Examine the portrayal of Life On The Streets in Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” and Swindells’ “Stone Cold”Dickens and Swindell are both social commentators of their time. Both the books deal with the current issues of the time they were written. In both ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Stone Cold’ the issue of homelessness is the main topic in the book. Dickens wrote this book to enlighten the people of his time (Victorian) of what was going on in Britain. Swindell writes with a moral purpose to deter young adults from taking up and living on the streets.
Before leaving home both Link and Oliver were treated very badly. Link had more emotional abuse rather than being hurt physically; he’d had his dad leaving home and a stepfather ‘Vince’ moving in who treated Link as if he was unwanted, by locking Link out, and more than anything, Link feels Vince changed his mum. He left home after his GCSE’s and lived on the streets; being 16 he wasn’t old enough to sign on for benefits but was classed as an adult so he wasn’t treated like a child who would be taken care of. Link stayed in Bradford until Christmas. He left after that because he knew too many people there.
He found it embarrassing to beg from an old friend or a teacher. For Christmas day he went to Carol’s (his sister) house; he was given a sleeping bag, which I can agree with him, would have been horrible – because it meant he was thought of as homeless, and would never make anything out of himself. On the evening of Christmas day Vince and his Mum came round. The final straw that made Link leave Bradford is that Vince began getting at him and no one, not even Carol stuck up for him. Carol paid for a one-way ticket to London for him and hugged him Good Bye: He chose London to become anonymous.
Oliver was born into homelessness and the workhouse; his mother was an unknown woman in labour who had walked many miles to the workhouse, as there would be a doctor and a nurse there. His mother died in childbirth, making him an orphan with no known relations. He was sent to start out life in the ‘baby farm’. In the words of Charles Dickens ‘He fell into place at once – a parish child – the orphan of the workhouse – the humble, half starved drudge – to be cuffed and buffeted through the world – despised by all, and pitied by none’. A Baby Farm is a House where one person will bring up many babies until they are 9; the owner of the farm (in Oliver’s case this was Mrs. Mann) would get Sevenpence – halfpenny’s per child a week.
‘This was a very fair diet for a child, this diet could supply enough to overload a child’s stomach and make them feel uncomfortable’. ‘Mrs. Mann was a wise woman and used a very large proportion of the amount for her own needs’. So Oliver spent the first nine years of his life at the Baby Farm (which far less children left than had entered) being under fed and treated badly. On his ninth birthday Mr. Bumble the parish beadle came to collect Oliver to take him to the Workhouse: at this stage in his life Dickens describes Oliver as ‘A pale thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and decidedly small in circumference’. Oliver had spent his ninth birthday in the coal shed with two other boys after being beaten.
Mr. Bumble then took Oliver onto the next stage of his life, the workhouse; here Oliver was made to pick Oakum. Here his rations were three bowls of gruel a day, an onion twice a week and a roll on Sunday. After 7 or so months of this, one of the biggest boys in the dorm announced ‘if he didn’t get some more food soon he’d eat the boy in the next bed’. So all the boys drew lots to see who would go and ask for more; Oliver got the short straw. So after everyone had finished their gruel Oliver went up and said the famous line ‘Please, sir, I want some more’. After this Oliver was put in solitary confinement, publicly flogged and all the other boys were made to pray that they might never become like Oliver Twist.
In an effort to get rid of their most troublesome child the parish board decided to give 5 pounds to anyone who would take him up as an apprentice. Mr. Gamfield a chimney sweep first offered to take him up but together pleas by Oliver and some members of the board agreeing that chimney sweeping is a horrible job and also 2 boys had already died under Mr. Gamfield, they decided that Oliver would not become a chimney sweep. Next Mr. Sowerberry the Undertaker came and took Oliver.
When Oliver arrived at the house he was so hungry he ate the dog scraps at this point Dickens says ‘I wish some well fed philosopher, who’s meat and drink turns to gall within him; whose blood is ice, whose heart is iron; could have seen Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands that the dog had neglected. I wish he could have witnessed the avidity with which Oliver tore the bits asunder with all the ferocity of famine. There is only one thing I should like better; and that would be to see the Philosopher making the same sort of meal himself with the same relish.’