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Analyse the presentation of Bill Sykes in the novel `Oliver Twist`. You should refer to aspects such as the author's viewpoint, language and the social and historical context.

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Introduction

TASK: Analyse the presentation of Bill Sykes in the novel `Oliver Twist`. You should refer to aspects such as the author's viewpoint, language and the social and historical context. When Charles Dickens' wrote his novel `Oliver Twist` he first put pen to paper around 1830's and eventually completed the classic towards the later end of the decade. The resulting book was compiled from chapters produced as instalments in one or more magazines. This proved to provide a more constant and reliable source of income due to the fact that he would be paid for every story, no-matter how many copies he sold, and if the stories were successful a novel could come out of it. This reflects on Dickens' poorer childhood, and also his plain common sense. In composing the story, alongside writing for money, Dickens attempted to highlight the ever-growing socio-economic pressures and victims of life in Victorian England's worse off communes. He managed to show his feelings even though the story was written as if vocalised by a seemingly unbiased narrative speaker. In theory the impartial storyteller would relate and objective report presenting the events of the tale as if an omniscient character, but one that is never referred to. However he inserts strong emotive language into the storyline so as to influence your views, in effect telling you what you MUST think of the characters or situations. This he uses with great regularity when describing the villain Bill Sykes. Sykes is one of the pivotal characters, possibly the single most evil villain in the novel, and over the course of the tale he traces a barbaric path of evil doing mixed liberally with cruel and malevolent violence. He is described as "The housebreaker" and works as partner and equal to Fagin the Jewish fence, sow e see that he is obviously a notorious criminal. Whilst Fagin runs his child pickpocket scam and sells off the "merchandise" he still looks to Sykes for "greater enterprises" such as burglaries of large houses in the richer London suburbs. ...read more.

Middle

"The Jew stepped back ... with more agility than could have been anticipated in a man of his apparent decrepitude," this quote aptly describes how Fagin attempts to render himself a physical weakling, but that he is in reality somewhat dexterous at what time it becomes him. So we come upon a dilemma, to see which of these two is the dominant character we must first discover which is the greater villain. Fagin the fence is in fact the greater villain, for whereas Sykes seems to threaten Fagin more often than not Fagin in fact controls their conversations, using reverse psychology, "you wont be-too-violent, bill?" This phrase causes Sykes to abandon all reason, because he does not want to be "bossed around", and is angry at the whole world, in particular Fagin and Nancy. Almost everything Sykes does in the duration of his and Fagin's "partnership" comes down to what "The Jew" has said, comes down to Fagin's "gentle" persuasion. He manipulated Sykes into the vicious murder of Nancy, all throughout the book it is FAGIN who manoeuvres and directs the conversation, using subtle changes in his apparent status, changing from humility to arrogance, at one point subtly hinting that he could easily take Sykes' life; after Sykes jests "And mind you don't poison it," we read the sentence "If the speaker could have seen the evil leer with which the Jew bit his pale as he turned round to the cupboard, he might have thought the caution not wholly unnecessary". This demonstrates that Fagin COULD kill Sykes, but because he still needs his "assistance" is reluctant to carry out the act. Fagin controls the child pickpockets not only through the use of violence and threats (as Sykes does) but also through his wheedling and conversational expertise. So in Fagin we see a sophisticated villain, a criminal of the higher echelons who makes his gains without having to actively steal, instead he must deal. ...read more.

Conclusion

So you we come to the end of Sykes' days, a death bringing together and abandoning all the elements of his life, crime; he has just left the shelter of criminals, Bulls-eye his dog; he does not arrive WITH the dog, and the dog is not at his side at the moment of death, and Nancy his dead lover; she is the reason for the mob trying to lynch him. Nancy's influence on Sykes is particularly prominent in that he hallucinates seeing her eyes in the dark, "The eyes again!" These screeched words cause him to step back, presumably in fear of recriminations from her spirit. This also shows how he has seen these eyes before, a vivid illustration of how he has lost his sanity since the murder. The death is colourfully described, using descriptive words with emotive under and overtones; "quivered" "dangling" and "lifeless" give us the idea of a body not in control, whilst the use of "thrusting" and other violent words such as "striking" bring us back subconsciously to Nancy's death, so taking us full circle. The last two paragraphs reveal to us the link between Bulls-eye and Nancy, in that they are both loyal until the end, no matter what Sykes THINKS they have done. The fact that they both die because of this loyalty is one last reminder of what it is to love a man so evil. The fact that Sikes dies hanging from the gallows is symbolic of justice being done, but also the idea that HE killed himself, a suicide nearly, prompted by the memory of the dead Nancy. Sikes has proved to be evil, heartless and cruel, but the circumstances of his death make you wonder whether he has a conscience. Dickens' excellent use of a varied vocabulary prove to keep you "on the edge of your seats" whilst drilling into your brain how evil Sikes is, and how wrong it is that women are so unjustly prejudiced against. Mark Haigh 10e Fallibroome ...read more.

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