A Comparison of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist
Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are representative of the works produced by Charles Dickens over his lifetime. These novels exhibit many similarities - perhaps because they both reflect painful experiences that occurred in Dickens' past.
During his childhood, Charles Dickens suffered much abuse from his parents.1 This abuse is often expressed in his novels. Pip, in Great Expectations, talked often about the abuse he received at the hands of his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery. On one occasion he remarked, "I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face ignominously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient length."2
While at the orphanage, Oliver from Oliver Twist also experienced a great amount of abuse. For example, while suffering from starvation and malnutrition for a long period of time, Oliver was chosen by the other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner one night. After making this simple request, "the master (at the orphanage) aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle."3
The beginning of Oliver Twist's story was created from memories which related to Charles Dickens' childhood in a blacking factory ( which was overshadowed by the Marshalsea Prison ).4 While working in the blacking factory, Dickens suffered tremendous humiliation. This humiliation is greatly expressed through Oliver's adventures at the orphanage before he is sent away.
Throughout his lifetime, Dickens appeared to have acquired a fondness for "the bleak, the sordid, and the austere."5 Most of Oliver Twist, for example, takes place in London's worst slums.6 The city is described as a maze which involves a "mystery of darkness, anonymity, and peril."7 Many of the settings, such as the pickpocket's hideout, the surrounding streets, and the bars, are also described as dark, gloomy, and bland.8
Meanwhile, in Great Expectations, Miss Havisham's house is often made to sound depressing, old, and lonely. Many of the objects within the house had not been touched or moved in many years. Cobwebs were clearly visible as well as an abundance of dust, and even the wedding dress which Miss Havisham constantly wore had turned yellow with age.9
However, similarities are not just found in the settings.