Charles Dickens Social Critique in Oliver Twist

Categories: Oliver Twist

'Oliver Twist' was written by Charles Dickens, a social critic who was also a writer of the Victorian era. He exposed the nature of society especially the life of the poor and uncared for people like orphans. He has written 'Oliver Twist' so that the human race would know how orphans lived. 'Oliver Twist' depicts realistic characters in society. Dickens' mother died when he was very young; perhaps this is the reason why in his novel most of the people who gave Oliver love were woman.

Dickens had worked in a Blacking Factory while very young.

It was his miserable experience that made him understand what it felt like to be a deprived child with no hope of advancement. When Oliver Twist is presented to the readers in the novel as an orphan he is "hungry and destitute" "he was 'badged' and 'ticketed' " "and was looked upon by society as a - parish child, the humble, half - starved drudge to be cuffed and buffeted through the world - despised by all and pitied by none" 'Oliver Twist' is thus Dickens personal journey from Blackening factory to respectability.

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Thus a good part of the novel has also autobiographical elements in it. In this novel Dickens depicts London society, the people of London and London itself. Most of the people used to treat the orphans very badly. They deprived them of the basic necessities they needed and they were also deprived of love. "The child was pale thin; his cheeks were sunken: and his eyes large and bright.

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The scanty parish dress, the livery of his misery, hung loosely on his feeble body; and his young limbs wasted away like those of an old man".

The orphans were abused mentally as well as physically. They were very sensitive and couldn't fight back as they were kept in a bad condition and as they were children they were weak and couldn't fight physically or mentally. The orphans are abused and labeled "un-grateful, mur-de-rous, hor-rid-villian". Dickens has used Oliver Twist as a representative of all the orphans . All the orphans are not as good as Oliver Twist but there were only a few good ones like Dick, who was Oliver's friend.

Dickens narrative skills are loaded with biting sarcasm and irony making the novel a chilling satire on the life of the orphans. Dickens irony is evident when he writes of Oliver's birth. "Now, if during this brief period Oliver had been surrounded by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses and doctors of profound wisdom, he would most inevitably have been killed in no time". When Oliver is born the parish surgeon says, "It is very likely it will be troublesome".

Orphans don't get love from their parents they all are deprived of the normal love they would need as a necessary part of growing up. After eight months Oliver was sent to the workhouse, which Mrs. Mann ran and was "brought up by hand" that means that he was beaten and abused physically. The orphans were not given any education as they were not even given adequate food or money and the beadle and the other officials of the board would pocket the money given for their care. "somewhat diminutive in stature, decidedly small in circumference".

Each child was allotted "seven pence-half penny per small head per week" but the so called considerate and caring elderly female felt that it would "overload their stomach and make them uncomfortable". Dickens mockingly calls her "a woman of wisdom and experience" because "she knew what was good for children". But she had "a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. " Thus people like this elderly female Mrs. Mann, Mr. Bumble and a host of others go on fattening themselves at the expense of the helpless destitutes. These orphans were deprived of basic necessities like food and education.

They lived a life of slow starvation and young Oliver along with " twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders" "rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing". The expressions "too much food and too much clothing" is Dickens' sarcastic way of telling his readers that those in charge of these wretched orphans always made sure that they were kept in a state that made them barely survive. These helpless infants "rolled about the floor all day". This shows the complete lack of humanity of those in charge.

They were never ever given the slightest bit of attention or affection and they grew up and starved not only physical sustenance but also for love. Dickens is therefore pointing out the physical and emotional damage done to the children who are unfortunate enough to be born an orphan. At the age of nine Oliver is a pale thin child. Oliver and his friends at the poor house lived in a state of near-starvation. They were always hungry, always cold. Every morsel of food was consumed. "The bowls never wanted washing. The boys polished them with their spoons till they shown again.

After the food was served and eaten 'They would sit staring at the copper, with such eager eyes, as if they could have devoured the very bricks of which it was composed'. The starved condition of the orphans is clear when 'one boy who was tall for his age' 'hinted darkly to his companions, that unless he had another basin of gruel per diem, he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy who slept next him". The orphans in the workhouse are treated badly as they are not given proper food and clothing. They are given gruel mixed with water and only one serving.

Orphans like Oliver have to suffer all their lives because there are many factors that affect them, like what affects Oliver is not having a proper house, loving parents, basic necessities, or even relatives. They are beaten up harshly. The poor orphans in sheer desperation sent Oliver to do something that to the board members and the other officials of the workhouse, is unpardonable. He held out the miserable bowl in which he is served thin gruel with the request "please sir I want some more" this is something unheard of. Oliver is considered as 'savage' and one who "is destined for the gallows".

For his impertinence in daring to ask for more he is "sociably flogged as a public warning and example". The poor unfortunate starving wretch is considered as a criminal of the highest order whose punishment should serve as a reminder to all other wretched and starving orphans never to make such a mistake. The astounded response of the workhouse officials show that they took up Oliver's action of asking for more very seriously. Physical punishment was immediate "The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms, and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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Charles Dickens Social Critique in Oliver Twist. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Charles Dickens Social Critique in Oliver Twist essay
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