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    Oliver Twist: Charles Dickens as Social Commentator and Critic

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    Charles Dickens wrote the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ because he wanted to show the aristocracy and the middle class the reality of poverty. Dickens felt it was his service to society by writing this novel. Dickens thought that the reality of poverty greatly needed to be told. Novels before this novel showed criminals in a much nicer way, earlier novels showed them as playful rogues. Charles Dickens wanted to show them as they are: ‘To paint them in all their deformity, in all their wretchedness in all the squalid poverty of their lives.

    One other very important reason dickens wrote this novel was because that he wanted to criticize the poor laws. The Victorian middle classes believed that people were poor because they were sinful and corrupt. Dickens tried to show the middle classes through his novel that this was not at all true. Dickens’ opinion was that the poor usually turned to crime because of their circumstances and environment. This story was originally published in a magazine and was rejected by the Victorian middle class at first.

    In chapter one Dickens uses many techniques to show the ‘Unattractive and repulsive truth’. He uses techniques such as satire, sarcasm, pathos, humour and sympathy. In chapter one Charles Dickens makes an observation about Oliver being born in a workhouse. ‘Born in a workhouse is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befall a human being’. In this quote Dickens is using sarcasm because being born in a workhouse is clearly a disadvantage. This comment is very sarcastic. As Oliver is born he is spoken of being a ‘Burden’ and having being imposed upon the parish.

    Another way that Charles Dickens puts across that the children in the workhouses are not cared for properly and that they are seen as being a problem is the way that Oliver is handled as a newborn baby. ‘It is very likely it will be troublesome. Give it a little gruel if it is’ says the doctor to the nurse. This is a very cold comment. It is as if Oliver is put to one side. One other point is that the nurse is drunk when she is assisting with delivering the baby. ‘Hastily depositing in her pocket a green glass bottle, the contents of which she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction’.

    Being drunk whilst delivering the baby shows how unimportant Oliver is to the nurse. In chapter one Dickens criticizes the medical profession. ‘The medical gentleman walked away to dinner’ this shows that the doctor can go off to dinner without a care for the starving children. In chapter two Dickens shows corruption. ‘And she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. ‘ This comment is about the elderly female who looked after the children. The elderly female took a share of the money that was for looking after the children, she was very corrupt.

    Dickens describes how Oliver would be ‘farmed’ to another workhouse. This shows the treatment of the children in the workhouses. The word farmed implies they are treated like some kind of farm animal. In chapter two sarcasm is also used to get Dickens’ point across, ‘Twenty or thirty juvenile offenders against the poor laws rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing’. This is a very sarcastic comment because there is no such thing as an inconvenience of too much food and clothing to children in workhouses.

    ‘It cannot be expected that this very system of farming would produce any very extraordinary or luxuriant crop. ‘ This statement is an extended metaphor. This metaphor says that children who are brought up in a workhouse will not turn out to be any body special. Dickens believed that if you were born good then you can stay good no matter what your circumstance or environment you are in you are in. ‘But nature or inheritance has implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver’s breast’. On the other hand it is the same with evil. If you are born bad you will stay bad.

    Charles Dickens makes a contrast when Oliver is going to see the board. All the men on the board are fat and healthy and Oliver is malnourished and unhealthy. ‘Particularly fat gentleman with a round red face’. This comment gives an image of a big fat man with enough or too much food in his belly. In chapter 47 Dickens creates a very evil picture of criminals. ‘With face so distorted and pale, and eyes so bloodshot, that he looked less like a man, than like some hideous phantom, moist from the grave. ‘ Dickens uses personification in this chapter. Dickens makes a very negative picture of Fagin and Sikes.

    Dickens makes Sikes seem inhuman and cold blooded by the way he describes Fagin treats Nancy. Another way he does this is when he is describing Fagin. ‘Fangs as should have been a dogs or rats. ‘ Dickens associates Fagin and criminals with filthy animals. When Fagin is telling Sikes about Nancy he uses repetition to wind Sikes up even more. ‘Which she did’. Also when Sikes is about to go off to find Nancy, Fagin says ‘You wont be too violent, Bill? ‘. This is reverse psychology because Fagin knows that this will make Sikes do the opposite and be very violent.

    When Sikes is about to kill Nancy there is a great amount of melodrama there. Nancy is associated with God and when she is pleading she builds up a lot of sympathy because she is defenceless against Sikes. Dickens wanted to portray the ‘unattractive and repulsive truth’ of existence for the ‘dregs of life’ and the poor. Charles Dickens did this very well and has used many ingenious techniques to do this. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Oliver Twist section.

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    Oliver Twist: Charles Dickens as Social Commentator and Critic. (2017, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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