Thursday, February 19, 2009

Copperfield Update; Character Names

Good gracious, it's been a week since my last post! I'd better write something or you'll all forget who I am. I had barely caught up after being on vacation, when my sister and nephews arrived for a wonderful week's visit. She lives across the country from me, so we don't get to hang out as much as we'd like. I wish she'd move to Oregon.

Tonight I'm going to attempt to combine a Weekly Geeks assignment and a reading update on David Copperfield.

Care challenged me to read 30-50 pages last week, and I did read 50. This week I've read about three. The exciting thing is that Uriah Heap has appeared! Uriah Heap is a characters whose name I've heard practically all my life, and I never knew who he was. I still don't really know who he is--he's supposed to be a bad guy, but he seems kind of okay so far. Unusual, for Dickens--usually the bad guys are pretty transparently despicable. And, with a name like Uriah...

Character names are this week's Weekly Geeks topic, so I'm going to write a bit about the names in David Copperfield. First of all, the book is fiction but autobiographical in many ways, and many people have thought that Dickens purposefully reversed his initials to create David's. According to the introduction of the edition I'm reading, Dickens was surprised when this was pointed out to him. In fact, the main character's name was originally Thomas Mag. Both David and Thomas were fairly common names in the mid-twentieth century when Dickens was writing this novel, so maybe he was going for a John Doe type of name.

But what about Uriah? I don't think Dickens was aiming for a name that meant "God is my light." Maybe he was looking for a generally unpopular name: Uriah's never been in the top 1000 names, even in the nineteenth century.

Two of the maternal figures in the story--David's mother, and his nurse (Pegotty) are named Clara. In this case, I'm sure Dickens was going for the meaning of the name: bright and clear. Nothing was more clear to poor David than the love his mother and nurse held for him, even when circumstances prevented them from fully expressing it.

That's all the names I have time for, and as far as a favorite character name in a book, I really don't have any that I can think of. The other thing about names I want to say is that, like Mr. Dickens, I've changed several character names in my book--some, more than once! I started off wanting very common names for all my characters but I realized it was too confusing, plus I had too many J and B names. So, John became Sean; Jim became Ian; Jerry became Arnie; Bill became Nate; Ben (named long before my son was born) became Ken but he's going to be something different, I'm considering Kip for him. When I talk to my husband about the plot sometimes he's mystified because I've changed the names since he last read it. I wonder if any other famous characters, besides David Copperfield, were first conceived of with different names.


  1. I've missed you! It's been a long time since I read David Copperfield. Probably due for a reread!

  2. Thanks, Lenore! It's good to be back, though it was actually nice to take a little blogging break, too.

  3. Congrats on getting those pages read! I'm so happy for you. Great post, welcome back.