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David Copperfield - Education

Uploaded by Ethan on Nov 09, 2002

In David Copperfield, Dickens champions the importance of a liberal and moral education

In David Copperfield, Dickens champions the importance of a liberal and moral education by drawing from personal experiences and creating starkly contrasting caricatures to exemplify his beliefs and views. Prior to 1870, there were no rules or laws governing school syllabus or teacher conduct. Hence, many schools taught by forcing the students to recite mindlessly from books, discouraging students’ “bright childish imaginations”, consequently turning them into “little parrots and small calculating machines”. Dickens most wholeheartedly deplores this method of teaching, instead encouraging an education that focuses on developing pupils’ values and morals and teaching them the necessary skills their adult life.

David is first educated informally at home. He learns the “alphabet at [his mother’s] knee” and reads to Peggotty from the Crocodile book, developing his imagination – “we went into the water… and put sharp pieces of timber down their throats”. Dickens clearly approves of this sort of education and David says in retrospect that memories of this time “recall no feeling of disgust or reluctance… [he]… walked along a path of flowers”. Dickens contrasts the “daily drudgery and misery” of his education after Clara’s remarriage; David is betrayed by his own nervousness in front of the dominating Murdstones, upsetting his mother and lowering his self-esteem – “the more stupid I get”. This negative reaction again shows Dickens’ encouragement of a very different form of education. David is not “stupid” and it is only the strict and stifling circumstances that make him feel this way. Dickens encourages the reader to feel that if the Murdstones were more liberal and generous in their education of David, the results would be significantly different.

Dickens’ views on education are conveyed best through the contrast he draws between Betsey Trotwood’s firmness and Mr Murdstone’s. Murdstone’s firmness overwhelms David, whereas Betsey’s firmness lays a sound moral foundation for his freedom – “never… be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid these three vices… and I can always be hopeful of you”. David’s epic journey from London to Dover and his emancipation from the imprisonment of the Murdstone and Grinby factory shows the consequences of these educational methods in a more literal way; David is literally escaping the moral, physical and financial imprisonment of the factory for the freedom to explore and develop his interests.

Dickens further emphasises David’s imprisonment and freedom by...

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Uploaded by:   Ethan

Date:   11/09/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   4 pages (1,012 words)

Views:   2771

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