Dickensian Divisions: David Copperfield's "Hero[ine] of my own life"

Kathryne Ford*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article explores how Charles Dickens's failed romance with Maria Beadnell–which drove him to burn his early autobiographical attempt–haunts his fictional life-writing novel David Copperfield. Maria's rejection intensified Dickens's previous traumas of the blacking warehouse and his father's imprisonment–subsequently producing a type of Freudian split self that I term the Dickensian hero/protagonist split. David is the novel's protagonist, but Agnes is its hero/ine. These divisions underscore Dickens's overarching preoccupations with legacy, and his notoriously fraught relationship with the life-writing genre. Agnes may not be a figure modern readers can admire; however, her position as hero/ine in David Copperfield's history nonetheless illuminates Dickens's own traumas, manifested in David's insecurities about heroism and narrative legacy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-63
    Number of pages19
    JournalDickens Quarterly
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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