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How does Dickens persuade his readers of the dangers and horrors of Victorian London in his novel 'Oliver Twist'?

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Katy Dudley 11AES How does Dickens persuade his readers of the dangers and horrors of Victorian London in his novel 'Oliver Twist'? All of Charles Dickens novels are set in the period he wrote them in and contain certain points of social and political beliefs that he highlighted with the desire to change his audience's views, on mainly the poor, but also all those that were treated unjustly because of laws and stereotypes. 'Oliver Twist' is the story of a young orphan who is the illegitimate son of two good people. It shows the attempts of a collection of villainous characters to break his hereditary kind-heartedness and innocence. This is to benefit them through his considerable, unknown inheritance that they have found out about. However, behind the story Dickens hides messages raising the issues of the terrible conditions of the workhouses and the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the abuse and exploitation of children, poverty, crime, inequality, prejudice towards different religions and nationalities and ignorance to the existence of some physical disabilities and mental illnesses. The poor law act was a typical example of a whig-benthamite reformation legislation of the Victorian period. That is to say it follows Bentham's theory of segregation. It gained general parliamentary support and was passed with considerably less consideration and discussions as was normal when new laws are proposed. It ensured that conditions in the workhouses were as vile and uncomfortable as possible so that only the truly destitute would even consider submitting. It also implied that the poor were only in that state because they were lethargic and were therefore named the 'undeserving poor' when in reality it was the lack of opportunity that held back the poor people from improvement. They had no education and no means to gain qualifications to use to get better jobs. They only had very few options; to stay where they were in horrific conditions, to submit to the terrible workhouse or turn to crime. ...read more.


The real Fagin was partly the reason Dickens' childhood was so traumatic, this is all we really know as Dickens only spoken about his time with Fagin in the factory to his wife and closest friend. However, we know that the real man must have made a bad impression on Dickens' mind as he has earned himself a place as this evil character in Dickens' work. First meetings often leave lasting impressions. In work of fiction the first appearance of a character is where the author can introduce the characters persona. Dickens has seized the opportunity to introduce us to the personality of Fagin through his appearance as he portrays him as being: 'a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bear' The description of Fagin upon Oliver's first encounter with him constructs an opinion within both Oliver and the reader. Dickens choice of adjectives leads the reader into viewing Fagin in the way that will aid Dickens in showing them the danger that is found within this character. Once more we see prejudice against religion through the reference to Fagin as 'The Jew'. This is also a problem because the hatred for a particular race only generates conflict. Again, Dickens imparts another piece of Fagin's traits in his account of Fagin's excursion to visit Sykes when he says; 'his shrivelled body... emerged from his den...It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter on the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved crawling forth... evidently too familiar with the ground he traversed to be at all bewildered' Fagin is often compared to animals in the way he is rendered. ...read more.


He has again used pathos. This time we feel sympathetic for Nancy. A lot of the pathos was in the prelude to this quote but we can see some in the extract. Not only is his crime callous and cruel but Sikes murder of Nancy shows us how pitiless and unkind Sykes can be. This merciless act is another display of London crimes. Throughout the book so far we are given the impression that Sykes is a hard hearted man that feels nothing but anger. We find the following out just after the murder of Nancy; 'He had not moved; he had been afraid to stir. There had been a moan and motion of the hand; and, with terror added to rage, he struck and struck again.' Dickens choice of vocabulary here implies that Sykes is actually scared of what he has done. The emotion of fear could have been caused by either one of two other emotions: remorse for having killed Nancy, or apprehension of being caught and hanged for murder. The decision of which is left for the reader to choose. However, we know he is angry as he is enraged by his crime. As his terror leads him to his rage he strikes out on the disfigured body. That description tells us that his emotions are out of his control. His temper is unrestrained and he is liable to act in a way that relieves his anxiety. With people like Sykes in London it is worrying to think what may happen. After studying 'Oliver Twist' the reader gains understanding of the true horrors that exist in Victorian London. They discover key facts about the behaviour of the underworld inhabitants through Dickens techniques such as similes, pathos, adjectives, and choice of words. These techniques helped in showing the reader why life was so horrific in that time by building up images so the reader can almost see and smell and use other sense to understand the world that Dickens lived in. ...read more.

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