Comparing Evil, Abuse and Escape in Oliver Twist and Great Expectations
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In Oliver Twist and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, both main characters refuse to except the poor hand the world has dealt them. Pip and Oliver reach a great epiphany in regards to social injustice, and in turn rebel against the system that oppresses them. They are tired of being mistreated and neglected, and therefore decide to make a stand. Charles Dickens exhibits through Oliver and Pip that the revolt of the weak against the strong results from the oppression of the poor. As a result of their revolt against the system, Pip and Oliver are ostracized for their non-conformist ideals. Thus change in an oppressing and conformist society can only be achieved through change in moral, social, and political instincts.
In both novels the main character faces abuse and neglect which result in rebellion and distancing of them from the society which chooses to hold them down. In Oliver Twist, Oliver receives a great amount of abuse through the orphanage. While suffering from starvation and malnutrition for a long period of time, Oliver is chosen by the other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner. After making this simple request, “the master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with a ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle” (Oliver Twist 16). This pain and neglect caused a change in Oliver. He realized that he must rebel against the society that wishes to oppress him, in order to truly start living. In Great Expectations, Pip receives a great deal of abuse at the hands of his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery. On one occasion “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 ignominiously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient length” (Great Expectations 12). This anguish inflicted by the hands of his sister resulted in Pip distancing himself from any ties with his family. Thus his independence grew as a direct result of the abuse he had faced.
In both novels the main characters have to escape from harsh living conditions and evil surroundings which in turn forces them to grow as individuals, and become independent from a conformist society. Oliver finds himself residing in an orphanage that is dark and sordid. As well he finds himself in London’s lowest slums, such as the pickpockets hideout, the surrounding streets, and the bars, which are all described as dark, gloomy, and bland.