If you're a man, control your limbs, sir! Good God!' said my aunt, with great indignation, 'I am not going to be serpentined and corkscrewed out of my senses!'

Miss Betsey, Chapter 35

Miss Betsey calls Uriah Heep out for his show of false humility, which he emphasizes with writhing movements of his body.


What I had to do, was, to take my woodman's axe in my hand, and clear my own way through the forest of difficulty, by cutting down the trees until I came to Dora.

David Copperfield, Chapter 36

David Copperfield faces the challenge of earning enough money to support his aunt and marry Dora Spenlow by imagining himself as a heroic woodman, clearing a path.


I am very umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I've got a little power!

Uriah Heep, Chapter 39

Uriah Heep is gloating over having manipulated Mr. Wickfield into giving him control of his business.


My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.

David Copperfield, Chapter 42

David Copperfield reflects on the value of hard work, which, along with Agnes Wickfield's encouragement and approval, helped him achieve his goals.


It has always been in my observation of human nature, that a man who has any good reason to believe in himself never flourishes himself before the faces of other people in order that they may believe in him.

David Copperfield, Chapter 48

David Copperfield has achieved success as a writer and tries to be modest in accepting praise for his talents.

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