David Copperfield may justly be considered one of English literature’s most enduring classics.
Perhaps it is appreciated by critics and general readers alike because it so remarkably captures the experiences and feelings of readers from any time period, most of whom can empathize with at least some aspect of David’s experience.
Today, it is evidence that some experiences in the various phases of life are timeless; in Dickens’ analysis of David’s thoughts and motivations, most readers can recognize something of their own reasoning and impulses.
Equally, the novel endures because it is quite simply a compelling story. Its mixture of meditation and adventure guarantees that the story strikes a strong balance between psychological contemplation and entertainment. Especially in the earlier chapters, the book is, quite simply, a page-turner.
Some of the later parts of the work become slightly drawn out and even repetitive, but the change of pace between the rapid years of David’s childhood and the increasing pensiveness of his adult years captures the gradual transitions between the stages of human life.
The book is remarkable for its wide-ranging appeal, as well as for the sheer reach of its literary influence. Many authors, ranging from Leo Tolstoy through to Franz Kafka, have noted the impact the novel has had; even those normally unimpressed by Dickens, such as Virginia Wolfe, have praised David Copperfield.
Since the novel is semi-autobiographical and was written at the midway point of Dickens' writing career, the work also provides a fascinating insight into his thoughts and experiences.
David Copperfield can be enjoyed for a variety of reasons – adventure, comedy, psychology, or for the sorrow, honesty and entertainment value of the narrative. It is the sort of literary masterpiece against which all other works must be measured and for which all avid readers will reach.