Oliver Twist is a novel by Charles Dickens. It is about a boy who lived in the unfair society of Victorian England. From the very start, the reader can see that lower class people were treated unfairly and rejected by everyone as part of the community. There were no benefits for poor people or people who couldn’t get jobs, so they had to get by however they could, even if that meant breaking the law. Dickens may have wanted to highlight the poverty and mistreatment so he could change people’s perspectives and maybe the way people lived.
Even at the very start of his life, Oliver is born in poor conditions, his mother dies giving birth to him in a workhouse, with only a drunk nurse and an uncaring parish surgeon to look after him now. For the whole of his life Oliver is bound to be seen as an obstacle in everyone else’s life ” It is very likely that it will be troublesome”, Oliver is referred to as ‘it’ making him seem more like an object that a person- something that will just get in the way. As one of the poorest people in England, it was possible that Oliver was one of the most mistreated too. This is of no coincidence, as Oliver had no importance and no family to love him either. “Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was an orphan… perhaps he would have cried the louder.”
This quote explains that orphans are treated even worse than just normal poor people. The atmosphere for Oliver as he was born would have been very gloomy as the parish didn’t care about him, the midwife was drunk, but worst of all, his mother had just died. This paragraph is narrated with a grim but Ironic tone “Oliver cried lustily. If he could have known that he was an orphan, left to the tender mercies of churchwardens and overseers, perhaps he would have cried the louder.” The Irony shows Dickens’ anger and the grim tone shows his empathy.
In the next chapter it is explained that its Oliver’s birthday, but we find him “locked in a coal cellar” having just been beaten because he is hungry. The woman looking after Oliver is appropriately named ‘Mrs. Mann’, this is specifically chosen by Dickens because she is very aggressive and manly in the way she treats the children, Dickens does this to give a sense of irony. She may also have been named this so the reader gets a good image in their head of what she looks like.
Mrs. Mann is very 2-faced as the way she talks about the children to Mr. Bumble is as if she couldn’t love them more “He caught sight of Mrs. Mann behind the beadle’s chair, and was shaking her fist at him with a furious countenance.” Showing how she doesn’t want Mr. Bumble to know the truth. Mr Bumble is also a Very 2-faced person as we discover in the upcoming chapters. Both of these corrupt characters steal money that was given to them for the orphans, this shows how mistreated the orphans really were, because of the immoral and selfish carers.
Mr Gamfield is an excellent example of mistreatment in the novel. When we first see him, he violently hits his donkey showing how he punishes his workers when they do something bad “Mr Gamfield growled a fierce imprecation on the donkey… and running after him, bestowed a blow on his head, which would inevitably have beaten in any skull but a donkey’s”. He is a greedy Character (like most of the Characters in the novel) and so he tries to get Oliver as an apprentice because he got money if he did “as he could not raise the full five pounds for his rent” Mr. Gamfield is immediately shown as a villainous character and Oliver recognises this.
Oliver had a great fear of him, not only is he a bad person, he is a chimney sweep too. This another example of mistreatment in the Victorian era presented in the novel, chimney sweep apprentices often died or were badly injured because of the jobs they were given, “young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now.” But no-one decided to do anything about it. Because Mr. Gamfield was such a horrible person, if Oliver did become his apprentice and didn’t want to do work, he would be beaten cold as we previously saw Mr. Gamfield do to his donkey earlier. This therefore is a chapter that is very important in showing the mistreatment in the Victorian era.
By the time Oliver goes to live with the Sowerberrys, the reader gets the idea that Oliver’s life should get better, but as we read on, we see that the Victorian middle class are not as we first perceived. Although Mrs. Sowerberry is not at first pleased that the orphan they received is very small and scrawny, she still takes him in and feeds him, even if it is the dogs food, “Give the boy some scraps that were left aside for trip.” Mrs. Sowerberry is a character that treats Oliver like an animal or object. Mr. Sowerberry is the only one who doesn’t bully Oliver.
The main bullying towards Oliver came from the other two servants the Sowerberrys had taken in “D’ya hear, workus’ said Noah… ‘Oh you queer soul!’ Said Charlotte bursting into a hearty laugh.” As the servant from the least important background, Oliver wasn’t treated as fairly as Charlotte and Noah. So when Noah took the Bullying too far in order to make Oliver cry, and Oliver lashed out, Oliver was unfairly punished without question of why he did it. “Charlotte gave Oliver a blow with all her might: accompanying it with a scream, for the benefit of society.”
This shows how Noah, Charlotte and the sowerberrys mistreated Oliver, as both Charlotte and the sowerberrys took Noah’s side. “Oh! Charlotte, what a mercy we have not all been murdered in our beds!’ said Mrs. Sowerberry.’ Dickens here wants the reader to feel empathy for Oliver. These chapters are also a good examples of mistreatment, as we see how the lower class are used as servants, not only this, but we see that the lower the class of a person, the worse they are treated as we see with the unfair judgement on Oliver against Noah.
Although when Oliver meets ‘The Dodger’ and ‘Fagin’ they treat him well, it was their original intention to rob him of what little he had. “The Jew then mixed him a glass of hot gin and water; telling him he must drink it off directly, because another gentleman wanted the tumbler. Oliver did as he was desired. Immediately afterwards he felt himself gently lifted on to one of the sacks; and then he sunk into a deep sleep.”
Fagin also deceives Oliver a second time when he lies to Oliver about how the boys make the ‘wipes’ when they’re actually stolen. We know this because Dickens uses dramatic Irony. He purposely makes Oliver very “they’re very good ones, very. You haven’t marked them well, though, Charley; so the marks shall be picked out with a needle, and we’ll teach Oliver how to do it. Shall us, Oliver, eh? Ha! ha! ha!”
“If you please, sir,” said Oliver” He does this to make Oliver seem more vulnerable. This chapter not only shows the mistreatment of Oliver, it shows the poverty of the Victorian times because Fagin and the gang have to steal to make a living. Dickens presents life for the poor as the worst quality possible that people could live in. He did this because he wanted to give the upper class a taste of what it was like to live as a poor person, and that it’s not a chosen lifestyle. And that the way they were treated by higher class was terrible because they are so greedy. He uses Oliver as a perfect example of how the poor are stolen off and don’t have any control over their own lives, like slaves.