Monday, December 11, 2006

Dickens on Young Love

I had steered clear of Dickens’ David Copperfield until just now because I had heard he was sickly sentimental, especially as he idealized women.

Surprise: it’s true, alright, that he is sentimental and that he idealizes women. But he knows it, or at least his characters do. Case in point: David and Dora, the love of his life whom he, at least, idolizes. The alert reader may come to suspect that she isn’t quite the model of perfection that he supposes. But the reader may not be reader for the exchange that occurs when David breaks the news of his new love to his aunt and benefactor, Betsy Trotwood (Aunt Betsy addresses David as “Trot”):

“Oh, Trot, Trot! And so you fancy yourself in love! Do you?”

“Fancy, Aunt!” I exclaimed, as red as I could be. “I adore her with my whole soul!”

“Dora, indeed!” returned my aunt. “And you mean to say the little thing is very fascinating, I suppose?”

“My dear aunt,” I replied, “no one can form the least idea what she is!”

“Ah! And not silly?” said my aunt.

“Silly, Aunt!”

I seriously believe it had never once entered my head, for a single moment, to consider whether she was or not. I resented the idea, of course, but I was in a manner struck by it, as a new one altogether.

“Not light-headed?” said my aunt.

“Light-headed, Aunt!” I could only repeat this daring speculation with the same kind of feeling with which I repeated the preceding question.

“Well, well!” said my aunt. “I only ask. I don’t depreciate her. Poor little couple! And so you think you were formed for one another, and are to go through a party-supper-table kind of life, like two pretty pieces of confectionary, do you, Trot?”

She asked me this so kindly, and with such a gentle air, half-playful and half-sorrowful, that I was quite touched.

“We are young and inexperienced, Aunt, I know,” I replied, “and I dare say we say and think a good deal that is rather foolish. But we love one another truly, I am sure. If I thought Dora could ever love anybody else, or cease to love me, or that I could ever love anybody else, or cease to love her, I don’t know what I should do—go out of my mind, I think!”

“Ah, Trot!” said my aunt, shaking her head, and smiling gravely, “blind, blind, blind!”

Whether her tone of pity was for me, or for herself, or for anybody else, I could not decide…

--Charles Dickens, David Copperfield 504 (Signet Classic ed. 1962)

No comments: