my first childish associations with his white grave-stone in the churchyard,

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Discussion | Title: David Copperfield (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: I Am Born

"[A]ssociations," those images that occupy the vacant space between our knowing something but having no empirical evidence of it, become an intricate and determining network over the course of the novel.

The opening of Great Expectations builds on David's experience of the only way the child has, in an era before photography, of conjuring up images of his father and mother:

As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle - I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

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