endeavouring, in a confused blind way, to recall how I had felt, and what sort of boy I used to be, before I bit Mr. Murdstone: which I couldn't satisfy myself about by any means, I seemed to have bitten him in such a remote antiquity.

Category: Mind | Type: Discussion | Title: David Copperfield (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: I Am Sent Away from Home

David's biting Murdstone is the turning-point in his life until now. His act is courageous, and his subsequent exile hastens his forging his own identity. His life before that moment seems remote to him, because he was then a somewhat different boy. The landscape of memory has a topography as alive and changing as nature's. 

As Dickens presents it, the healthy memory is nothing like a museum. Present events and conditions cause David to readjust his sense of who he was, and writing his autobiography requires an entire re-calibration of his life. Far from being dead, the past is alive and the memory in flux. Only in the unhealthy, we'll see, is the past dead and fixed. David's decisions and inclinations in the present emerge from the affective memory, and a web of associations galvanizes and magnifies the emotions. Memory is the unnamed protagonist in the novel and the source for David's exercise of his will. 

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