It has weighed upon me that my girls are getting older, and that their lives have been wholesome, happy, and easy. We are blessed that so far our family has been sheltered from the real ugliness of life. I don't regret that the last death in our family occurred before any of them were old enough to remember, or that we've had little to no serious illness or injury. I'm not sorry that they don't know any families sundered by divorce, except my own. I thank God that none of their friends have been abused or hungry or homeless. But there is a big world out there full of people who don't know such a warm and comfortable life. One day they will encounter the vale of tears personally. I want to shepherd them through their first vicarious brush with the harsh fact that life is not so kind to every child.
Hence, David Copperfield. Young David is emotionally abused and beaten by his cold and controlling stepfather, sent to a brutish boarding school, is bereft of his mother, forced to fend for himself in the big city while working at a degrading job, and has to tramp alone across country, all before he turns 11. There's lots of dramatic potential there, and Dickens works it for the full Dickensian effect. The girls have been following along quite well. At a third of the way through the book, we've had many good conversations about how adults should treat children, about bad forms of education, about trust and self-reliance and people who will take advantage of others. Dickens's prose has settled in their ears and his plot in their imaginations and his themes in their minds.
Until now I've been reading unabridged, but I've run up against my first insuperable obstacle. David, on holiday, has once again met up with Steerforth, his eidolon, and they have traveled to Steerforth's home. There Dickens gives us Steerforth's idolatrous mother and her companion, Rosa Dartle. I cannot get a handle on Rosa. She loves, she hates, she insinuates. She is all smothered intensity and desire and fury. All this is well and good. But I can't find her voice, and if I can't interpret the character for the girls, they lose interest. Rosa's brand of repressed sexuality and rage is not interesting to the 10- and 8-year old, to say nothing of the 6-year-old. When I'm struggling through a passage trying to work out some tactics and motivation while the kids are hanging upside down on the couch with their legs kicking in the air, I know I'm beat.
I consulted YouTube to see what various film adaptions had done with Rosa, only to find that she seems (at least in this early appearance) to have been excised from the story. So I'm doing the same right now. We'll skip ahead to Yarmouth and let Steerforth have his first fateful encounter with Little Em'ly. Miss Mowcher the dwarf comes up in a few chapters, and she too may end up severely edited or on the cutting room floor. We need to move on to Dora, a character so ridiculous that all the young ladies will howl at her silliness, and David's too. Puppy love is a familiar, if goofy, concept to them.
And of course they're already asking when they can see the movie.