Five Pounds and Oliver Twis

Categories: Novel
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Orphans in the 19th century were children who have had no parents and required special effort to develop and are “left to the tender mercies of churchwardens and overseers. ” They were “juvenile offenders”, “culprits” who were not shown any mercy. They were mistreated, abused, isolated, bullied and neglected by various sections of society. These children were “pitied by no one”, “despised by all,” kept “half starved” and were never respected in society.

They were the victims of betrayal and disloyalty, were called “dirt of society.

” ‘Oliver Twist’ is the story of a boy who passes through many difficulties and troubles through life’s journey each time becoming stronger from it. The novel fictionalizes the experience of the writer ‘Charles Dickens’ and reflects the social evils existing in the 19th century. In the book ‘Oliver Twist’ Dickens brings to life the terrible hardships faced by the orphans at that time.

He shows how England’s society changes from a slow paced one to a fast paced mechanized one, where the typical rule applies- the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer.

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As a boy Dickens suffered economic security and humiliation. At the age of twelve he was sent to earn money to support his family, he worked in a factory and earned about six shillings in a week. He was also sent away to live with other unwanted children. “Those few month for Dickens were a time of complete misery, humiliation and despair.

The memory of which, as he confessed later, he could never quite shake off.

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” These childhood experiences of Dickens have been transferred into the early pages of the novel ‘Oliver Twist’, where we see the feeling of desperation that the author had experienced as a child. At that time in the 19th century when there was demand for labour, children were often made to work under miserable conditions with little or no wages. Orphans were treated very badly and were left to the mercy of their caretakers who were not even bothered about them.

Dickens himself was exposed to such hardships in a young age, in his novels he usually writes about the troubles faced by the middle and lower class people of society. In this novel he brings to life the troubles and horrible hardships faced by the orphans of the 19th century. In the novel Dickens narrates a story of an orphan who makes his way in the world and encounters prejudice and hatred that he does not really understand. In this book he uses a very descriptive style of writing to convey to his audience how terrible conditions were in the 19th century.

He creates a vivid and descriptive picture in the readers’ minds of the most pathetic and disgusting situations just to make the readers aware that there are also people in this world who live such miserable, unhealthy lives in the most unhygienic conditions. In the book he exposes the British Society as a society of classes that ignored the lowest level of the ladder. Through his language he wants people to realize how certain members of the society were ill-treated. Throughout the book exaggeration is also used to further intensify the conditions of the orphans; “they established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative…

of being starved by gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it,” this referred to the Poor Law Act, through which many children died of starvation and the others were thrashed for “presuming to be hungry. ” Exaggeration is especially evident where the description of the setting is concerned, where Dickens paints horrific pictures in the readers’ mind. The language that Dickens employs to convey the true misery of orphans lies heavily on the use of satire, sarcasm and mockery. The characters in his book reveal a great deal about the orphans of that time and the way they were treated.

Oliver is the main character who directly represents the orphans at that time; and other characters like the “Artful Dodger (Jack Dawkins)”, “Bill Sikes” and “Nancy,” play an important role in the book representing different characteristic in society. In the book, Dickens uses sarcasm to expose the cruelty practiced on the innocent children. Also we see the use of pathos in Dickens writing, “If he could have known that he was an orphan, left tom the tender mercies of churchwardens and oversees, perhaps he would have cried louder.

” Also the quote “So lonely, sir! So very lonely! ‘Every body hates me. Oh! Sir, don’t, don’t pray be cross to me! ‘ the child beat his hands upon his heart; and looked in his companion’s face, with tears and real agony” is full of such pathos and tender emotions that we can empathize with the child’s feelings. Further on in the book Dickens very effectively uses graphical language to describe Oliver’s hunger, “I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose meat and drink turn to gall within him…

There is only one thing I should like better; and that would be to see the philosopher making the same sort of meal himself, with the same relish. ” Through this quote Dickens also provides the readers with a comparison made with a philosopher who would not eat dog food. Dickens once again makes use of a descriptive technique to describe the lonely situation Oliver was in “he was alone in a strange place; and we all know how chilled and desolate the best of us will sometime feel in such a situation,” through this he also gives an impression of the common crowd in that kind of situation.

