Humor and Pathos in David Copperfield

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HUMOUR AND PATHOS IN “DAVID COPPERFIELD”

Dickens’s world is often criticized for not being life-like, but strangely it is his forte for making them extraordinarily alive. Such is the magnificence of his creative imagination. A street in London is described by Dickens is certainly a street in London but is different too. “For Dickens has used the real world to create his own world, to add a country to the geography of the imagination”. As Hugh Walker avers “he is the romancer of London, life, and his romances, are founded on reality”. Dickens’ creative imagination is also seen in inventing dramatic and picturesque incidents. \Many such dramatic incidents readily come to the mind of all readers of Dickens. Again, his creative imagination makes them excel in humour. Humour is, by its very nature, creative. It is not a mere record of fact but a comment on them; it makes something new on them. “All the great Victorian novelists are humorists and each is a humorist in a style of his own”. Dickens has created countless comic figures, Mr. Micawber, uncle Pumblechook and others, are all comic, each in his own way. Finally, his creative imagination is reflected in the fact that his characters are extremely animate. His characters are real, living, breathing human beings. His characters are in fact so vital that they linger in the memory even when the actual incidents of the novel have been forgotten. Thus Dickensian characters are immortal. The word “Pathos” means “suffering” in Greek; in English it is used in the sense of the quality in speech, writing, incidents etc that “excites pity or sadness”. The word “humour” has various connotations. That which is relevant here is facetiousness and the faculty of perceiving the comical side of everything. It is a kind of jocose imagination that has less of the intellectual aspect than in the case of wit. Wit may be bereft of the sympathetic side but humour has more of it.

The skill of Dickens who has enriched his narratives with both humour and pathos cannot be surpassed by any other writer in English or in any other language. His natural gift for pathos doesn’t stop with shedding tears of sympathy. He further enlivens the context with a great deal of laughter. In fact the encroachment on each other’s territory by humour and pathos is deliberately introduced by the author who is conscious of their peculiar effect on the readers. .Dickens is like a man who attacks with both hands, left and right indiscriminately, with the sole aim that the blow should have some telling effect on the victim. He takes on himself that some characters should be ridiculed and he immediately makes use of satire. When he feels that the character should be hit slightly but not wounded, a sympathetic humour backed by a suppressed smile is taken up by the resourceful author. All the novels abound in characters of diverse idiosyncrasies meriting either of the devices. Dickens paints the pretentious and the pompous characters masquerading as the leaders of the society, big-wigs professing to be the initiators of fashions, such as government officials, lawyers and others in a funny manner, projecting their eccentricities with an exaggerated emphasis on their weak points and foibles. Sometimes these exaggerations appear wild but are definitely effective in achieving their aim and purpose. As for the gentle and truly amiable good characters, he strokes them as it were with genial and humorous touches. Lovable simpletons like Micawber, Sam Welle, etc, receive affectionate endearing fondling.

Dickens can be anointed as the king of English Humorists with an international reputation. Original in his humorous conceptions he makes those conceptions travel through various levels of sympathy, geniality, hilarity, facetious ridicule, farcical satire and a happy blending of humour and pathos in due proportions. Comic and pathetic ingredients are blended together to form a very comprehensive...
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