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In Search of Firmness-Parenting and Education in Charles Dickens's David Copperfield
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield abounds with fatherless and motherless children, whose development into adolescence and adulthood is strongly affected by the parenting skills of the remaining parent. This essay studies different parenting and educational practices in the novel to see their impact on the behaviour and personality of the children. In Victorian England, two opposing views of childhood flourished: the Puritan one believing in childhood depravity, and the Romantic view based on childhood innocence. In addition, there were gender differences in upbringing stemming from the middle-class cult of domesticity as well as differences based on class distinctions. While Dickens seems to accept moral firmness, the Victorian ideal of manhood and womanhood, as the main goal of upbringing, he appears to disagree with Victorian child management practices. This essay shows the deficiencies and negative outcomes of the parenting styles based on the two opposing moral views, depicted in Mr. Murdstone’s Puritan discipline and Mrs. Steerforth’s parenting, which reflects the Romantic view of the child.  On the basis of the negative consequences of these two extremes, Dickens stresses the importance of a sound view of the child exemplified by Aunt Betsey’s loving discipline accompanied by guidance and responsibility, as well as by the educational practices in Doctor Strong’s school. Furthermore, this Victorian Bildungsroman emphasises the importance of a confidential loving relationship between the guardian and the child as well as proper education and social conditioning. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 25 p.
Keyword [en]
Dickens; David Copperfield; parenting; education; upbringing; parent-child relation; child abuse; firmness
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-87554OAI: diva2:604404
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2014-01-22 Created: 2013-02-10 Last updated: 2014-01-22Bibliographically approved

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