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'Oliver Twist'.

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Introduction

Charles Dickens's novel, Oliver Twist, is a tale of misfortune and coincidence, fear and entrapment, and reward for humility and suffering. While recounting the tale of the orphan Oliver Twist, Dickens comments on the implications of the New Poor Law, which increased the hardships of impoverished Victorians, and on the well-fed hypocrisy of the middle classes, who distinguished between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor. In this essay I will be analysing how Charles Dickens presents the underclass, first of all looking at the purpose of his novel. Charles Dickens's motive for writing 'Oliver Twist' was to show the reader the harsh social conditions of 19th Century London, as most of the readers of his novels would be those who could afford books- the upper class. Dickens wanted this book to entertain, supplying shock, horror, and suspense, whilst also attempting to influence people's political ideas. As Dickens lived in London, he had an excellent knowledge of the city and so it inspired him to set the novel there. Most of the characters in 'Oliver Twist' are stereotypes of their social and financial backgrounds, for example Fagin. Fagin is an underclass Jew and therefore Dickens depicts him as being scrounging and tight fisted- ' took from it a magnificent gold watch, sparkling with jewels. "Aha!" said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders and distorting every feature with a hideous grin'. ...read more.

Middle

The market scene epitomises the conditions of the under-class and the criminal underworld -' The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle', 'countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass. Dickens's descriptive skills are excellent here as they not only able the reader to clearly picture the scene, but imagine the smells, noises and public. When Oliver enters Saffron Hill for the first time he is confronted by some disturbing scenes of which he is not used to - ' A dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours'. This is Oliver's introduction into the grim criminal society of London. Dickens includes frequent satire when talking about Mr Bumble or the workhouse, to mock beadles and the institution. An example of Dickens's satire is in chapter two when Bumble visits Mrs. Corney's house and values all of her possessions - "Mr Bumble had re-counted the tea-spoons, re-weighed the sugar-tongs, made a closer inspection of the milk-pot, and ascertained to a nicety the exact condition of the furniture'. Dickens is portraying that, like Mr Bumble, all beadles are underhand and only concerned with wealth. ...read more.

Conclusion

Oh, Mrs. Corney, what a prospect this opens! What an opportunity for a joining of hearts and house keepings!' This distinction in vocabulary also helps to differentiate the social class of the speaker. Pathetic fallacy is used to attribute human characteristics to nature or inanimate objects. Dickens uses pathetic fallacy, in the form of weather, to replicate the emotions of the scene e.g. bad times; bad weather - 'raining hard; and the clouds looking dull and stormy', 'sombre light only serving to pale'. In this case it is used to show the overall feelings are depressing and miserable. Pathetic fallacy is also used when Fagin is sentenced to death. Before his execution everything is dark to symbolise death - 'Then came night - dark, dismal, silent night'. The workhouse is where Oliver was born and raised. In this environment living conditions are deliberately harsh, diets are sparse, and family structures become nonexistent when workhouse officials separate husbands and wives. The 'Poor Law' of l834 abolished the outdoor relief system for the able-bodied, thus forcing them to move to the workhouses. The workhouses in turn were made more deplorable to encourage the able-bodied paupers to look for work. Dickens depicts oppression and exploitation of the less fortunate, in the actions of the Sowerberry couple, who take on Oliver at their funeral directors. By Tom Reeves 11FR ...read more.

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