Dickens’ Dumb Dora and other Doady Doodles

61EMr2Mr6WL._SL300_I’m almost 75% through with David Copperfield, read  by narrator extraordinaire, Richard Armitage. It turns out, I can take more of it than an hour at a time, and despite falling asleep more quickly than usual ( I put in on before bedtime, as well as other times), I’m not hating it now that young David’s worst childhood abuse is over.

For a good part of my listening pleasure, I’ve been multi-tasking. For example, I retyped and edited my temple’s Purim Schpiel while listening to DC, including making some modifications to the really dumb, and poorly crafted poetic narrative in the purchased version we’re using this year. I’m also playing a lot of Midas Mah Jong and doing some adult coloring. Mulligan the cat is also benefiting. He learned to fetch,( pipe cleaners) so while I’m listening in bed, I toss a pipe cleaner figure into the hall for him to fetch; he brings it back; we start again.

I’ve been whining over the choice of this novel, and the 36+ hours I’d be devoting to it.But there it is. Maybe Virginia Wolff  had something  ( or maybe she took something) when she, who didn’t admire Dickens, said,  David Copperfield is the the most perfect of all the Dickens novels[.] Now there’s a Jewish compliment if ever I heard one. (Your hair looks so much better that way).

I thought I’d share some random thoughts – not really doodles – because I wasn’t unconsciously making these notes.

I know that Charles Dickens’s characters are not all meant to be reflect real personalities – but more like exaggerated caricatures. This is certainly true of many of the denizens who inhabit David Copperfield – but none gets my goat as much as Doady’s beloved Dora. In a comment I read somewhere recently, I think by  JHolland,  she referred to certain female characters  ( or maybe real women) as too dumb to live. This is Dora.

As it happens, some  critics actually attribute the epithet “dumb Dora” to Charles Dickens’s Dora. I want to stab her through the heart, because I don’t think I can wait much longer for her to die. Yes, I know choosing romantic partners is not David Copperfield’s strength, though he has many of others, but his doting over Dora is just too much for me to take. Die, Dora, die. And it pisses me off because he knew what she was like before he married her. By the time he meets Dora, DC is already quite adept at sussing out most of his acquaintances’ true personalities, failings and strengths.

Another thought – will Richard Armitage every get away from dwarves and elves, or are these creatures so ingrained in English literature that it is no coincidence that he keeps coming across them? I always wonder what he’s thinking when, in a role or a narration, Armitage comes across some character or situation that mirrors his past work.

In David Copperfield,  we meet Miss Mowcher, a middle aged dwarf, who happens to also be a hairdresser. How convenient, I was thinking, since Richard Armitage’s favorite dwarf could always use a good hairdresser.

I wonder what Richard Armitage was,thinking, if anything, when it turned out, he was  a proctor again?

After listening to 24 hours of DC, I’ve decided that listening may be the best way to enjoy this story. The film versions, while shorter and easier to manage, leave out most of what DC is thinking, his assessments of personalities, his ironic wit, and his sometimes ridiculously malleable manner. Yet, with an expert professional reading the convoluted sentences, they’re kind of easy to follow. Let’s let the narrator do the hard work.

Which brings me to another thought – I have to work a little harder on my own sentence structure, because I’m seeing some similarities between my writing, and some of Dickens’s highly punctuated, breathless sentences ( with lots of parenthetical thoughts) and digressions.

I’m getting a kick out of some of the foreshadowing – especially when the reader can figure it out before the narrator does. I’m especially thinking here about James Steerforth, whom DC so admires, from his early school days until the date of Steerforth’s terrible deed. David admires Steerforth because he’s handsome, classy, fun and smart – but right from the beginning, when we first meet Steerforth, his sense of entitlement and rank results in a vicious attack against schoolmaster, Mr. Mel, who winds up losing his job over a secret Steerforth discloses. How is it that DC forgets this throughout most of the rest of their relationship? It’s the sort of cruel action that the character, as drawn, would have been expected to take into account early on.

I see some similarity between how DC manages a dinner party and how I do. Back and forth to the stores, too much food, unexpected mishaps, but a good time had by all. ( I’m thinking here about the time the sous chef/ server I hired didn’t know she had to actually emulsify my truffle foam, and a first course that  cost about $ 200 for 6 wound up a soggy, funky mess.)

