Now, I think I was about eleven years old when I first discovered that the name of David Copperfield belonged to something more than an illusionist. It took me some time to recover from that shock, considering fifteen years later was when I actually made the sincere effort to read the book. Like the other Dickens novels I have read, Copperfield is abundant with diverse characters: some good, some bad, and some in-between. Like the other works, these diverse characters are connected in complex (and not always joyful) circumstances. But what made this particular novel a little easier for me to handle, despite its 800+ page-length, was that all the events and characters tied back to the one chap whose name graces the cover.
David Copperfield isn't the perfect man. I particularly wanted to strangle him for ignoring the blatantly obviously perfect woman for him and instead falling head over heels in love with a girl who, despite her sweetness, was just silly and shallow (and she knew it). But David, even through his weaknesses, is still over-all a decent and good man. I liked that. I appreciated his willingness to push ahead in his life, overcoming a painful childhood to be a better person and recognize the kind of man he didn't wish to be. In an age when we are surrounded by "victims", where people's parents are endlessly blamed for screwing up their children forever, it's refreshing to read about someone who didn't keep under that cloak of martyrdom. I don't wish to denigrate those afflicted individuals who really have had to live with horrible circumstances; I just think too many people are eager to blame others instead of moving ahead and making themselves better. (insert hypocritical blush here.)
There were a myriad of thoughts and ideas expressed in Copperfield that caught my eye and stuck in my mind, but this one has stayed with me ever since I finished the book last week:
"I have never believed it possible that any natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and hope to gain its end. There is no such thing as such fulfilment on this earth. Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness."
In other words, practice makes perfect. We have natural abilities given to us, but it is up to us to improve those abilities. I can't expect to look at Liszt's Liebestraume and play it wonderfully, no matter how good a sight-reader I am. I have to practice it. I have to work at it. I must make the "stuff to stand wear and tear". I really liked this philosophy of David's, and it's one of several unexpected lessons I discovered while reading.
Looking forward to my next reading venture. Suggestions, anyone? (i've got two more i'm working through at present, but i'm always open to other possibilities.)
"It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations." -Winston Churchill