During Charles Dickens’ life he wrote many books, although they are different, but they reflect each other in many ways. I believe the biggest similarity in his collection of books is with ‘Oliver Twist’ – a story of a young boy who lives in an orphanage and ‘Great Expectations’ which is a story of a young orphan named Phillip Pirrip, or Pip as he is more commonly known. Both books are semi-autobiographical as they hint upon Dickens’ life as he grew up in a workhouse and was horrified by the social conditions of Victorian Britain. He used his work to help reform the class system. Few among the social classes recognised or cared about the conditions suffered by children in the workhouses. Some children turned to crime or, worse, died of starvation.
Dickens had gone through the anguish of being pulled out of school and put to work in a shoe-polish factory. His father had been sent to a well known debtors’ prison called Marshalsea and there was no money for Dickens’ education. To his embarrassment, Dickens was moved to a window at the front of the factory for bystanders to see him as he glued labels on to tubs of shoe polish. The encounter that would leave a lifelong mark on him and played a major part in his inspiration for writing Oliver Twist.
Oliver Twist, which was serialised monthly between 1837 and 1839, caused a sensation when it highlighted the troubles of the deprived young and their often horrendous experiences in the foul workhouses, and it begins with a ‘narrator’ instantly saying things like ‘which I need not trouble myself to repeat’ and ‘for a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all’. This is showing that Oliver is immediately unimportant to everyone and this is shown especially well when Oliver’s mum has just given birth to him and the line reads ‘the surgeon deposited it in her arms’.
I think the choice of words are very good here because the use of the word deposited shows the baby is not very well handled and the choice of the word it shows that the baby isn’t considered important because she didn’t say him or her. Oliver’s mum looks up and instantly talks about dying and straight away the surgeon says ‘oh, you must not talk about dying yet’ with fears of being left with the baby, and while the mother has been giving birth the ‘nurse’ has been drinking in the corner to an ‘evident satisfaction’ and just after the mother dies the surgeon says ‘don’t send up for me if the baby cries, nurse’ and with great deliberation he adds ‘It’s likely it will be troublesome, give it a little gruel if it is’. This shows that the surgeon is only bothered about his own job and his own happiness, we also have the repetition of it again.
After Oliver’s mum dies he is immediately branded as the poorest of the poor based on his mum’s clothes and the fact that she wasn’t married so he was dressed in old yellow calico robes, badged and ticketed after the surgeon says ‘ahh the old story, no wedding ring’. This shows that he thinks he has got her figured out just by the fact that she has no wedding ring, even though the list is endless as to why she might not be married. I think there is a quote in this chapter, which really sums up the first part of Oliver’s life ‘despised by all, and pitied by none’ meagrely
Oliver is covered for under the Poor Law, and spends the first eight years of his life at a “baby farm” in the ‘care’ of a woman named Mrs. Mann – the boss of the infantile workhouse where Oliver is raised. Along with other offenders against this law,they are also abused and half-starved in her care. Mrs Mann is two-faced as she abuses people lower than her and sucks up to the people above her e.g. she abuses Oliver and sucks up to Mr Bumble.
Mr Bumble (also know as The Beadle) likes power, and he uses it to its full. Mr Bumble has a few abiding qualities. Oliver tells Mr Bumble everything on the way to Mr. Sowerberry’s, and says, “‘I feel as if I had been cut here, sir, and it was all bleeding away;’ and Oliver puts his hand to his heart, and looked into Mr Bumble’s face with tears of real agony. When Oliver does this Mr Bumble is moved but the problem is that he doesn’t act on the fact that he feels sorry for Oliver – He does is so he doesn’t look like he is a weak man. He seems to think that he won’t be respected if he shows pity to anyone.
This is one of the examples in which Dickens wants us to see Mr. Bumble as a nice character, and not just a one-sided man. Mr Bumble also gets to wear a special cocked hat that is his pride and joy – the hat has three tiers, which I believe represent the class system in place in the Victorian era, Lower class, Middle class, and Upper class. I think this is ironic that Mr Bumble treasures it because he isn’t that far up in the class system.