Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist

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Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist

The novel Oliver Twist is a criticism of the cruelty that children and

poor people suffered at the hands of 19th century society. It was

Dickens first novel written under his own name when he was 24 years

old and in it he already reveals his sharp, but comic comments and


From the start Dickens makes it clear to the reader that poor people

and the children of poor people; most especially a baby born

illegitimately; were of no consequence in the 1900s. The first person

narrator feels he need not “trouble” himself “as it can be of no

possible consequence” to tell us the place or date of Oliver’s birth.

This concept is further revealed when he refers to Oliver as an “item

of mortality” and then later on in the chapter “it”. The child

deserves no name as he is not a legitimate member of society so he has

no place or importance: he starts life at the bottom of the Victorian

food chain. By having the narrator address Oliver as a “it” instead of

a “him” Oliver is dehumanised and so Dickens draws this to our


Born into “this world or sorrow and trouble” our narrator seems to

believe that Oliver’s chance of survival are extremely slim, so we are

surprised when Dickens has him say; “it was the best thing for Oliver

Twist that would by possibility have occurred” (being born in a

workhouse), he also tells us the baby “lay gasping on a little flock

mattress rather unequally poised between this world and the next”. All

the odds are against Oliver yet this neglect saves him life! With

amusing sarcasm Dickens suggests that if Oliver had been “surrounded

by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses and doctors

of profound wisdom, he would most inevit...

... middle of paper ... Oliver’s “solitary incarceration” he

says enemies of the system claim that “Oliver was denied the benefit

of exercise, the pleasure of society or the advantages of religious

consolation” Dickens then defends this statement by sarcastically

saying “as for exercise it was nice cold weather, and he was allowed

to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone

yard, in the presence of Mr Bumble, who prevented his catching a cold

and causes a tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated

applications of the cane” Dickens sarcastically addresses exercise as

being beaten, a physical punishment for Oliver.

Oliver is also abused mentally, at evening when the boys went to pray,

Oliver was “kicked into the same apartment every evening” and there he

listend to the other boys “ask god to guard them from the sins and

vices of Oliver Twist”.
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