September 19, 2018
David Copperfield: The Evil Shadow of Edward Murdstone
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens centers on a character named David Copperfield, an innocent and naïve young man, who experiences emotionally and physically abuse from his stern stepfather, Edward Murdstone. Near the beginning of the story, Edward Murdstone, often referred to as Mr. Murdstone, is introduced to the readers as a “tall, intimidating man with a dark handsomeness” whose motives in marrying Clara Copperfield (David’s mother) appears to be only coming after her inheritance and controlling Copperfield family’s life. Since Mr. Murdstone is the main antagonist in the story, he plays an important role as David's step-father and has the biggest impact on David’s life as Mr. Murdstone is the first man Copperfield has ever had in his life as his father died before he was born. Dickens portrays Mr. Murdstone as aloof and sinister throughout the story; these qualities originally make him an unsympathetic character that the readers hardly root for him. Indeed, Edward Murdstone is the kind of character that the readers call a scathing reflection of the patriarchy, as unsafe and full of fears to the women and children in his household, since he has a significant privilege in the shape of a handsome and wealthy man.
First, Dickens has become incredibly clever at naming for the antagonist, Mr. Murdstone, which is possibly extracted from two words: “murder” and “stone”–that also relates much to his ruthless appearance that is evil and sadistic. At one point, the main character David Copperfield compliments how handsome Mr. Murdstone is with his beautiful black hair and thick whiskers, yet the strong, dark eyebrows give his face an oddly menacing look which later marks the lots of negative impacts on David’s life. Thus, David immediately follows his child’s instinct that Mr. Murdstone is a man should not be trusted as “I didn’t like him or his deep voice. […] I see him turn around in the garden and give us a last look with his ill-omened black eyes, before the door was shut.” (Dickens 12) and “He had that kind of shallow black eye–I want a better word to express an eye that has no depth in it to be looked into.” (Dickens 14). Already, the readers are given a warning of impending tragedy from the looks of his eyes through the observation of David. As wicked as Mr. Murdstone is, he knows David will be the one who opposes his plan to marry his dearest mother–Clara Copperfield, referred to as Mrs. Copperfield, so he attempts to seduce Mrs. Copperfield to marry her while discreetly sending Copperfield away. According to the standard of Victorian society, all of the woman’s possession will belong to her husband by law once they are married. After the death of Mr. Copperfield, he left Mrs. Copperfield an annuity of a hundred and five pounds a year in his will along with his pretty house, and it probably adds to Mrs....