David Copperfield: An Illustrated Hero?
Charles Dickens begins David Copperfield (1850), his eighth novel, with the eponymous David contemplating: "Whether I shall tum out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." This opening line of a work that Dickens considered his "favourite child" (Preface to the 1867 edition) is among the most famous in western literature.
In pondering whether his protagonist has the morality, physical strength and courage to be a hero, Dickens was in good company. The Victorians loved a hero, and heroism was a Victorian fascination, not merely a term for one who performs acts of extraordinary courage, as we use it today. William Makepeace Thackeray commented on the absence of heroism in his Vanity Fair (1848), subtitled "A Novel Without a Hero". Thomas Carlyle in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841) considered the achievement s of types of individuals who changed the course of history- the hero as prophet, hero as king, and hero as man of letters.
Golden, Catherine, "David Copperfield: An Illustrated Hero?" (2017). English Faculty Scholarship. 51.