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Show how, in Oliver's early life, there is at each stage one person intent on making his life a misery.

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Show how, in Oliver's early life, there is at each stage one person intent on making his life a misery The tale of Oliver Twist, a poor orphan boy caught up in the squalor of the workhouses, has entertained and enlightened many a generation since its first publication back in 1837. Its author, Charles Dickens, spent his entire life making the plight of the poor heard. Although a fictional tale, Dickens used the book as a means of conveying the actual suffering and mistreatment of the poor to the upper classes. The story begins with Oliver being born into the most unfortunate environment of the workhouse. His mother, weak and sickly, dies soon after giving birth, leaving Oliver in the care of Mrs. Mann. This woman, an elderly female and somewhat of a drunkard had little or no affection for the children entrusted to her. Oliver was the regular recipient of a 'sound thrashing', and to be locked in the cellar without food or light was commonplace. Indeed, the food allowed to them was so meagre that eating nothing at all was not much of a deprivation. Many of these children died relatively quickly, and those that survived until they were nine were to suffer an even worse fate: the Workhouses. ...read more.


Despite the assurance of good treatment, we know that Gamfield is a man with no compassion. He is witnessed to beat and mistreat his donkey for no apparent reason; flogging the poor animal without shame in public. His treatment of Oliver and the other chimney boys would have been little better so Oliver is spared a most disagreeable experience. Unable to decide what to do with the little 'rebel', the decision is made to send him off to sea. Oliver would be passed into the clutches of some captain who would assure the behaviour of such a child and would doubtless be appreciative of a lonely orphan cabin boy to beat at his disposal. Before the formalities are completed, however, the local undertaker Mr Sowerby appears at the gate asking after Oliver. Almost instantly, Oliver is summoned and sent with this man for his first taste of life outside the workhouse. The arrival of Oliver in the Sowerby household is not something that is welcomed. The Undertaker's wife, Mrs Sowerby, and the local charity boy Noah Claypole both dislike Oliver and object to his being there. Noah, despite being a charity boy and a rather unsightly child, delights in bullying Oliver and is very happy at the prospect of being with someone less fortunate than himself. ...read more.


Techniques, such as use of contrast were often employed by Dickens to ensure the continual attention of the readers: the first publication of all Dickens' novels were serialised in magazines so cliff-hangers and contrasting chapters were commonplace. This method of publication was both inexpensive and allowed a wider audience to access his work. Dickens' novels were often politically motivated and his entire life was spent trying to improve the treatment and conditions of the poor by raising the awareness of the upper social classes. He constantly includes his own ironic insight and thoughts as a commentary to the stories. The title of the first chapter alone is supportive to this: 'Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born and the Circumstances attending his Birth'. There are of course, no treats whatsoever to be found in the workhouse and the 'Circumstances' that were attentive to his birth did little more than deliver him and then leave him to his own device; that of surviving. Quotes such as these emphasise Dickens' dark humour and his views on the pathetic benefits of the workhouse scheme. His work eventually made the difference that he so wished to achieve and eventually acts were passed in Parliament to ensure the wellbeing and helping of the poor, although not until many years after Dickens' initial publications. Victoria Sievert 10LD ...read more.

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