Memorable Characters in David Copperfield

David CopperfieldCharles Dickens once said of all his books, David Copperfield was his favorite. I had to read it just for that reason.

It’s known as one of his most autobiographical novels. The story travels through the main character’s life from childhood into adulthood while showing the choices he makes and the ramifications of those choices.

It’s the story of a relatively normal life in early 1800s England and because of that we get to be immersed in all the sights and sounds and expectations of the time.

The best part of his life turns out to be the people he chooses to spend it with. All kinds of characters appear and disappear and then appear again. They truly color his life and make it worth living.


From the eccentric aunt who yells out, “Donkeys!” whenever a donkey dares to wander into her yard to Mr. Micawber, who distributes IOUs as if they were real money, to the infamous Uriah Heep, who’s always described as slimy, the characters bring so much to the novel and the reader never knows when they’re going to appear. Whenever I’d start to get a little bored with the story, another character would wander back in and I’d be entertained again.

LondonDavid Copperfield was first published in 1850 and the story takes place from the 1820s on. In some ways, it was ahead of its time, mostly because Aunt Betsey Trotwood speaks out against the way women and children were treated. I loved that character’s spunk.

She takes care of Mr. Dick, who has been working on a speech for years and makes kites out of his drafts because his obsession with King Charles the First keeps slipping in. He flies the kites as a way of diffusing the words and clearing his mind.

And then there’s Uriah Heep. He’s one of those people you love to hate and he’s described perfectly with passages like this:

“His damp cold hand felt so like a frog in mine that I was tempted to drop it and run away.”

“I found Uriah reading a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank forefinger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy tracks along the page (or so I fully believed) like a snail.”

I think my favorite Dickens novel is still A Tale of Two Cities because it’s more story oriented, but the characters in David Copperfield have stayed with me long after reading it. Recommended to anyone who wants to spend time with some memorable characters.

Have you encountered any memorable characters lately? What made them memorable?  

55 thoughts on “Memorable Characters in David Copperfield

  1. I’ve never read David Copperfield. Like you, I love A Tale of Two Cities. Wouldn’t mind revisiting that one.

    I’m currently reading the fifth book in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Nordic thriller series. They can be very dark books, but the detective’s sidekick, Assad, is one of my favorite characters in fiction. And that’s saying a lot considering it’s a contemporary thriller. But the author makes the character mysterious, laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreakingly sweet all at once. The character enriches every scene he’s in.

    • It’s a long one, but it’s worth the read just for all the crazy characters. David Copperfield made me want to read A Tale of Two Cities again too – I loved the part when wine spilled into the cobblestones and caused a spontaneous party there in the street. I haven’t heard of that series but I’ll have to check it out if Assad is one of your favorite characters – thanks for that suggestion!

  2. Hi Sheila! It’s great to see you.
    It’s been decades since I read David Cooperfield, so I don’t remember much, but I do remember the donkey woman!
    One of my most memorable characters is Meggie Cleary from the Thorn Birds. I’ve read that book more times than I can remember. The setting was quite memorable as well.

  3. I read Tale of Two Cities and enjoyed it. May have to give David Copperfield a read. The one book that had me guessing (recently seen the movie) was Gone Girl. I have been reading as well as watching two genres lately; WWII and the Great Outdoors. I think about the characters from Into the Wild and Wild and Unbroken, Imitation Game and Woman In Gold.

    Happy Reading – Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • I loved Into the Wild and Wild – the characters in those were definitely memorable because they were so adventurous (like you)! For WWII, All the Light We Cannot See is another great one. Happy reading! 🙂

  4. “The best part of his life turns out to be the people he chooses to spend it with” This is such an interesting idea and made me think about the people in my life. I certainly have surrounded myself with wonderful characters for sure, from family to friends to coworkers. They are a fascinating, may I say eccentric, gang. I never read David Copperfield but you’ve made me want to revisit Dickens.

