” Dickens graphic language here, effectively and vividly describes the intensity of his hunger, and the slow torture, which had been imposed upon him. The fact that Oliver was given food that was neglected by the dog shows us how low they considered the life of orphans to be. Even animals were given more care and attention than the orphans. And though it was food for the dog, Oliver ate it without any second thought due to the intensity of his hunger . It shows us how all the orphans like Oliver were treated, and the miserable lives they have to go through.
However Oliver was not sold to the man as he pleaded with magistrates not to let him go with such a mean man. Oliver was returned to the workhouse, before at last being sold to Mr. Sowerberry, a local undertaker, who seemed a kind man. Then, Oliver’s life becomes even more unbearable at Mr. Sowberry’s house. The kicks, cuffs and hate at the poor house were more tolerable. This also shows how common in society was cruelty to the poor. This was not merely those connected with the parish, charity or with the system who were inhumane but all ordinary lower or middle class people.
Kindness and compassion seem to have vanished from Victorian society. Dickens portrays a picture of one section of society as the stronger and the mightier praying upon the helpless. This seems to be rampant in the Victorian society. People like Bumble, Mrs. Mann and many other officials of the board prosper at the experience of the misery of the inmates of the poor house. Ordinary lower and middle class people appear as predators living upon the hard work of helpless and powerless Oliver Twists In the first half of the novel reference to the wealthy and powerful real upper class is significantly absent.
Dickens is indirectly bringing out the compartmentalization in society. The upper class had absolutely no clue at all about the way the other classes lived. They occupied an ethereal world full of elegance and glamour; they had no idea of the private lives of even their own servants’ . In a way they were completely out of touch with the realities of their society. Dickens’s Oliver Twist was an eye opener to them. For the first time in their lives they were made to face the hypocrisy of the squalor and the murkiness of the life of the lower class.
This was Dickens greatest contribution to whole society of his times. Oliver’s meeting with the Artful Dodger is the beginning of a new phase of his life and he is introduced to criminal underworld of London. He entices Oliver with a promise that he would take him to an old gentleman who would “give him lodging for no thing and never ask for the change. ” Oliver’s encounter with Fagin and his gang of thieves is also symbolic of the destroyal of innocence. Oliver learns about the evil, the brute violence, the coward ness and the complete lack of morality of a significant section of London society.
The setting of the under world is used as a contrast to the other higher classes living standards, as Oliver is being led to Fagin’s den we see through his eyes the horrible life led by the people of the third class society. Oliver says that he has never seen, “A dirtier and more wretched place,” than this . We see through the eyes of young Oliver the appalling conditions of the den as, ” The walls and ceilings of the room were perfectly black with age and dirt. ” And yet the under world is also represented by the hardend and cruel Bill Sikes. Sikes is portrayed as a bully, a robber, and a murderer.
Because he is an ally of Fagin, they are described as the two faces of evil. Fagin plans the crimes and Sikes executes it. He is shown as a brutal man through the way he treats everyone even his dog. It’s possible that Sikes’ evil is so frightening because it is so physical. From the beginning, Dickens compares him to a beast. He uses brute violence to bully, intimidate, and injure other people like Nancy, his unwilling accomplice Oliver, and even clever but cowardly Fagin. We see this through his uncaring attitude to sacrificing Oliver Twists life in the dangerous attempt to rob the Maylies house .
He even threatens to kill a child when he says to Oliver-“If you speak a word when we are out of doors with me, except when I speak to you, that loading will be in your head without notice. ” Sikes’s indifferent attitude towards Oliver is also shown as he just leaves him injured when the burglary fails and Oliver is shot and was in a bad condition. Throughout the novel we see that any location that has to do with the middle class or lower class was a filthy and pungent place unlike upper -class societies.
“The ground was covered, nearly ankle deep with filth and mire” Dickens also uses weather to describe the setting when he says: “It was a cheerless morning, bowling a raining hard and the clouds looking dull and stormy. “These show the corruption and decay in the Victorian society. The Victorian’s anti-Semitic attitude is brought out in Dickens portrayal of Fagin. This hatred for the Jews went back to several centuries and through the villainous Fagin, Dickens brings out the typical attitude of the Victorians towards all the Jews in general. When we are introduced to Fagin, we see through the eyes of Oliver that he was
“A very old shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. ” Fagin is a master criminal whose specialty is fencing (selling stolen property). He employs a gang of thieves-some of them ignorant children and is always in the lookout for new recruits. To readers Fagin seems like a villain straight out of the melodrama skulking through dark London alleys and called “old gentle man” (a common nick name for Satan at that time). To Victorian readers, the fact that he is a Jew would have indicated that he was greedy, mean, miserly spiteful alienated and unsympathetic.
