Master Copperfield! Father and me was both brought up at a foundation school for boys; and mother, she was likewise brought up at a public, sort of charitable, establishment.

Category: Education | Type: Discussion | Title: David Copperfield (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: Wickfield and Heep

We detest Heep and take pleasure in doing so, but Dickens complicates our response. We failed to consider why he became so odious, for was he too not a child?

Partial responsibility for Heep's contortions are traceable to "a public, sort of charitable, establishment," a foundation school. This, like others of its kind and like much Victorian philanthropy, inculcated self-debasement in the beneficiary as the price of charity. The "gentlefolks" demand his abject contrition to prove that he is "well-behaved," which is to say marinated in gratitude.

Humbleness is branded on him as indelibly as Rosa's scar. Heep's apparent self-loathing conceals a vicious hatred of his betters. To some degree, then, the class system, which instructed not only Uriah but his father and mother, bred a conniving humility into the family and into all such people trapped in the chasm between the artisan class and the middle class. In order to climb they must learn to slither. 

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