Dickens' English - wax doll

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Q-cumber

Senior Member
Hello everybody!

A while ago, I had finished reading the "David Copperfield" novel by Charles Dickens. I enjoyed it a lot. Surprisingly, the author's tongue was perfectly understandable for me. Yet I'd like to ask some questions:

1.
"My father had once been a favourite of hers <his aunt>, I believe; but she was mortally affronted by his marriage, on the ground that my mother was 'a wax doll'. She had never seen my mother, but she knew her to be not yet twenty. "
Any clues of what the author meant by the "wax doll" here?
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  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I can only guess he meant she was something of a cipher, with no real character, inanimate, perhaps fragile.
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    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    I would suspect calling her 'a wax doll' suggests that she might be pretty but she was too young to have real substance, a real character, to be trust-worthy. Wax is not a substance that holds up to harsh conditions.

    (Note that under "wax doll" the OED cites Dickens saying someone "looked like a wax doll on a sunny day." This is surely not a compliment.)
     
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