Furthermore he is portrayed as the evil rogue as Oliver compares him to a “loathsome reptile. ” Fagin along with other criminals such as the hardened bill Sikes represent the underground world. Dickens fills the novel with interesting villain’s . The criminal underworld is crammed with mistrustful characters, from the renowned housebreaker Toby Crackit to the nai?? ve and stupid Tom Chitling. Crime is a central theme in Oliver Twist. Dickens presents a vivid Picture of a 19th century underworld through his presentations of Fagin and his gang. However we are not meant to merely view crime but also to understand its effect on others .
The criminal world inhabited by Fagin is on the surface, lively and in some ways attractive, but underneath, it is dangerous, violent and deadly. Throughout the novel, we see that most of the characters connected to the underground world appear trapped, through either poverty of habit, in this life of crime. The social and human cost of crime is obvious. Nancy, for example, is the helpless product of the slums, the pupil of Fagin and abused mistress of Sikes . She is a prostitute and an accomplice of crooks, however she has the instincts of a good person. She was corrupted by Fagin as a child to steal for him and she fears and hates him.
This is evident when she calls him a “villain” and says:” I thieved for you when I was a child not half as old as Oliver . I have been in the same trade and in the same service for twelve years. “-” It is my living and the cold, wet and dirty streets are my home: and you are the wretch that drove me to them a long time ago. ” The reader’s sympathy is also aroused for Nancy, as she had been a victim of the cruelty of the under world that spares no one. Dickens makes the reader aware that Nancy is doomed to a certain way of life and that she accepts her fate with grim determination.
She tries to protect Oliver from it any way as her guilty conscious doesn’t allow her to let him go through all the pain and suffering that she had undergone as,”she felt burdened with the sense of her own deep shame. ” Nancy represents all the other young girls who have been deprived to their lives and forced into the criminal underworld by people like Fagin and Sikes . We empathise with Nancy when she says to Rose Maylie -” Thank heaven that you have friends to care for you in your child hood and that you were never alone in the midst of cold and hunger, riot and drunkenness and -and something worse than all -as I have been from my cradle.
I may use the word, for the alley gutter were mine, as they will be my death-bed. ” Nancy is one of the very few of the underworld headed by Fagin and Sikes who show not only positive but also noble qualities . She knows her life has been a waste and it is point less regretting about it. But she shows nobility of character when she even places her life online to rescue Oliver from a fate similar to hers. We cannot help but feel sorry for Nancy. In fact I think she is the character who shows more courage than anyone else.
Nancy represents the thousands in Victorian England who through poverty and want by sheer misfortune of birth descends into a life of crime and evil for which we can hardly hold them responsible. Similarly we see how the underground world has affected the lives of many other people such as the Charley Bates. However it is due to the poor living conditions that these people had to join the ranks of criminals to survive, as it was their only way to live. In Dickens’s portrayal of the upper class he displays a kindness and generosity that is fortunately absent in dealing with the middle class.
Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies are shown as the kind, considerate, compassionate and noble with faith in humanity and a willingness to help. This was Dickens way of telling us that all is not bad with Victorian society. There are people who deserve to be admired and appreciated. This is why his novel presents a more or less balanced picture of society. Mr. Brownlow is a generous man, concerned for other people. He represents the upper class section of society, but unlike the typical uncaring attitude of upper class Victorian society, Mr. Brownlow is shown as a kind hearted man .
Not only does he withdraw his accusations of Oliver, he takes the boy home with him and nurses him out of his fever. Oliver gets a taste of good treatment for the first time only in Mr. Brownlow’s house as-“These were the happy days of Oliver’s recovery. Every thing was so quite, and neat, and orderly, every body so kind and gentle, that after the noise and turbulence in the midst of which he had always lived, it seemed like heaven it self. Mr. Brownlow’s house was a contrast to the underground world as even his study was: ” A little back room quite full of books, with a window looking into some pleasant little gardens.
” The pleasant and neat place was in contrast to Fagin’s den. A second contrast to the underground world is the Maylies . The characters who inhibit the world of the Maylies are in direct contrast to the criminal underworld of London. Mrs Maylie is kind and compassionate and does not hesitate in caring for Oliver when he arrives, seriously injured, on her doorstep after the bungled burglary . All the characters connected with the Maylies especially Mr. Losberne, the doctor, and Harry Maylie, are all pleasant and worthy people, showing a sympathetic kindness toward Oliver and actively helping in restoring his birthright to him.
Nancy and Oliver Twist represents the inmate in spite of the misery of the workhouse and the moral degradation of the underworld has very strong values and ideals at no stage do you find Oliver Twist doing something that is morally wrong or that which goes against his conscience. His is an example of the triumph of nature over nurture. Nancy a couple of decade’s ago was possibly like Oliver Twist. Her innate goodness was submerged in the corruption and decay of the under world. Nancy’ is an example of how nature collapses under the power of nurture.
What Dickens is showing through the novel is that the poor are not criminals. They are not bad or evil. They are people with much capacity for goodness but sadly society represented by the Bumbles and Manns never gave them a chance this is why Dickens in his description of the underworld refrains from being so bitterly sarcastic about them. 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.