MURDSTONE’S MESS (2006?)

Paul Andreas Fischer

MURDSTONE’S MESS
                         David Copperfield, a book by Charles Dickens, describes the adventure of a young boy in early 19th century England. David Copperfield grew up in the sunshine of his mother’s and her maid, Peggotty’s, love. When David’s mother remarries, however, her new husband, Mr. Murdstone, installs misguided firmness into every part of David and Mother’s life. Mother eventually dies from his constant reprisals and sarcasm. Mr. Murdstone’s disastrous attempts to teach David result in the disgrace of David and in David’s separation from Peggotty and Mother.
              Before Mother marries Murdstone, David learns his lessons from his mother. His downhill trend following Mr. Murdstone’s intervention is best exemplified as follows: “I had been apt enough to learn, and willing enough when my mother and I had lived together… but these solemn lessons which succeeded those, I remember as the death blow to my peace, and a grievous daily drudgery and misery” (51). It is obvious how Murdstone’s intervention is harmful to David’s learning. David was an able student previous to Murdstone’s interference. If he had continued to learn with his mother David might have become distinguished and had a successful career. Instead Mr. Murdstone squelched the willingness to learn and creativity in David through tyranny and ultimately the beating of the boy.
              Murdstone’s beating of David results in David’s complete loss of Mother. When Mr. Murdstone takes David upstairs to be beaten, David fights back, biting the man on the hand. Mr. Murdstone promptly beats David to near death. When David bites Murdstone then “they had persuaded her that I was a wicked fellow” (59). Mother plays a large role in David’s life and is crucial in maintaining David’s inner peace. When David feels that not even she was on his side any more, then a blow is struck to his security. Once the Murdstones has convinced Mother that David is wicked, and then they forbade him from associating with Peggotty, David’s nanny and best friend since he was born.
              Peggotty is David’s good friend and nanny so when Mr. Murdstone announced that “you have an attachment to low and common company…I disapprove of your preferring such company as Miss Peggotty and it is to be abandoned” (114) David is heart broken. This second blow to David’s security is devastating and he loses many days of happiness that he should enjoy as a child. Instead of playing with his friend, David spends the remainder of his holidays staring at the fire for hours. All of these hardships imposed upon his life cause David to find the need to escape from the Murdstones forever.
              Mr. Murdstone’s oppressive treatment of David and his mother resulted in two life altering occurrences for David. First, his mother’s death leaves David with the guilt of having been in disgrace with his mother at the time of her death. This causes David to feel the need to run away. David developed rash action because he was constantly berated and reprimanded by Mr. Murdstone. If Mr. Murdstone had not interfered with David then David might have become a distinguished gentleman. Instead he was a lowly urchin forced to run from his abusive job to loosely related relatives.

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