David Copperfield and Class Hierarchy

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David Copperfield and Class Hierarchy

Ben Kingsley, an English actor and Oscar winner once said, “The hierarchy of class in the UK was rigid. It was like a religion. It still is to a certain extent” (2001). As we read David Copperfield, we realize that this is indeed the case centuries back and particularly in the Victorian era. Barbara Hardy confirms, “David Copperfield is a Victorian novel, and its powers and defects have to be seen in the context of its age” (1987, p.9). Moreover, Social status had always been a major issue in Charles Dickens’s novels due to its great impact on people of various classes. In David Copperfield, Charles Dickens criticizes class hierarchy and social status in the Victorian era, which is highlighted everywhere as major issues throughout the novel by showing how it affected the lives of the upper class as well as the lower class characters in it negatively. One way Dickens criticizes class hierarchy is through Steerforth’s character. Steerforth’s higher social status and the treatment of the people around him corrupted him and made him unsympathetic to the poor, allowing him to treat them badly. Steerforth was a major character whose higher social class affected the course of the events. Actually, social problems highlighted by Steerforth’s character were not a new thing in the Victorian era. In fact, it was a major issue especially at the time David Copperfield is written. Sally Mitchell states, “Victorian’s reign was marked by social and political turmoil, […] Social problems dominated the economic and political scene” (1996, p.5). This explains why Steerforth plays a major role in highlighting class hierarchy. In the beginning, we first realize the higher status of Steerforth when David meets him in Salem House and describes him as the only boy who was respected in the school. We can see this clearly when…...

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