Time obviously plays aa large part in Davic Copperfield, as an autobiographical novel relies on memory. It’s a writen memory in a double sens, the writen memory of the character called David & the fictionnal transmutation of Dickens’s memory. The narrative covers a period of time which starts with David’s birth and ends with his personnal & professional success.This narrative thus constantly moves from the past to the present and from the present to the past. The vision of the past and the remembering consciousness are unifying factors but also a choice of ambivalence.
The different aspects of the past in David Copperfield concern nostalgy, repetition & double consciousness.
The past in the novel is shown as prevailing over thepresent. Childhood is idealized and arrouses nostalgy in the narrator.
a. A timeless world
He calls up a remote time and he tries to bring back to his consiousness the earliest memories of his childhood. Chapter 2 “ I think the memory...”. Such memories are situated in a sort of timeless Eden, as the child has no consciousness of past, prsent or future. He lives with his mother in an eternalpresent. In chapter 2 we can see that all seasons are in the same time.
Besides the use of the present time in this episode shows that time is suspended.
b. The early childhood idyll
The successful description of past time is due to keen observation & fanciful imagination. The narrator himself claims such talents. Chapter 2 “I believe the power of observation...”
The narrator makes use ofhyperboles to describe the wonderful scenery of the garden. The fruit is “riper & richer than fruit has ever been since”. The image associated with is engraved in his memory. So, when she dies this image supersedes (=supplanter) other images & when he relates such scenes this image has even more reality that the present in his mind: “as distinct in my mind as any face I may chose to look at now”.c. The power of memory
As a natural fact the narrator wishes to visit the past again & again, for instance when he decides to go to Blunderstone again in chapter 22 “I had naturally an interest in going to Blunderstone and visit the olf place of my childhood”.
Sometimes David is also unwillingly visited by the past. The images of the past are forceful and ready to crop up at any time(=surgir). They come back in his mind in a Proustian way: whenever he sees an object associated with someone who was close to him. Such relics consist in - the crocodile book
- Pegotty’s sewing kit
- Dora’s ring
In chapter 23 he mentions the ring “so associated in my remembrance with Dora’s hand”. Smell sometimes also triggers off the rememberings of the past, in chapter26 “the scent of a geranium leaf” is associated with Dora long after her death. So the past reappears & brings with him all kinds of sensations. David can hear Agnes’s beautiful calm voice when he writes about the time he spent with her in chapter 16.
The notion of heredity, especillay David’s, is emphasized throughout the novel. The similarities betweenDavid’s father & David’s himself are mentinned again & again. First of all he bears the same name as his father. The words “David the younger” are mentionned in the title. Then when aun Betsey receives David in her house she & Dick constantly refer to the boy as “David’s son”. His physical and moral features are reminiscent of his parents’ features: “He is as like his father as it is possible to be ifhe was not so like his mother too”.
He is as affectionate as his mother and has the same blind trustfulness as his father. His dtory follows the same pattern as his father’s. We learn from aunt Betsey that David’s father “was always running after wax dolls frm his cradle”. Clara is a doll and Dora will be the same doll as Clara.
Mr. Chillip also says to David in chapter 54 that “there is a...