- Author's Saving Throw: Miss Mowcher's abrupt transformation from The Grotesque to heroic figure, after the woman on whom she was based recognized herself.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, Steerforth, even Dora Spenlow, and a host of others. Many have noted that the least interesting character is Davey himself.
- Fair for Its Day:
- Among other instances, a lot of readers think Dickens' shipping of the Peggottys to Australia after Emily's fall from grace is unfair, but the book actually was a fair look at prostitution at the time (and that kind of thing really happened, too). Not to mention the local prostitute, Martha, is treated as a sympathetic figure. Her Only Friend Emily clearly cares for her, helps her to go to London and start her life all over again, and later she helps Daniel and David to find Emily again. Besides, even in their exile, both Emily and Martha's stories have happy endings (Martha gets married, while Emily lives a good life of caring for those in need), in an era when "fallen woman" characters were more typically killed off.
- Mr. Dick is portrayed with an unusual amount of respect for a mentally challenged character in an older book, wherein such were more usually the ludicrous comic relief (this is the point of Aunt Betsey's repeated insistence that Mr Dick's actually a very deep and practical thinker, which would've amused contemporary readers much more than modern ones).
- Foe Yay: Uriah gets very touchy-feely with David, who for his part, is fascinated by Uriah's strange appearance. Once he compares Heep's reddish brown eyes to "two glowing suns", and another time, when Uriah has wormed himself into David's home, David gives in to an irresistible temptation to watch him sleep.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: In the 1999 miniseries Mrs Micawber is played by Imelda Staunton, who treats David (played by a young Daniel Radcliffe ) with great affection. Their next encounter is not so pleasant... The inverse is true with Zoe Wanamaker, wicked Jane Murdstone in this series but playing the Stern Teacher Madame Hooch in the Potterverse. Creator/Maggie Smith is stern and caring to Radcliffe's character in both.
- Ho Yay: The entirety of Steerforth and David's friendship is loaded with it, especially since in order to heighten the dramatic impact of Steerforth's ultimate betrayal Dickens gives David a number of unabashedly gushy rants that read exactly as though David has a crush on his older, handsome, hugely charming friend.
- Informed Wrongness: While Uriah's methods of obtaining his promotion to partner aren't exactly laudable, it's treated as a travesty that he should be promoted to partner at all even before this is known for sure, despite the fact that Uriah has been working for Mr Wickfield since he was eleven years old, appears to have done most of the work of the business for a substantial period of that time, and is, if nothing else, a capable lawyer.
- Jerkass Woobie: Yes, Rosa Dartle is a massive bitch, but in some interpretations a very tragic one as well.
- Retroactive Recognition: The 1999 BBC adaptation features a number of actors who would go on to feature in the Harry Potter films.
- Young David himself is Harry Potter.
- Betsey Trotwood is Professor McGonagall.
- Jane Murdstone is Madame Hooch.
- Mrs. Micawber is Professor Umbridge.
- Mrs. Crupp is The Fat Lady in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
- From other works: Ian McKellen is Mr. Creakle and Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen) as young James Steerforth.
- Tear Jerker: So many! Like Mr. Mell being fired and humiliated, David being told that both his mother and half-brother died, Barkis' death, the revelation that Steerforth betrayed David and Ham via seducing Emily, and Dora's death.
- In the 1935 adaptation, David, after finding his mother has married Murdstone and that he's furthermore been booted from his old bedroom near hers to a crappy, broken down guest room, tearfully reads his Crocodile Book, and then breaks down crying. It's hard not to feel for him.
- Too Cool to Live: Many critics have complained about Steerforth's usurpation of the story.
- Values Dissonance: Tons, most notably in the treatment of women. Much of the emotional impact of Emily's subplot depends on assumptions re: female virtue that are very nearly unimaginable today.
- Wangst: Emily's endless weepy penitence can drive a modern reader up the wall.
- The Woobie: David as a child. Also his mother, Dora and Little Emily.
- Also Mr. Mell, David's good-hearted but weak-willed teacher in Salem House, especially when Steerforth abused him and got him kicked out of the school on a whim.
- And Ham, after Emily left him for Steerforth. Even more so when he dies making an Heroic Sacrifice to reach a passenger signalling from a ship foundering in a storm. And especially when the passenger he failed to rescue turns out to be Steerforth.
YMMV / David Copperfield