Death of Dora


In my ‘umble opinion, no literary death can match that of Dora in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. It is such a moving piece, so filled with loss and pain and unrealized potential … This is Dickens at his best. This isn’t the over dramatic, boring, thank-God-it’s-finally-over death of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. This one seems real, and it hurts.

To further show what a master Dickens was, until she is on her deathbed, Dora isn’t even a likable character. She’s shallow, self-centered, childish, spoiled, and grossly attached to her little yappy dog. She can’t manage the house once she and David are married, and has no concept of finances. And yet, when she is near death she comes to terms with all her faults, is sorry for them, suggests that it would have been better if she and David had never married, and knows that he soon would have tired of his “child-bride.” Only the heart of a stone golem would not break as she sends David away with the urgent plea that he send Agnes to her.

And then, when Agnes comes down from the bedroom, streaming tears because the wife of the man she’s always loved has died, and points to Heaven to indicate Dora’s passing … Yes, I’ve teared up both times I’ve read it. And the first time I was at work in a machine shop. Granted, the scene is cheapened a little by the melodramatic death of the dog, Gyp, but even that can’t dilute the power of Agnes pointing upward as she descends the stairs.

Other than A Christmas Carol, this was the first Dickens novel I ever read. I still haven’t read them all, but none of those I have read — and I’ve read all the major ones — come close to being as good as David Copperfield. Besides the scene just described, there are so many incredible, memorable bits from this book. The treatment of young David by Mr. and Miss Murdstone is so atrocious that you want to see them killed in some horrible way. The betrayal of Steerforth and the loss of innocence that causes David is something almost anyone can relate to. And another favorite, the calling out of Uriah Heep by Mr. Micawber. Micawber gets to be tiring at times, but all is forgiven in this one scene in which he keeps spitting the name Heep as if it is the phlegm of Satan himself that he is getting out of his mouth.

This is, without a doubt, my favorite book by any author.

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