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In the opening seven chapters of Oliver Twist, how does Dickens reveal and criticise the mistreatment of the poor by the people in the Workhouse and its associated institutions?

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Introduction

GCSE ENGLISH/ ENGLISH LITERITURE COURSEWORK PROSE STUDY OLIVER TWIST BY CHARLES DICKENS Task: In the opening seven chapters of Oliver Twist, how does Dickens reveal and criticise the mistreatment of the poor by the people in the Workhouse and its associated institutions? The novel Oliver Twist is a criticism of the cruelty that children and poor people suffered at the hands of 19^th century society. It was Dickens first novel written under his own name when he was 24 years old and in it he already reveals his sharp, but comic comments and criticism. From the start Dickens makes it clear to the reader that poor people and the children of poor people; most especially a baby born illegitimately; were of no consequence in the 1900s. The first person narrator feels he need not "trouble" himself "as it can be of no possible consequence" to tell us the place or date of Oliver's birth. This concept is further revealed when he refers to Oliver as an "item of mortality" and then later on in the chapter "it". The child deserves no name as he is not a legitimate member of society so he has no place or importance: he starts life at the bottom of the Victorian food chain. ...read more.

Middle

Oliver's mother dies as soon as she "imprinted her cold white lips passionately" on Oliver's forehead for the first time. This is a very dramatic way to die and it creates pathos for the new orphan Oliver Twist. We feel sorry as we have just been told about how much of a chance Oliver has in life as being born in a workhouse is described as "the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly fall on a human being", but we feel even more sorry for the orphan now his mother has died" When the boys in the workhouse sit down to eat Dickens describes it as a "festive composition". This suggests there is an excess of fine food, as the word feast comes from festive. Dickens is obviously being sarcastic and we also think he is greatly over exaggerating the point in order for us to understand how little food the boys in the workhouse got in the 19^th century: "one porringer of gruel "is the amount allowed "and no more except upon great public occasions when two ounces and a quarter of bread besides" were added. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mr. Bumble informs him that he will suffer dire consequences if he ever complains about his situation. This shows the lack of say he has in his future, it also shows the magistrates sympathy of Oliver, and possibly shows us that they don't see the suffering the boys get in the parish and are new to it, explaining why they refused to sell Oliver to Gamfield. Dickens sarcastically criticises Oliver's "solitary incarceration" he says enemies of the system claim that "Oliver was denied the benefit of exercise, the pleasure of society or the advantages of religious consolation" Dickens then defends this statement by sarcastically saying "as for exercise it was nice cold weather, and he was allowed to perform his ablutions every morning under the pump, in a stone yard, in the presence of Mr Bumble, who prevented his catching a cold and causes a tingling sensation to pervade his frame, by repeated applications of the cane" Dickens sarcastically addresses exercise as being beaten, a physical punishment for Oliver. Oliver is also abused mentally, at evening when the boys went to pray, Oliver was "kicked into the same apartment every evening" and there he listend to the other boys "ask god to guard them from the sins and vices of Oliver Twist" ...read more.

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