Death and inscriptions with respect to David Copperfield, Great expectations, and Charles Dickens.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the presence and effect of nineteenth-century aspects of death in David Copperfield and Great Expectations as the two of Dickens' novels that best illustrate and utilise the relationship between fact and fancy, memory and imagination, that the creation of fiction shares with the memorialising process. They offer various examples of the need for an appropriate intermingling of imagination and reality in the preservation of memory, whether for or of oneself. Because they are first-person narratives that contain significant autobiographical materials, these novels bear upon our understanding of Dickens' own wish to be remembered and memorialised through his fiction. Chapter 1 discusses aspects of death in the nineteenth century such as the funeral, undertakers, mourning dress, the site of interment and ideal commemorative methods. Dickens' participation in the public debate over appropriate funerary and memorialising customs is discussed by reference to articles in his two journals, and an example of his response to personal bereavement is given by reference to Mary Hogarth's death. The similarities between epitaphs and fiction are noted in discussing the memorialising/epitaphic function of literature. Chapter 2, which discusses David Copperfield, analyses David's experiences of death and his instruction in modes of mourning and memorialising. David's memorial of self intimates the consequences of an extremely edited memory in the memorialising process. Chapter 3 examines Great Expectations, analysing the presence and effect of aspects of death, particularly epitaphs, as registers of Pip's development. Pip's memorial demonstrates the importance of admitting memory in its entirety before successful memorialising can occur, and the implications of this for one's life. Chapter 4 applies to Dickens the te1ms established in the thesis and examines his relationship with the two novels. The connection between fiction and epitaphs is discussed with regard to the instructions in Dickens' will and the conclusion reached that Dickens' works of fiction are offered as the extended epitaph he has inscribed for the ideal commemoration of his memory.