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Dickens never ever stops criticising the workhouse and the method they dealt with orphans in the very first chapter. The very first chapter closes with ‘Oliver wept lustily. If he could have known that he was an orphan, delegated the tender graces of church wardens and overseers, maybe he would cried the louder.’ This last statement leaves us feeling understanding towards Oliver. Oliver after 8 to 10 months was sent to an infant farm.
This is yet another element of society, which was not a pleasant experience, another organization where kids were malnourished and brought up by hand, similar to the parish workhouse but the real purpose of the baby farm, was various.
‘Where twenty or thirty other juvenile culprits versus the poor-laws rolled about the floor all the time, without the inconvenience of to much food or clothing,’ When Dickens says that the children are transgressors versus the bad laws he is was once again utilizing sarcasm.
He uses sarcasm here to make the kids seem like bad guys which is what the greater class individuals saw the children as, as they have no moms and dads and no money.
Under the parental superintendence of an elderly female indicates that the kids are disregarded and left to his of her own company without any specific care or affection. Nevertheless it was extremely not likely that a woman of Mrs Mann’s age, the elderly female supervising the children, was going to really give the children what money they were provided. Mrs Mann never provided the children all the cash they were provided to be able to lead a health life.
She only gave the kids sufficient money to purchase what she thought was an appropriate diet. She denies the kids of their rights and uses the cash for her own high-ends. It was of no surprise that this system of farming would leave no child healthy and fit, and Dickens describes this by Oliver’s physical look. ‘Oliver Twists ninth birthday discovered him a pale thin child, somewhat small in stature and extremely small in area.’ Nourishment wasn’t the only thing that Mrs Mann’s system lacked.
Responsibility and awareness wasn’t some of her strongest qualities along with many of the other women who worked in baby farms in Dickens day. Many deaths occurred in farms and they were down to sheer carelessness. ‘It did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half smothered by accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this. ‘ There were an unusual high number of suspicious deaths in the baby farms.
However Mr Bumble and the board regularly covered for up these deaths to keep the Parish Officials in the dark to what really went on. Mrs Mann said she gave the children gin when they were ill so they didn’t moan from the pain and disturb her peace. ‘Why, its what I’m obliged to keep a little in the house, to put into the blessed infants’ Daffy, when they aint well, Mr Bumble’ At least this is what she says, I personally think that she kept the gin in the house so when the children were ill and were crying with pain she could drink the gin and drown out the noise the children made.
Oliver stayed with Mrs Mann until he was nine years old. After Mr Bumble had arrived Oliver was already upstairs being washed and made presentable enough and then brought down to the Beadle. ‘Having by this time as much of the outer coat of dirt, which encrusted his face and hands, removed, as could be scrubbed off in one washing was led into the room by his benevolent protectress. ‘ Notice in the quotation how Oliver was led this further demonstrates that Oliver is a passive character. He does not lead himself but is led by others.
This consistently proceeds to happen throughout the novel as he led by Mr Bumble and many other characters of the story. Oliver is always referred to as being little, small, poor little Oliver Twist. This is to try and gain the readers sympathy. In the 1830’s, Victorian times, the Victorians would engross themselves in stories and novels which involved sad and sympathetic characters. They enjoyed reading ‘tear jerking’ novels and Dickens tries to capture and involve the reader in the novel by always referring Oliver as small, little and poor.
Oliver was now nine years old and was scheduled to stand before the board, which was made up of eight to ten men. They were going to decide where to send Oliver as he was too old to still live in the farm with Mrs Mann. The board were stern and strict. One of the men in a white waistcoat called Oliver a fool. ‘Which was a capital way raising his spirits and putting him quite at ease’ Dickens here is being facetious in the way that the man which called Oliver a fool did not help him relax in front of the board.
The board started interrogating little Oliver asking him questions to what he did not know the answers. They asked if he was aware he was an orphan, if he prayed at night for those who fed him and cared for him and yet he did not know what praying was. He had not been educated in such things by anyone and by which means was he suppose to know he had to. The board told Oliver that he was to learn a new and useful trade. This was to pick oakum. ‘So you’ll begin to pick oakum tomorrow morning at six o’clock’ added the surely one in the white waistcoat’
Oliver was not involved in the decisions made only told and this was no way to treat someone, especially not a child just because he was an orphan. ‘The members of the board were very sage, deep, philosophical man, and when they came to turn their attention to the workhouse, they found out at once, what ordinary folks would never have discovered – the poor people liked it’ Once again Dickens uses sarcasm and irony to mock the board and criticise their intelligence. Rules and regulations were put into order, to try and make the workhouses run smoothly.
Separating the men and women and children, having routines for breakfast, dinner, tea and super. Having small meals of thin gruel that barely filled an inch of the workers stomach; and yet the board thought this was decent of them, decent of them to have given the poor an option to starve slowly and painfully or to starve them quickly. Oliver throughout the novel is a passive character, at this point in the novel Oliver acts for the first time. After a little encouragement from his friends sat having the little bit of gruel for dinner he gets up and asks the master for some more.
‘Please, sir, I want some more. ‘ Now the master was a fat and healthy man. Oliver in the novel is always seen alongside with fat, well fed, healthy men and women. This produces a lot of imagery for the reader. Oliver is continually described as little, thin, small and we because Dickens always puts Oliver alongside people in a contrasting body appearance it makes the audience feel even more sympathy towards Oliver because Dickens reiterates how small Oliver is and adds to this effect by putting him with people who are of a healthy manner.
The master’s reaction to Oliver asking for more leaves a lot to be desired for Oliver Twist. The master did not just go along with Oliver and place more food into Oliver’s bowl, like he should have done as Oliver worked very hard and deserved the food that he needed to keep him on his feet but was shocked and hesitated in dismay before hitting him over the head with the ladle he had in hand. He then grabbed the young Oliver twist and shrieked for the Beadle, Mr Bumble.
Dickens exaggerates the way in which the Beadle, the master and board would have reacted at an event such as a young boy, in a workhouse, asking for more food, but it does draw attention to Dickens strong opinion about, how the food was distributed. When Mr Bumble ran into the room where the men of the board sat he was in a rather excitable state. When Mr bumble tells the board of what Oliver Twist had ‘offended’ there was a great deal of horror amongst the board.
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