Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Have Loved You All My Life

The time has come to blog on my favorite novel of all time.  I read it for the first time in 1977, wrote a twenty-six page paper on it, made a A on that paper.  My professor said it wasn't the length, but the love I put into it.  I'm glad I was able to convey that because I love the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

I'm not alone.

Somerset Maugham loved it, as did Leo Tolstoy.  Kafka called his own first novel "Amerika" an imitation of David Copperfield.  Like me, it was Sigmund Freud's favorite novel.  Though Virginia Woolf wasn't a particular fan of Dickens she loved David Copperfield.

Dickens himself wrote in his later years, "Of all my books, I like this the best.  It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them.  But, like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child.  And his name is David Copperfield."

So, what can I tell you about my favorite novel?  I've read it at least once a year since 1977, somewhere around forty times.  I love the characters.  They've become my friends over the years.  Constant.  Loyal.  Available.  They never criticize.

Their actions never change, but my reactions to them often do.  With that in mind I can gauge how much I've changed over the decades and to what extent.

Read anything forty times over 35 years and you'll see what I mean.

I thought the 1987 read might be my last one on an annual basis, because it didn't have the same zing as in prior years.  Of course I was divorced in 1987 and few things had zing that year.  I picked it up again in 1988 and slid right back to the love affair.

Regardless of my reaction, I approach David Copperfield the same way. I open it to Chapter 1: I Am Born and inhale.

I suffer with David through his ordeal with the Murdstones, weep with him when his mother dies, walk with him all the way from London to Canterbury to seek out his Aunt Betsey, the formidable woman who walked out at his birth when told he was a boy.

I journey with him all the way through his marriage to Dora, his Aunt's financial ruin, Dora's tragic death, heading toward the scene from the chapter "A Light Shines on My Way."  Aunt Betsey tells him that she believes his friend from childhood Agnes Wickfield is to be married.  She does this to prod him into sight.  "Blind, blind, blind," she said numerous times.

He finally realizes that he loves Agnes, though from the time they were small he only saw her as a sister.  He finally makes his declaration, and she can't believe it.  Pulling it together she says...

"I am so blest, Trotwood - my heart is so overcharged - but there is one thing I must say."
"Dearest what?"
She laid her gentle hands upon my shoulders, and looked calmly in my face."
"Do you know, yet, what it is?"
"I am afraid to speculate on what it is.  Tell me, my dear."
"I have loved you all my life!"

And I weep from sheer joy because I, too, have loved David Copperfield all my life.

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