10 of Water - Yarmouth

Characters:

David Copperfield; Little Em'ly;

Ham Peggotty; Daniel Peggotty.

Book:

David Copperfield

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   For David Copperfield, the Yarmouth coastal home of the Peggotty family is a haven. With a home built from a boat which remains on shore, David is sheltered and cared for with an openness of familial affection felt before by the boy only from his beloved nurse, Clara Peggotty. Like his younger sister, Daniel Peggotty is kind, warm-hearted, and primarily concerned with the well-being of his adopted family. Along with his niece Emily and his nephew Ham, whom he raises as though they were his own, he also supports Mrs. Gummidge, the woe-is-me widow of his one-time business partner. When Clara brings young David to her brother's seaside utopia, Daniel and the entire Peggotty family welcome the boy as one of their own.

 

 Also welcomed with open arms is David's old school companion, James Steerforth. When Little Em'ly is seduced away from her fiancé by the recreant Steerforth, Mr. Peggotty gives but a passing thought to revenge before focusing instead all his energies on saving his mistreated and disgraced step-daughter. He traipses tirelessly across Europe in this quest, finally reuniting with his darling girl in London. After Ham's drowning - also caused, if inadvertently, by David's so-called friend Steerforth - Daniel Peggotty takes Emily and Mrs. Grummidge to begin a new life in Australia. True to character, he also takes with him the fallen girl Marth Endell, whose sad story echoes Little Em'ly's almost to the letter.

 

 Ham Peggotty is an inarticulate young man who, considering the schooled David “a scholar... who knows what's right and best”, defers to the younger Copperfield as “Master Davy”. Ham's sincerity stands in direct contradistinction to the complete insincerity of Uriah Heep, who repeatedly refers to David as “Master” rather than “Mister” – a mistake he claims is unintentional but which is in fact a willful slight. When his fiancé Emily betrays him for Steerforth, Ham is most concerned that she should forgive him. Finally, Ham's self-sacrifice underscores one of the over-arching themes of David Copperfield, namely: a person's value exists not in their self-serving passions but in their compassion for others, and true nobility of character is found not in patrician words or 'umble prostrations but in the heart.

 

 Emily's desire to be a lady isn't simply born from a vain desire to be rich and well-placed. Like David, Rosa Dartle, and Tommy Traddles, she is an orphan, whose father's early death has left her terrified of the uncertainties of a life as a fisherman's wife. As idyllic as her life with the Yarmouth Peggotty's is, the reality is the prospects for fishermen in Victorian times were as violent and volatile as the oceans themselves. If her family were “gentlefolk”, as Little Em'ly herself says, she "wouldn't mind then when there come stormy weather." Charles Dickens, in the character of Little Em'ly, with her sympathetic dream of a better life and her sin less of pride than of affection, implores the reader to consider the girl with forgiveness and compassion. In so doing, he asks Victorian society to show an ounce of the milk of human kindness Daniel Peggotty and his Yarmouth family felt and shared, as Dickens himself in his way had shown with Urania Cottage, many of whose girls found a new life and love in Australia.

 

 Some have seen in Daniel Peggotty's obsessive concern for Little Em'ly, as well as his courting of the girl on his nephew Ham's behalf, something less than altruistic. This is to suggest, then, a dark undercurrent of incest at work in the 10 of Water card - a disturbing blurring of the boundaries between paternalism and the virtuous purity of the girl-child seen elsewhere in Dickens and in Victorian Society itself.

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ShorthandPeace - security - a sense of family - acceptance - salad days - coziness - bucolic surroundings - anti-social actions - feeling sorry for oneself - nostalgia - exploitation of the goodwill of others - betrayal of friends - disruption of familial order - taboo attractions - wistfulness - psychological displacement.