In From Copyright to Copperfield, Alexander Welsh examines the uses Dickens made of his memories of the infamous episode involving Warrens Shoeblacking warehouse, and in so doing he contrasts the tales of Pip and David:

The criminality uncovered in Great Expectations and the more nearly explicit burden of guilt borne by the hero make it seem more modern than Copperfield. The shame that Dickens associated with the blacking warehouse he overcame more or less straightforwardly with the story of success in the first novel; in the second, in a routine that may be thought of as a model for psychoanalysis, he exchanged shame for guilt. [180]

Nonetheless, as Welsh argues, both novels share Dickens's often-observed characteristic use of a Doppelgänger figure — a character who functions in some senses as a darker version, or even as the moral inverse, of the protagonist. In David Copperfield, for instance,

Uriah Heep is a Doppelgänger, like Rigaud in Little Dorrit and Orlick in Great Expectations, in whom the aggressive and sexual demands of the hero are strangely absorbed and whose criminal doings, as eventually exposed, clear the hero of wrong doing [143]. . . . The whole conception of Uriah Heep as the “umble" hypocrite shadows darkly Copperfield's rise in the world through earnestnes and hard work. The Doppelgänger is in revolt against the deference demanded of the young and ambitious in all societies, but with particular severity in Victorian England. [144]

Building upon Welsh's insights, see if you can determine precisely what aspects of Pip Orlick shadows? Readers have long noticed that Orlick serves as Pip's dark double, but what about Bentley Drummle? Isn't there something just a little too perversely convenient in the way he physically abuses the woman whom Pip tells us has made him suffer? (And by the way, does Estella make Pip suffer, or does Pip make himself suffer?)

Bibliography

Welsh, Alexander. From Copyright to Copperfield: The Identity of Dickens. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 4 December 2004