Oliver Twist

Powerful Essays
Oliver Twist

Have you ever thought about how it would be to live in a time of poverty? How

would life be if you were poor and did not know from where you would be getting your

next meal? What would it be like to be forced to live in a workhouse? These are some of

the questions you might ask yourself if you were living in early nineteenth century

England. Dickens addresses these issues in his timeless masterpiece Oliver Twist. In the story of Oliver Twist, Dickens uses past experiences from his childhood and targets the Poor Law of 1834 which renewed the importance of the workhouse as a means of relief

for the poor.

Dickens' age was a period of industrial development marked by the rise of the

middle class (Wagenknecht 219). In the elections brought about by the accession of

William IV in 1830, the Tories lost control of the government. Assumption of power by

the Whigs opened the way to an era of accelerated progress (Kaste 8). In this time period children worked just as much, if not more, than some of the adults. After 1833, an increased amount of legislation was enacted to control the hours of labor and working

conditions for children and women in manufacturing plants. The Poor Law of 1834

provided that all able bodied paupers must reside in a workhouse (8). Widespread

hostility was felt to the new law; many believed that life was harder in a workhouse than in prison (Rooke 22). The plan was successful from one standpoint, for within three years the cost of poor relief was reduced by more than one-third. However, this system was sharply censured. The increased prevalence of crime was attributed towards it. Inmates of the workhouses became objects of public stigma, and to further heighten the unpopularity of the institutions, living conditions were deliberately made harsh (Kaste 8). Poverty was at it's peak around this time in England. Houses were overcrowded, packed together in narrow streets and courts which were often piled deep in rotting refuse (Rooke 33). New problems of food and public health were faced by a parliamentary and economic system which was better suited to the eighteenth century. On June 20, 1837, Queen Victoria came to the throne of England as the long period of middle class ascendancy was gaining momentum (Kaste 8). The Victorian age, which this time period is often referred, comes from "Queen Victor...

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...cked full of suspense and action. This piece of literature will never be forgotten.

In Conclusion, Dickens had a rough childhood which helped prompt him to write

many classic novels. Dickens wrote to make people think about how the government was

being run. He wrote Oliver Twist to almost protest the Poor Law of 1834 and the use of

the workhouses. Since Dickens was such an original writer his presence in literature will be forever appreciated.


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Rooke, Patrick. The Age of Dickens. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978.

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