    • His characters are some of the funniest I’ve run across. That’s great that you’re surrounded by so many characters! This book really shows how the people in our lives make it worth living. I’ll be on the lookout for Dickens-type characters in my own life now. 🙂

  5. I remember reading David Copperfield many (many) years ago and Uriah Heep stayed with me (and then a band named themselves after him) lol 😉 I can’t remember a character who has stayed with me recently, however it is very early in the morning here and I’m not through my first coffee yet. I’m sure the answer will hit me about lunchtime 😀

    • Uriah Heep must be one of the most memorable characters of all time. That’s funny that a band even named themselves after him! Your character descriptions in The Everything Theory reminded me of Dickens. It was so easy to picture all of your characters. They took on a life of their own and I wanted to keep hanging out with them. I’m behind on reviews but I’ll make sure to write one up soon – it’s such a great book!

  6. Hi Sheila, thanks for such a lovely post. Be coincidence, I’ve just had a memory piece published in an anthology. The feature is called: Those Winter Sundays with David Copperfield’ and relates to watching David Copperfield on TV when I was a kid.

    • That’s funny (and congratulations)! Dickens does seem to go well with winter. His writing has such a cozy feeling to it.

      • I suppose – they didn’t have much, but that didn’t seem to matter because of the friendships they were able to find along the way. I didn’t really like the beginning when so much went wrong for him so I was glad when things did get better after he met his aunt and a few other crazy characters.

  7. I have always been a bit afraid of this one. Don’t know why. I also recall that it’s the book that Melanie reads while the women of Gone With the Wind wait for their men to come back from “cleaning out” the transients who attacked Scarlet in her carriage. It does sound sooo Dickens. I may need to pick it up.

    • Wow – I’m impressed that you can remember that from Gone with the Wind! It’s funny to think of a fictional character reading another novel. David Copperfield would be a good winter read because there’s a coziness to it. It’s a long one, but worth it because of all the crazy characters.

  8. Haven’t read this one, but it sounds interesting. I should give “A Tale of Two Cities” another go. I read it back in high school, but I remember struggling with it. I also didn’t like Gatsby back then, but loved it to pieces when I reread it last year. Sometimes our young minds aren’t ready for those intricately layered stories.

    Reading “Never Let Me Go” right now and the story is gripping.

    • I really loved A Tale of Two Cities. There were parts in that one that made me laugh out loud. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s also a street party scene near the beginning that I think you’ll like. It’s true that it’s harder to appreciate books like that when we’re in school. I didn’t like The Grapes of Wrath at all when I was in high school and now it’s one of my all-time favorites. I’ll have to take a look at Never Let Me Go – thanks for mentioning that one!

  9. I read David Copperfield in middle school, and your post reminded me all about it! I love Charles Dickens — his books are timeless.

    I guess one of my favorite characters would have to be Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and I fell in love with Ferdinand, the bull in the children’s story.

    • I forgot about Ferdinand the Bull! He’s right up there with Flat Stanley. Scout’s a great one too. I’m going to have to read more Dickens now with winter on the way. His books go well with sitting by the fire while hibernating. 🙂

  10. Ah, it’s been years since I read that book and now I think I just may re-read it! I just read Shawna Lemay’s new book, “Rumi and the Red Handbag” (just wrote a short post about it) and I loved the two main characters…two women, searching for “soul”…the book and it’s characters will definitely stay with me for a long time to come.

    • It’s pretty long but it’s worth it. There were so many funny parts because of those crazy characters (and there’s a funny dog in there too)! Rumi and the Red Handbag sounds great. I know we have the same tastes in books so I’ll have to make sure to look that one up – thank you!

  11. I’ve never read much Dickens, although I do enjoy going to performances of A Christmas Carol in December. 😉 I’ve been reading a variety of new-to-me mysteries lately, but I’m still waiting for a character to really jump out and grab my attention.

