In Gilmore Girls, aka the best show ever written, bright-eyed Rory Gilmore is continually seen reading a wide array of books. Whether in preparation for Harvard or for her time at Yale, she is always improving herself via literature.
Juxtapose this with Patrick Lenton, who found himself re-reading The Wheel of Time for the seventeenth time, grimly hoping the ingrained misogyny might somehow disappear if he just believed hard enough. What happened to his days of challenging himself? What about that one time he read Moby Dick and felt good for eight years? Patrick decided to take a leaf out of Rory’s books and read Rory’s books.
This week’s Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is covered by Nike Sulway.
54.) David Copperfield
It’s Rory’s first day at the prestigious private school, Chilton, and on top of the challenges of dealing with a mom (who looks good) in short shorts, an interfering grandmother, and a combative Paris Geller, Rory has to carry around a pile of really heavy novels by dead white men. As well as David Copperfield, the scenes at Chilton show Rory tackling Dickens’ Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Little Dorrit and Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina. There are further references to Dostoevsky, Balzac and Shakespeare.
Rory’s hefty reading list is one of many reminders that she is about to enter into a Very Serious Education.
Meanwhile, back in Stars Hollow, Miss Patty is using copies of the new Harry Potter novel to teach little kids how to walk with their heads up high.
Rory, honey, you’re not in Stars Hollow anymore.
I’ve never been a fan of Charles Dickens. Not since grade five, when I starred as Starving Orphan #12 in that great classic, Oliver Twist. It had a two-week run, during which I sang, at the top of my lungs, “Please, sir, I want some more!” I was not blessed with the voice of a nightingale. The reviews were excoriating.
David Copperfield, or The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account) – just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? – is the first-person account of its titular character’s life story. It follows David from his ‘posthumous’ birth (he is born after his father’s death) to his happy ending as a successful writer and happily married father of five.
David Copperfield and the first season of Gilmore Girls share some key themes, such as family, money and education. David is the child of a single mother, a woman who, like Lorelai Gilmore, must make difficult decisions in order to provide for her child. For Mrs Copperfield, this leads to a disastrous second marriage with the truly awful Mr Murdstone; for Lorelai, brokering a deal with her mother to fund Rory’s education in return for Friday Night Dinners.
In both worlds, money can buy education, clothes, security, even the appearance of familial affection, but not honour or kindness or generosity. Both Rory and David must learn, time and again, the importance of living an honourable life of kindness, friendship and generosity.
Copperfield and Gilmore Girls both delight in eccentric but affectionately drawn characters. In Copperfield, Mr Dick is, far and away, my favourite of these characters. Like David, he is writing “a memorial about his own history”, but is rather impeded by the problem of King Charles I’s head. King Charles I was beheaded in 1649, and Mr Dick uses a manuscript about King Charles to make a kite “as much as seven feet high”. The kite acts as a metaphor both for Mr Dick’s intellectual eccentricity and for the process of writing. Unlike many of David’s sombre outbursts about writing, Mr Dick’s are playful, open and creative. When he invites David to go kite flying, he says, “There’s plenty of string … and when it flies high, it takes the facts a long way. That’s my manner of diffusing ’em. I don’t know where they may come down. It’s according to circumstances, and the wind, and so forth; but I take my chance of that.”
Rory, too, must take her chances at Chilton, combining something of the earnestness of David Copperfield with the more playful subversiveness of Mr Dick and the folksy misfits of Stars Hollow. She must learn to fly her own kite, or perhaps, much later, to leap with her own umbrella.
Curious to see the full list? You can view it here.
Nike Sulway is a Queensland-based fan of Gilmore Girls, but not necessarily of Charles Dickens. She enjoys reading books by smart women.