For at least one of his characters, I think Richard Armitage channeled a bit of Don Corleone for his voice. I can’t say that I recognize the voice of every character without some hint, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why Aunt Betsy has a Scottish brogue  (but I like it).

I played with the idea of listening to a different unabridged audiobook of DC, just to compare the narrators – but I’m not a masochist. ( Still, I am pretty curious.)

I should have more to say at some later point, if only to announce that I’ve completed the book.

I still don’t like this choice for an Audible book, and I wonder how sales are going. The book is listed as  the number 4 best seller in the Classics category, though we’re surely not seeing glowing promotions from Audible. But then, maybe the audience is taking the serial route, and it’s too early to tell.







9 thoughts on “Dickens’ Dumb Dora and other Doady Doodles

  1. More once i’ve actually listened, ducking for the moment pretending other shorter stuff easier to get through first 😉 But i think the sales thing will be difficult, it is honestly horrendously expensive. I’ve got it through my subscription because otherwise it would be on my long waiting list of CDs, DVDs and books i’d like to get..


  2. Thanks for this, Perry! I’m quite daunted at tackling a 36 hour audiobook – I’m daunted at tackling ANY audiobook, frankly! Audiobooks just aren’t for me – and I even quite like David Copperfield as a book! Reading this, however, I think I really I should give this a serious go (instead of just listening to excerpts).


  3. I’ve got through half of it, Perry, and it’s a long haul. This isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying it. I read it as a teenager and thought it good but slowly began to find his manner of writing tedious as I got older. RA’s reading of this has brought a new appreciation.

    Eisenstein said that Dickens was one of the first authors to take children seriously and I have really enjoyed seeing the world through young David’s eyes. What a lovely, aware, sensitive child. It struck so many true notes. Yes, Dora is awful but I did enjoy the chapter when he discussed all the girls he fell in love with – some of that made me laugh out loud. And I also queried Betsey Trotwood’s Scottish accent – but it suits her. The accent that has me feeling uncomfortable is that of the Micawbers which is Brummie/Birmingham. I wouldn’t mind if it weren’t for the fact that Dickens keeps on insisting that Mr Micawber is excessively genteel – and that is not a genteel accent.

    Miss Mowcher is absolutely wonderful! Her Liverpudlian accent suits her perfectly and she had me in stitches. I really don’t remember her from my reading the book all those years ago and I expect I skipped through those passages as being tedious but RA has made her incredibly vivid.

    Yes, the price is dreadful but I expect that quite a few fans have bought it regardless and, when they finish it, will pass comment on the Audible pages. I do think that it is a tour de force on RA’s part and not a bad effort from Dickens, LOL!


    • I can’t pinpoint Mr. Micawber’s dialect, but as an American I could tell that the dialect Richard Armitage used was not upper class, while the vocabularly Dickens used for the characters ( both Micawbers) indicated to me that they had some education. I thought Mrs. Micawber seemed more upper class than her husband and it seemed to me, they were “aspiring” to something higher .


  4. Your idea of listening to another narrator, for the purposes of comparison… yikes! I agree, that would require a level of commitment to RA I just don’t have. Nevertheless I took your suggestion and did listen to a few of the samples (a few minutes long each) of some of the other Audible offerings of David Copperfield, in particular I was curious about Nicolas Boulton’s version, as his performance of Flowers From The Storm is one of the best narrations I’ve ever heard. Richard is hands down the best. No surprise there! I haven’t yet reached the TSTL Dora section, but I will admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how engaged I have been so far (I’m about 1/3 into it).


  5. What a good idea – trying samples of other narrators. I will do that. I have about 5 hours left. I’ve listened to a number of parts twice ( due to losing concentration or falling asleep). I hate to have to say this, but I may go back and listen to parts of the beginning again, just to refresh myself as to some of the earlier character voices. Dora finally died. Dare I say David Copperfield dodged a bullet, or anyway, just suffered a flesh wound? Even with a whole 5 hours to go, things are wrapping up.


  6. True confession time. I have read DC multiple times since junior high and I like it. A lot. I agree that Dora is beyond annoying. But her death scene always gets to me. She reveals a self awareness that is heartbreaking because it comes too late, but also allows her to die with an “It’s for the best” attitude. I get misty just thinking about it. But I also cry at the end of a Tale of Two Cities. Can’t help it. Dickens brings out the sap in me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s