David Copperfield: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
    Chapter XII
    Mr Micawber, who has recently been imprisoned for debt, tells David the rule of happiness in life - a rule he himself has failed to follow.
  2. "David, I wish to God I had had a judicious father these last twenty years! . . . I wish with all my soul I had been better guided! . . . I wish with all my soul I could guide myself better!"
    Chapter XXII
    Steerforth laments his lack of a father and the lack of good guidance, and self-guidance, in his life. His words play into a major theme of the novel: the importance of wise parenting, which fosters a disciplined heart.
  3. "Ah, Trot!...blind, blind, blind!"
    Chapter XXXV
    Betsey delivers her verdict on David's plan to marry Dora, with whom she is less than impressed. Knowing how hard married life can be, Betsey believes that David has chosen his wife-to-be unwisely, disregarding the qualities that would be helpful to him.
  4. "It was impossible to say to that sweet little surprised face, otherwise than lightly and playfully, that we must work, to live.
    "'Oh! How ridiculous!" cried Dora. 'Why should you?"
    "'How shall we live without, Dora?' said I.
    "'How? Any how!' said Dora."
    Chapter XXXVII
    This exchange shows the gulf that separates David, who is fully aware of the necessity to earn money in order to avoid starvation, from his fiancee, who has no concept of responsibility.
  5. "'When I was quite a young boy,' said Uriah, 'I got to know what umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate umble pie with an appetite. I stopped at the umble point of my learning, and says I, "Hard hard!" When you offered to teach me Latin, I knew better. "People like to be above you," says father, "keep yourself down." I am very umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I've got a little power!'"
    Chapter XXXIX
    Uriah Heep explains his strategy for gaining power in life in spite of his poor upbringing. The fact that it has largely worked is an indictment of the vanity of a hierarchical society, in which many people like to look down on others.
  6. ". whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely ...in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest."
    Chapter XLII
    David explains his approach to life, an approach that Dickens presents sympathetically and appears to endorse. David goes on to define earnestness as attempting to gain his ends from "steady, plain, hard-working qualities."
  7. "'A poor fellow with a craze, sir,' said Mr. Dick, 'a simpleton, a weak-minded person - present company, you know!' striking himself again, 'may do what wonderful people may not do.'"
    Chapter XLV
    Mr. Dick, knowing that he is simple-minded, feels that he may be able to restore harmony to the troubled marriage of the Strongs, when the "wonderful" people - David and Betsey - may not. Dickens shows the value of earnestness, a quality that Mr. Dick has, over the qualities of intelligence and sophistication that David and Betsey have - even though the latter qualities are far more prized by the world.
  8. "There can be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and purpose."
    Chapter XLV
    Annie Strong expresses how glad she is that she chose to marry Dr. Strong rather than Jack Maldon, with whom she has nothing in common. Although she is far younger than Dr. Strong (a disparity that makes onlookers assume that she only married him for his money and that she really loves Jack), she and her husband love and honor one another. The Strongs' marriage is a truly happy one, and stands in contrast with David's marriage with Dora, which is blighted by unsuitability of mind and purpose.
  9. "What they done, is laid up wheer neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and wheer thieves do not break through nor steal. Mas'r Davy, it'll outlast all the treasure in the wureld."
    Chapter LI
    Mr. Peggotty expresses his gratitude for the unknown foreigners who rescued Little Em'ly after her flight from Littimer. Frequently in the novel, Dickens emphasizes the importance of kindness and charity which is given without thought of any return.
  10. ". they undergo a continual punishment; for they are turned inward, to feed upon their own hearts, and their own hearts are very bad feeding."
    Chapter LIX
    Mr. Chillip describes to David the fate of the Murdstones, who are punished for their cruel treatment of Mr. Murdstone's new wife. It is consistent with the novel's simple moral structure, which shows bad things happening to bad people and good things happening to good people. Even if bad characters escape external punishments, as the Murdstones do, they are subject to internal torment.

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