[Marriage in Copperfield] 2006?

Paul Fischer

              Marriage is assuredly a great institution, but who wants to live in an institution? The confinement of spirit in marriage suggested in this joke is evident in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. David’s employer and former teacher, Dr. Strong was married to Annie, a much younger woman who eventually becomes philosophical aboiut her marriage and what is important in marriage when she states, “There can be no disparity in marriage as unsuitability in mind and purpose” (614). In this era, the wife is assumed to be the angel of the house. By this one means she is supposed to oversee the servants, cooking, shopping, and household matters as well as providing her husband with a perfect, moral companion. Dora is ill-suited to household duties and, more importantly, ill-suited as an intelligent companion and one might understand the terrible influence that Annie’s words make on David. David and Dora’s marriage is unlike that of the Strongs because of Dora’s mentioned unsuitability of mind and purpose with her husband, David.
              Every marriage forges its way through towering obstacles and how the Copperfields face these challenges displays much of their polarity with the Strongs. The Copperfields, inexperienced and without a faithful servant, are constantly faced with difficulties in housekeeping duties. When David attempts to draw Dora into her duties as the angel of the house, she simply exclaims, “Just kiss Jip, and be agreeable” (502). This exemplifies the Copperfields’ family discussions and constitutes a major difference with the Strong’s.
The Strong’s also faced considerable obstacles in their marriage. They have suspicion looming all about them when Annie’s old lover turns up and Mr. Heep attempts to convict the poor young Annie in the eyes of her father husband, Dr. Strong. Following this, the family of the Strong’s forgoes a long period of suspicion and lies. This is the terrible situation that Annie averts by so courageously standing up to Mr. Heep’s accusations, an act Dora, in Annie’s stead, would not undertake even if Dr. Strong had brought the matter before her and demanded she resolve the case
              Dora’s reluctance to assume any amount of responsibility results in the infamous attempt of David to “form Dora’s mind” (644). Dora has made a valiant but futile effort to conform to the strict rules of David’s reform attempt. Dr. Strong also “taught her” (Annie) and attempts to teach her. The difference between David’s futile attempt and Dr. Strong’s forming of a strong young lady is that Dr. Strong has taken Annie up as a daughter of sorts. David acts stern and much more assumes Mr. Murdstone’s threatening teaching style. This scares poor Dora out of her wits almost as it did David when he was a child. Fortunately David realizes that Dora needs support and perhaps, in the near future, the marriage shall succeed wonderfully.
              Marriage may not indicate the Copperfields’ insanity as might have been suggested in the joke but the Copperfield’s marriage does portray certain incompetence in fields such as housekeeping and the Copperfields’ inability to be suitable companions for each other. The Strongs, however, are a much better example of as well matched marriage for Annie is much better suited to thinking on Dr. Strongs level than Dora upholding an intelligent conversation with David. The Copperfields have illustrated a lack of suitability for marriage that should be considered before marrying because of the young fear in the “Sahara” or loneliness that David saw in his Aunt.

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