I’m beginning to understand why Dickens is so highly praised and emulated. When he is at his best, as he is in David Copperfield, he manages to precisely capture not only the variety of the human spirit in his characters, but also the the political, economic, cultural, and physical landscape that his characters occupy. By developing such memorable characters and allowing them to drive the narrative, he creates an eminently readable story that we can recognize as a mirror of our own experience. As the characters converse, and fight, and form friendships, and try to make a living, they are continually colliding with the forces that are shaping that moment of history. Indeed, this is how we all experience the historical forces of our time, and this is exactly why we can read Dickens over 150 years later and still find affinities with the characters and the dilemmas they face.
Obviously, this isn’t unique to Dickens. Yet the scope of the issue he incorporates into his landscape, his penchant for wit, and his uniquely memorable (if occasionally two-dimensional) characters set him apart from the many other excellent Victorian novelists.