    • I was surprised by how funny his books can be. Even A Tale of Two Cities made me laugh out loud and that one supposedly doesn’t have as much humor in it as some of his others. I love how there are so many different versions of A Christmas Carol – it wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing one of them! I hope you’ll find some exciting characters to grab you soon. 🙂

  12. Very nice post. I’m a Dickens fan buy haven’t read this one yet, I know! Followed you from my wife’s recommend. looking forward to more from yours. -KIA

    • Thank you! If you love Dickens, you’ll love this one. His characters are always so perfect. It’s a great chance for some time traveling while sitting by the fire. Thank you for visiting and please thank your wife too.

  13. Even though I haven’t read much of Stephen King’s newer stuff, so many of his characters stay with me. Maybe it’s the crazy head space some of them go to? I don’t know. 🙂

    • That must be it! Like those dolls that you had on your blog. Sometimes things like that can be the stuff of nightmares but then they’re memorable too.

  14. I loved David Copperfield, which I read maybe three years ago. You’re right – the characters are what make the book. I have been working my way through Dickens for several years and only have a few novels left to go. I’m thinking maybe Martin Chuzzlewit is next.

    • That’s great that you’ve read so many of his novels. I’ve only read a few so far and he’s already one of my favorite authors. I’d like to make my way through all of them – maybe if there are enough snow days this winter. I hope you enjoy the next one!

    • His descriptions are so good that it’s easy to travel back in time with them. It started to feel like I was living in the 1800s with those crazy characters. I hope you’re enjoying your spring!

  15. A Tale of Two Cities was very clever with all the different synchronisations between cities and characters. I haven’t read David Copperfield yet but a lot of other people recommend it and it is on my pile along with all the rest of his I haven’t read. Our Mutual Friend is looking like a good one as well. I love a character driven novels as well.

    • I loved the humor in A Tale of Two Cities and the twist at the end. There are so many funny parts from that one that I still laugh about whenever I think of them. It’s a little surprising that it’s supposed to be one of his least humorous novels, but maybe I just have a strange sense of humor. It is tough to pick which one to read next. Our Mutual Friend sounds like a good one to tackle over the winter as long as there are enough snowstorms.

      • Perhaps a good Russian classic as well for the cold months, as temperature and snow always make me feel like I am closer to Russia. Hard Times was my first Dickens novel, it started out as a satire on the education system and then by the end was just plain miserable, I liked it.

      • Russian books are perfect for the winter since they also have that cozy feeling to them. Maybe that’s just because they’re always sitting by the fire. Hard Times sounds like a fun one. I’ll have to add that to the winter list too.

  16. Awesome review, Sheila! You make me want to read this. I’m really enjoying The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig. Her characters are very memorable and the writing is exquisite. I’ve been taking my time with this book and that makes it so much more memorable than one that I plow through in a week. 🙂

    • Thanks Kourtney! I hadn’t heard of The Fire Sermon and will have to check it out. I love stumbling across books like that – the kind that we want to read slow enough to savor.

      • I was at Readercon and was lucky enough to get a free hardcover. It’s a beautifully written story. Really gorgeous. Sometimes I feel like a book finds me and I’m meant to read it. This is one of them.

  17. I loved reading David Copperfield when I was a child. The characters all seemed so real to me in the Dickens novels. One of my favourite writers is Fannie Flagg. She really brings her characters to life. 🙂

  18. David Copperfield has been on my reading list for long. I guess it’s time to pick it up. I loved Dickens’ characterization in Pickwick Papers.

    • I still haven’t read the Pickwick Papers, but I’d love to read all of his novels and stories. Thank you for stopping by – I hope you enjoy David Copperfield!

  19. Ah, Dickens. How nice to find this post here, Sheila. I read David Copperfield so long ago that I would need to read it again as a refresher 😉 I loved A Christmas Carol and, like you, A Tale of Two Cities

    • I’m going to have to settle on another Dickens novel soon. They’re perfect for fall or winter fireside reading. Luckily, there are a lot to choose from!

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