Although we are not introduced to him at the time, we find out later that it was Mr. Bumble who named Oliver. We also find out the manner in which he named him. This seems to show Oliver’s lowly status- just another item on a long list. Mr. Bumble, we find out in chapter two, is the parish beadle. He is ironically described as ‘very self-devotional’ for doing what he does, which includes saying whatever the parish board wanted to hear and warning Mrs. Mann of visits by the board, so ‘the children were neat and clean to behold, when they went.
‘ From his actions in chapter three, we can tell that Bumble is actually only interested in profit from the children, for example his reaction to Oliver asking for more, and the way in which he tries to sell him as an apprentice into a life of servitude and exploitation. Mrs. Mann runs the parish orphanage, which Oliver attends until he is nine years old. She is described by Mr. Bumble as ‘a humane woman, with motherly instincts’ but it is shown that for the most part he is covering up her shortcomings, and the rest he is ignorant of.
We are shown the woman’s evil directly, in the way Oliver hides his hate of her because of her threats (‘he had sense enough to make a feint of feeling great regret at going away’); and through irony, describing her as an ‘experimental philosopher’; the experiments being giving the children no food. After asking for more food, Oliver is sent to work for Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker. Before this, he was saved from the clutches of a violent chimney sweep (who considered ‘roasting the boy’s feet’ to be relatively humane) only by a kind magistrate. The attitude of Mr.
Bumble, and the conversations with both the chimney sweep and Mr. Sowerberry, all show that the opinion was that poor children were there to be exploited. In our first introduction to Fagin, we are given the impression that he is a satanic figure- he is standing over a fire, and holding a toasting fork in lieu of a pitchfork. Also the first description that we are given, of a ‘very old and shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair’ furthers the image of the devil- he is villainous and repulsive and has red hair- a colour closely associated with Satan.
The comparisons with the devil continue as we are shown how he has corrupted the minds of the young boys who ‘work’ for him. In chapters 9 and 18, Fagin tries to tempt Oliver into crime, which is a parallel to the devil tempting others to sin in the Bible. The methods Fagin uses to do this show some of how society saw the children of the poor. For example, in turning stealing into a game, we see that they are used, and kept ignorant of what is going on around them. Also, when Fagin punishes the boys (locking Oliver in the room, attacking the Dodger) it shows that the poor are kept in line by violence and the threat of it.