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How does Dickens portray his attitude to charity in the opening chapters of Oliver Twist?

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Introduction

How does Dickens portray his attitude to charity in the opening chapters of Oliver Twist? Oliver Twist was written, by Charles Dickens in 1837, because of his views towards the divide between the rich and poor. He felt that the poor, especially the poor in workhouses were treated appallingly because of the Poor Law Amendment Act. Oliver Twist covers; uncaring and inadequate medical attention workhouses, the bastard clauses made care of infants, the fact that the food served was inadequate and monotonous and the abuse of power in major officials. Many people believed that people were poor because they were lazy, or for other reasons that were entirely their own fault. "God helps those who help themselves" was a popular maxim of the time. People resented paying taxes that were to be spent on those they considered were to idle to help themselves. They believed out-of-door relief encouraged people to be lazy or to pretend to be sick. It was said that they were too comfortable and therefore in order to ensure that only the really destitute applied for poor relief and it was to be made as unpleasant as possible. ...read more.

Middle

Dickens views of the people who were meant to be taking care of others were not high. He thinks they are inadequate for the job, are selfish and don't care about who they are meant to be looking after. Dickens writes about Oliver's mother. He says, "She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead". The use of the word "passionately" stands out at this point because it is the first positive image so far in the novel. Dickens is trying to show how badly unmarried poor mothers were treated in the mid 1800's. The doctor states that Oliver is likely to be "troublesome". This is shocking to the reader, as it is doubtful that he is to be any more "troublesome" than any other newborn. At the end of the first chapter, Dickens expresses that Oliver s "a parish child- the orphan of a workhouse...to be cuffed and buffeted through the world- despised by all, and pitied by none". Poor orphans had a very bad status in the mid 1800's as people thought it was their own fault they were poor. ...read more.

Conclusion

What a noble illustration of the tender laws of England!" Thinking of the saying "You've made your bed: now you'll have to lie on it" Oliver had no opportunity to "make his bed", he is just a victim of society. Dickens is being sarcastic when he says " What a noble illustration of the tender laws of England" because it is not noble at all, they had no high principles that you would expect from someone who is noble. Dickens mocks the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 because he does not agrees with this law at all and dislikes. The "master" is physically compared to Oliver. The master is described as " a fat, healthy man". Dickens is trying to show, by using such a contrast, how underfed and badly treated the boys and Oliver were in comparison the "fat, healthy man" that was the master who obviously got enough food to eat. When Oliver asks for more gruel, the master responds by aiming "a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle". This violence is not at all necessary and shows the readers how badly treated Oliver was. Dickens is attempting to say, in Oliver Twist how charity in the 1800's was a terrible system and how badly treated the poor were. ...read more.

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