“I am well aware that I am the ‘umblest person going”*

*Charles Dickens: (1849-50) Uriah Heep. “David Copperfield”, ch.16.

In “‘It’s the Old Story’: David and Uriah in II Samuel and ‘David Copperfield.’” The Modern Language Review 101, no. 4 (2006), Eitan Bar-Yosef wrote:

“The Victorian readers of Dickens’s David Copperfield (1850) could have easily ignored the biblical allusions evoked by the presence of a protagonist named David; but a struggle between a David and a Uriah, reimagined in a contemporary novel, was no less than a direct appeal to the readers’ collective realm of associations. In a society in which cheap Bibles and various religious publications were found even in the most meagre of household libraries, scriptural stories provided a common cultural ground. By comparing the two versions of the David-Uriah plot, in II Samuel and in David Copperfield, we can gain a better understanding of the Victorian reader response and perhaps come closer to realizing Dickens’s authorial design.

The affinity between the two narratives has been traced comprehensively by Jane Vogel. Nevertheless, keen to prove that ‘Dickens works vigorously in both the letter and the spirit of the Bible story of David and Uriah’, Vogel naturally plays down the gaps, tensions, and differences that exist between the two versions. Consequently, she underestimates the creative potential that these gaps could hold for Dickens’s work. As this essay will suggest, it is precisely by subverting the biblical story and highlighting the differences between the two texts that Dickens encouraged readers to recognize Copperfield’s repressed desires, to identify his prejudices and blind spots, and, subsequently, to suspect the neat moral pattern Copperfield seeks to impose on his self-acclaimed Bildungsroman. Deviating knowingly from the scriptural account that was impressed, he knew, upon his readers’ minds, Dickens was thus able to circumvent Copperfield’s first-person narration and offer a darker, more critical assessment of his protagonist. That Dickens was indeed relying on this intertextual effect to achieve an ironic view of the narrator is suggested by another – and curiously overlooked – re-enactment of the David-Uriah-Bathsheba traingle in the novel, namely, the troubled relationship between Doctor Strong, his wife Annie, and Jack Maldon…”

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