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Oliver Twist - how Dickens shows criminal life in the story.

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Introduction

The story of "Oliver Twist" is written by Charles Dickens and it tells the story of a young boy called Oliver whose mother dies during his birth. He gets sent to an infant farm until he is nine year old and is then sent to a workhouse. During his time at the workhouse he is branded as a troublemaker and is offered as an apprentice to anyone willing to take him, and ends up apprenticed to the undertaker, Sowerberry. After fighting with Noah Claypole, another apprentice at the undertakers, Oliver is unjustly beaten and escapes to London. On the outskirts of the city, a cold and hungry Oliver meets Jack Dawkins who gives Oliver a place to stay in London. Oliver is thrown together with the band of thieves run by the sinister Fagin. Oliver innocently goes to "work" with Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger, and picks the pocket of a gentleman. When the gentleman, Mr. Brownlow, discovers the robbery in progress Oliver is mistaken for the culprit and after being chased, is captured and taken to the Police. Oliver, injured in the chase, is cleared by a witness to the crime and is taken by the kind Brownlow to his house to recuperate. Oliver is kindly treated at the Brownlow home and is sent on an errand by Mr Brownlow to pay a local merchant 5 pounds and to return some books. ...read more.

Middle

This meant that even though they are criminals, some are not as bad as they may seem and that there is no reason why he should not write about them. The novel Oliver Twist shows two criminals, Sikes and Fagin who do unlawful things like pickpocket and burgle. Dickens shows us that characters like this deserve to be punished and repent for their sins. However, dickens also shows us poor, innocent people like Oliver and Nancy who are led into the life of crime by no choice of their own. Some of these attitudes are shown clearly in chapters 47 and 48 in particular. In chapters 47 and 48, Fagin makes a boy called Noah shadow Nancy, a prostitute in Fagin and Sykes' gang, when she goes to meet Rose Maylie and Mr Brownlow on London Bridge. Fagin gets Noah to tell Sykes about what Nancy was doing, and in a blind fit of rage, Sykes sets out to find Nancy. Sykes finds Nancy at home, in bed. Sykes wakes the half-dressed girl from her slumber roughly and tells her to get up. Confused and weary from sleep, Nancy is slow to understand Sykes anger, and tells him how pleased she is to see him. Sykes, grasping her by head and throat, drags her into the middle of the room and places his hand upon her mouth to muffle her cries. ...read more.

Conclusion

Fagin is trying to see what Sikes will react like. Trying to get him really frustrated and tense, incase Fagin is trying to kill him. Dickens often addresses Sikes as "The Robber" and "The Housebreaker". Creating an image of a criminal and someone who does not respect other peoples possessions. Also, after killing Nancy we know Sikes is capable of murder. Sikes is presented as someone no one has any pity for, as he does not deserve it. Sikes death is very theatrical, he accidentally hangs himself on a rope he was going to use to escape from his pursuers. During chapters 47 and 48 Dickens portrays Nancy as someone to be sympathised with and pitied. Although she is a prostitute and a criminal, she does not do it for the same reasons as Sikes and Fagin. As she was forced into the life of crime, she has no evil intentions. She shows a lot of care towards Oliver, and even when she is about to be killed, she still does not shout or scream at Sikes, she only accepts her fate. Dickens often addresses Nancy as "The Girl" portraying her as someone young and innocent, not yet a classed as a woman. I've learned from these chapters that not all criminals are bad, and not all are in that occupation by their own choice. I think Dickens has managed to educate the reader about the time and the problems while keeping them interested. ...read more.

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