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Oliver Twist Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By zkaji
Words 1427
Pages 6
Oliver Twist is a novel by Charles Dickens, published in 1837 and was concerned 1834 Poor Law. The Poor Law was introduced by the Prime Minister, Earl Grey. The Poor Law should have been introduced to help the poor but instead it made their life a living hell. The poor were put into workhouses and little children were put into a baby farm until the age of 9. Dickens motive for writing this novel was to make people understand the full horrors of the Poor Law.
Dickens showed his dislike of the 1834 Poor Law through his characterisation.
Mrs Mann runs the baby farm which is where the young Oliver lives. She is a very greedy, callous and corrupt woman, “she appropriated the weakly stipend to her own use” which means that she steals from the little children that she was “supposed” to look after and starves them. She is a lying hypocrite, she tells the world that she “cares” and “loves” the children, this is because she says “Ah, bless’em, that I do, dear as it is “replied Mrs Mann.” I couldn’t see ‘em suffer before my very eyes, you know, sir.” Mrs Mann is lying so that she can keep her job and so she can continue to steal from the children. Mrs Mann neglects and abuses the children because “either it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident.” Many children died and their deaths covered up. She has no womanly feelings, Dickens gives her the name, Mrs Mann.
Mr Bumble employs Mrs Mann to run the baby farm. He is very pompous and very vain “to keep the Parish Officers a waiting at your garden-gate, when they come here upon parochial business connected with the parochial orphans?” He’s saying that he’s important and shouldn’t be treated like this. Mr Bumble boasts “we name our foundlings in alphabetical order. The last was a S-swubble, I named him” which means that he names the children through alphabetical order. Dickens shows that Mr Bumble is a stupid character because naming people isn’t that hard to do, but he’s very proud of it. Dickens names him Mr Bumble clearly he is stupid and incompetent. It’s very easy to flatter Mr Bumble, because he thinks he’s very important, he likes it when people compliment him. “Well, well said the beadle, evidently gratified with the compliment, perhaps I may be” which means he is easy to deceive and Mrs Mann can hide the truth from him.
The Board is a group of gentlemen who makes decisions about the running of the workhouse and the baby farm. The Board members are full of self-dignity and self-importance because they are rich and powerful. The Board only think about themselves and not the people they are meant to care for. “What are you crying for? Inquired the gentlemen in the white waistcoat and to be sure it was very extraordinary. What could the boy be crying for?” which meant that they cannot sympathise with Oliver. Dickens uses irony “He is a fool, which was a capital way of raising his spirits and putting him quite at ease” which shows how callous they are and totally insensitive to Oliver’s feelings.
Oliver is the main character in the novel. The only adult Oliver has known for most his life is Mrs Mann, who didn’t care about him at all. His whole life was a prison, at birth till the age of 9 he stayed in the baby farm and from the age of 9 and onwards he stayed in the workhouse. He’s had life imprisonment. Oliver is a very innocent, vulnerable, a victim, “Oliver was frightened at the sight of so many gentlemen, which made him tremble: and the beadle gave him another tap behind, which made him cry.” He’s very small and because he is surrounded by powerful men who decide how he lives. He is terrified of them.
Dickens used emotive language describing Oliver as he was leaving the baby farm to go to the workhouse “wretched as were the little companions in misery he was leaving behind, they were the only friends he had ever known; and a sense of his loneliness in the great wide world, sank into the child’s heart for the first time.” This makes the reader feel emotional and sorry for Oliver.
Mr Bumble is really stupid. Mr Bumble doesn’t care about Oliver, “he walked with long strides while little Oliver trotted beside him” which means that Mr Bumble didn’t even wait for Oliver to catch up with him. He doesn’t care that Oliver is small and weak. Mr Bumble only thought that it was his job to take Oliver to the workhouse and he didn’t consider Oliver’s feelings at all.
The Board treat Oliver callously. Dickens uses irony “what a noble illustration of the tender laws of England! They let the paupers go to sleep!” He really means that the Board treats the children as inhumanly everyday but it’s like a miracle for the board to let Oliver and all the other children’s to sleep! This is not caring or generous!
Dickens says that “For the combination of both these blessings in the one simple process of picking oakum.” Dickens suggests it’s a blessing for Oliver because now Oliver has something to do. But instead the only thing you’ll learn is how to pick oakum, not a useful trade.
Dickens tone changes. Dickens describes how young children live in the workhouse which sounds shocking. The Board established a rule that all poor people should be starved by gradual process in the workhouse. Dickens uses a serious tone of voice here because he is angry and accusing, “Unlimited supply of water to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal”. The Board knew that people couldn’t survive on a watery thin gruel for long, that‘s why they kept supplying it to the poor. The members of the Board try hard to keep the workhouse a disciplined place. They thought it was “entertainment” for the poor “It was a regular place of public entertainment for the poorer classes.” The Board members, feeling this, decide to make changes to the workhouse and they decided to make conditions ever harsher.
Dickens shows that the living conditions in the workhouse are horrible and inhumane. “The room in which the boys were fed was a large stone hall” which makes the room sound cold and impersonal, more like a prison.
Dickens highlights the lack of food and extreme hunger. “Sucking their fingers most assiduously” which suggests that the boys are so hungry they are making sure they have eaten every last bit of the gruel.
Dickens uses dialogue to build tension in this scene. “Mr Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more!” His tone of voice suggests his shock and horror.
Dickens shows the way people react to a simple request from the starving poor child. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder.” The workhouse authorities are not used to being challenged in any way. Dickens shows the shock at Oliver’s request for food. “The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.” Oliver’s request is seen as so awful it causes panic, he should be grateful to the board (they think!)
It is pretty clear that Dickens was shocked and horrified by the treatment of the poor. After reading this book, people did try to bring change into the system, it went slowly but the system did change.
The message was to let the audience know that the Poor Law system was wrong and evil. Dickens wanted to change attitude. Oliver was sweet and innocent but he was treated badly and improperly because he was poor. The Board members are rude and callous even though they are rich and powerful.
Reading this book gives us a strong image of the effects of the Poor Law. It showed how the higher classes treated lower classes.
I think it did help because it was focused on the treatment of the poor and it helped to improve the conditions of the poor.
Charles Dickens is a great author, without “Oliver Twist” and other protest novels being published the Poor Law would have lasted a lot longer. 1,413 Words..... By: Zohra Kaji 10.3

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