I have recently had the immense pleasure of reading Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield. The book comes highly recommended by critics and several Top Lists. In fact, Charles Dickens himself said that David Copperfield was his favorite of all the books he had written. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Turns out, there are several similarities between the Victorian English and present day Indian society. Neither seem very pleasant for women to thrive. I do not understand why women in that era died so readily, often due to poor treatment at the hand of men around them. I am not sure if this was how it was or if writers potrayed women this way. For instance, Dora Spenlow seems to die quite quickly in this book, primarily afflicted by an unhappy marriage.
This book also reminds me of things my mother has impressed upon me in my early years: the importance of not being foolish around the hired household help. For some strange reason, the protagonist of the book, David Copperfield, spends his waking hours thinking that his childish wife, Dora has no command over the hired help in their house. He further drowns in the sorrow of how they were poor at keeping their household and that the servants took advantage of their foolishness. Somehow, these problems do not plague my mind as I keep a household and live quite splendidly, in my opinion. This either means that I have mastered the intricate art of housekeeping or that I have low standards. Somehow the concepts of monitoring the hired help as they perform their jobs and developing expertise in such supervision only plague the minds of people in Victorian England and contemporary India.
One of the most amusing bits of the book are the dialogues of this old widow called Mrs. Gummidge. She has lost her husband (who was a seafaring man) and now lives her days in the house of the nicest human being ever known to humankind, Mr. Pegotty. She is perpetually depressed thinking about her dear old husband (referred to as the “old ‘un” in the book) and commonly says this:
I am a lone lorn creature and everything goes contrary with me.
She says this during the day, at night, before weddings, after weddings – you name the occasion. Each occurence of this dialogue is incredibly out of place, baffling all characters in the book and I find it hilarious. So much so, that whenever I am low and feel like complaining, I imagine that I must sound like Mrs. Gummidge groaning and saying “… everything goes contrary with me”. Nothing gets me out of self-pity like the thought of Mrs. Gummidge.