Dickens also mocks Oliver each time he repeats the phrase “poor Oliver Twist”. However from the beginning to the end of the book Dickens is successful in creating a pathetic figure of Oliver through the use of his evocative language. And also, through the devices of irony and humor, Dickens disperses the cloud of gloom from the novel and introduces a ray of hope. The use of superlative verbs in the quote “the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food,” enforces the shortage of food in the workhouse.

The conditions in the workhouses were purposely uncomfortable and unappealing and this in turn led to more hardships, “the room in which the boys were feed, was a large stone hall, with a copper at one end. ” The people in charge of the workhouse brought up Oliver and here Dickens reveals to us that Oliver was lived miserably, “… seven pence-half penny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for seven pence- half penny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable.

The elderly female was wise and knew what was good for the children” through this line Dickens shows us Oliver is living a miserable life. In this case it shows us that he was underfed; it also shows that the other orphans in the workhouse were treated the same way. Here Dickens stresses on the physical hardships faced by the orphans at that time. This extract also refers to the hypocrisy of society of the time, with the lady in charge choosing to starve the children and then state that it is good for them.

In the workhouse the orphans were treated without any sensitivity and care. There they had no sense of security as the caretakers never bothered about them whether they lived or died, made no difference to them. The “white waistcoat” man constantly bullied and insulted Oliver. This again proves that the workhouse instead of providing protection to the poor orphans was a place where children starve and it becomes a means to solve the problem of poverty by bringing about the death of the poor.

Again Dickens here shows us the contrast between the conditions of the workhouse caretaker, “Mr. Bumble” on one hand who was fat, well-fed and on the other hand the orphans who starved for food. They were subject to starvation; hunger was present everywhere as they only got a “porringer” each or a bowl of “watery gruel. ” The orphans were always so hungry, “their bowls never wanted washing. The boys polished them with their spoons till they shone again… ” This shows that the orphans slow starvation made them “wild with hunger” and this lead to “Oliver” asking for “more”.

Only Oliver was the one to ask for more because he was the only one who was courageous and his courage was born out of desperation for food. Oliver grew up in harsh, unsympathetic conditions this did not affect his character as he naturally had a humble and gentle character. His self-confidence was crushed when he looked down upon himself; this was due to his harsh punishment he got when he tried to boost about his self-confidence. No one could ever posses any self-confidence if they were treated in the way he was.

“Please sir, may I have some more,” this quote suggests that the orphans were not allowed to state or express that they were hungry, at this point the readers cannot do anything but sympathize with Oliver and the other orphans for the life they lead. Oliver pleaded for his life, not once but many a times and the quote, “Five pounds and Oliver Twist is offered to any man or women who wanted an apprentice to any trade, business, or calling,” proves that and informs the readers that Oliver was treated like just another slave who were sold for a few pounds to do all the dirty work of society.

Here before he was being sold for pounds five he pleads the board system of the workhouse not to send him away. We see Oliver pleading for his life again in a very dramatic way. “Oh don’t tell me you are going to send me away, sir, pray! Exclaimed Oliver, alarmed… doesn’t turn me out doors to wander in the streets again, let me stay here and be a servant. Don’t send me back to that wretched place from where I came from. Have mercy upon a poor boy, sir! ” this quote shows us the extent of Oliver’s fear and show his extreme insecurity that made him plea in this way in front of Mr.

Brownlow. From the day he was born, no one valued his life and showed compassion to him. It is through Oliver’s emotional suffering that we truly understand the extent of misery endured by orphans of the 19th century. Oliver in his wretched condition is continually pitied throughout the book, and his constant outburst of emotions and pleading makes the readers feel sorry for him. Through the examples and phrases from the book we realize that they the orphans were always victims of harsh treatment and foul language as they are always insulted.

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Five Pounds and Oliver Twis. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Five Pounds and Oliver Twis

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