Charles Dickens’ Exploration of First Impressions in His Work David Copperfield
Lifelong Memories Springing from First Impressions
In all aspects of life, one must cooperate with others in order to succeed, but the successfulness of all relationships and social interactions may simply boil down to one’s “first impression.” In “David Copperfield,” Charles Dickens explores how first impressions tend to be lasting impressions as certain physical impressions predict social chemistry of a relationship and even leave one with vivid, lifelong memories of the first time meeting someone. The sense of society’s value on a first impression is strongly evoked when David Copperfield arrives at Aunt Betsey’s cottage as both individuals develop lasting impressions of one another.
As soon as David arrives at his aunt’s cottage home, his aunt and uncle create these lasting impressions of their nephew, while David develops a sense of who his aunt truly is. Dickens characterizes David’s pitiful situation particularly through physical descriptions of David’s clothing, which clearly seem to make lasting first impression on David’s uncle peering through the parlor window in disgust. David appears to be in a “woeful condition” as his “soles have shed themselves bit by bit,” and he wears a “shirt and trousers, stained with heat, dew, grass, and the Kentish soil.” Though David knows that he is rather “discomposed,” he feels even worse when his uncle seems unimpressed or even disappointed in his nephew, shown when he looks up at David in a “grotesque manner” and shakes his head repeatedly. Also, Miss Betsey, David’s aunt, tells David to “Go away” at first sight but continues to act fairly rude when she realizes that he is her nephew. Despite that David calls her “aunt,” Miss Betsey still feels dismay and annoyance towards David as she exclaims “Oh, Lord,” possibly reflecting how David’s disheveled appearance has given her a negative, persistent first impression. Last of all, David’s crystal-clear memories of meeting his aunt reflect how this first impression of his aunt has caused him to see her this way for the rest of his life. Since Miss Betsey speaks rather rudely to David at first sight, his recollection describes her less affectionately as a stubborn, “hard-featured lady” with “inflexibility in her face, in her voice, in her gait and carriage.” This negative first impression leaves David with a negative view of his aunt, in contrast to when he first describes her “very neat little cottage with cheerful bow-windows” and how he approaches her “softly.” In addition, these memories have formed lasting impressions on David as he has retained these first impressions of Miss Betsey in great detail even though he writes this narrative at an older age. Although Dickens presents rather negative first impressions of characters in this scene, these first impressions have clearly stuck with David for a lifetime.
In this passage from “David Copperfield,” Dickens successfully explains the social dynamics between characters as each forms lasting opinions of one another. And, these first impressions seem to have greatly affected how at a mature age, David recalls Miss Betsey as a rough, stubborn woman instead of someone more pleasant because he does not see his aunt as a friendly, caring person in his memories. In conclusion, David’s clear recollection of when he first meets his aunt and uncle shows how first impressions tend to have a lasting (or even lifelong) impact on one’s opinions and views of someone else.
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