David Copperfield – Education

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

In David Copperfield, Dickens champions the value 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 have been no guidelines or laws governing school syllabus or teacher conduct. Therefore, quite a few schools taught by forcing the students to recite mindlessly from books, discouraging students’ “bright childish imaginations”, consequently turning them into “little parrots and modest calculating machines”. Dickens most wholeheartedly deplores this strategy of teaching, as an alternative encouraging an education that focuses on developing pupils’ values and morals and teaching them the necessary expertise their adult life.

David is 1st educated informally at home. He learns the “alphabet at [his mother’s] knee” and reads to Peggotty from the Crocodile book, creating his imagination – “we went into the water… and place 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 right after Clara’s remarriage David is betrayed by his personal nervousness in front of the dominating Murdstones, upsetting his mother and lowering his self-esteem – “the additional stupid I get”. This unfavorable reaction again shows Dickens’ encouragement of a incredibly distinct form of education. David is not “stupid” and it is only the strict and stifling circumstances that make him really feel this way. Dickens encourages the reader to really feel that if the Murdstones had been much more liberal and generous in their education of David, the results would be substantially unique.

Dickens’ views on education are conveyed best via 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 under no circumstances be false never ever be cruel. Stay away from these 3 vices… and I can constantly 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 techniques in a far more literal way David is literally escaping the moral, physical and financial imprisonment of the factory for the freedom to discover and create his interests.

Dickens additional emphasises David’s imprisonment and freedom by…

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