How has the treatment of Victorian children by Adults been portrayed by Charles Dickens in his novels? Charles Dickens was born on 8th of February 1812 in Landport, Portsmouth, England. He experienced a bad childhood as from the age of twelve he worked in a run-down factory and disliked it very much. The hardships of children are a big theme in some of his novels and this is due to his experiences working in the factory. Charles Dickens has been the author of some of the most famous titles every written, including A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist.
David Copperfield was written by Charles Dickens and was published in 1850. The novel is based loosely on Dickens’s life as he too was put to work at a young age. The story is narrated in the first person view, with Charles Dickens as David. The story focuses on David Copperfield, a young boy whose family is dying around him and his mother who has just remarried. His mother, Clara, is being victimised by Edward Murdstone, her husband and his sister, Jane Murdstone, who has just moved in with David and Clara as housekeeper.
Throughout the novel, David is treated very poorly and with little value by the adults around him. The view of Children at the time was that they should be seen and not heard, and this attitude is very evident in the text. David is abused physically and mentally by Mr. Murdstone and his sister, while his mother has the power to do nothing. When Miss Murdstone first arrives at the Murdstone household, she immediately conveys her dislike of Children, “Is that your boy, sister-in-law? ” My mother acknowledged me.
“Generally speaking… I don’t like boys. How d’ye do, boy? “… I replied that I was very well, and that I hoped she was the same… “Wants Manner”. David instantly engages our sympathy as he did not reply rudely to Miss Murdstone and yet she replies in such a manner that he did. Also she does not ask of his name, but simply refers to him as boy. In the novel, David is being tutored from home and before his mother remarried, he was taught by her and he enjoyed getting educated. However, after her marriage, Mr.
Murdstone taught David along with his sister. David hated having to be taught by the Murdstones and he described the lessons as being “miserable”. If he made a mistake or tripped over a word, he was frowned upon by both Murdstones and was sometimes beaten; Mr. Murdstone comes out of his chair, takes the book, throws it at me or boxes my ears with it. David recalls of one morning where he arrived in the parlour ready for work, when he saw Mr. Murdstone with a cane, “Poised and switched in the air”.
We find out that on this occasion, David slipped up on many words and made many mistakes. Mr Murdstone then took him out of the room where his mother was in tears. David tried to struggle from him but it was no use so he bit him, “I caught the hand… between my teeth, and bit through it. David was then beaten savagely; “He beat me then, as if he would have beaten me to death”. David was subsequently locked in his room for five days on end, where his only contact with the outside world was when Miss Murdstone left him food but never spoke.
There are many other instances of where David is mistreated by Adults in the novel, for example, when he was on his journey to his new school. David stopped at an inn to get fed, where he met a waiter who takes advantage of his innocent trust. The waiter issued David his food and a pint of Ale as well. The waiter then swindles David into giving him the pint of Ale as he said it was poisonous, and that a man recently died from drinking it. He said; “our people don’t like things being ordered and left”, and so he would drink it for him as he was accustomed to it.
Then, the waiter moved on to David’s chops; “What have we got here?… Not chops? ” “Chops” I said. “Lord bless my soul!…. Why, a chop’s the very thing to take off the bad effects of that beer! “. He then took up a chop and a potato, and began to help himself. He ate a further two chops and two potatoes, to David’s delight as he thought he was helping him from suffering the same fate as the man who died from the Ale. After that, the waiter delivered David a pudding and enquired if it was a batter pudding, seemingly his favourite pudding, to which David replied it was.
The waiter then took up his table spoon and started a contest to see who would get the most. However being equipped with a table spoon and David having only a tea spoon, the waiter won easily. David then enquired, with all of his youthful innocence, how much it would be appropriate to tip a waiter. The waiter then began to cry and told David dubiously that he slept on coals and he had a large family who were not well. David then gave him a shilling and the waiter stopped crying abruptly, as if nothing was the matter in the first place.