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David Copperfield | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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

David Copperfield | Symbols


Blunderstone Rookery

Symbolic of poor life choices, Blunderstone Rookery is the name of the Copperfields' home. David's father had called it a rookery because before he bought it he'd noticed rook nests in the trees, not realizing the nests had long ago been abandoned. Miss Betsey points out one aspect of the symbolism of Blunderstone Rookery when she visits on the night David is born. She says it's just like her nephew to take "the birds on trust, because he sees the nests." This symbolizes the character flaw of naïveté, something David struggles with, as an inherited family trait. In addition, the word blunder in the name symbolizes the tendency to make errors in judgment.

The Sea

In David Copperfield, the sea is associated with uncontrollable forces in life. It represents both death and rebirth. When David first visits Yarmouth and walks on the beach with Emily, he's struck by the realization the sea has taken the lives of so many people, including Emily's father, Ham's father, and Mrs. Gummidge's husband. Steerforth, an uncontrollable force in himself, is drawn to the sea and, ultimately, it takes his life.

The sea is also a symbol of rebirth, offering the chance of redemption. Emily, Martha, and other characters needing to start over or seek redemption travel across the sea to start new lives in Australia.


Flowers, with their bright colors and pleasant scents, symbolize love, innocence, hope, and romance. David Copperfield's first sight of Miss Betsey's cottage, after his long trek from Dover, is of her garden, "full of flowers, carefully tended, and smelling deliciously." The flower garden symbolizes the love and hope Miss Betsey gives David. When David boldly flirts with the much older Miss Larkins, he asks her to give him one of the flowers she wears in her hair, and he treasures it for days until his hopes are dashed by news of her marriage. When David meets Dora, they spend time walking in the garden, appreciating the beauty of the flowers, and his first gift to her is a bouquet of flowers. Miss Betsey takes to calling Dora "Little Blossom." The giving of flowers signifies innocence and romance; the nurturing and appreciation of flowers signifies love and hope.

Questions for Symbols

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