Essay, Research Paper: Oliver Twist

Literature: Charles Dickens

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With all of the symbolism and moral issues represented in Oliver Twist, all seem
to come from real events from the life of its author, Charles Dickens. The
novels protagonist, Oliver, is a good person at heart surrounded by the filth of
the London streets. Filth that Dickens himself was forced to deal with in his
everyday life. But through morals and mere chance Oliver becomes a living
symbol. Itıs probable that the reason Oliver Twist contains so much fear and
agony is because itıs a reflection of occurrences in Charles Dickens' past.
During his childhood, Charles Dickens suffered much abuse from his parents. This
abuse is often expressed in his novel. While at the orphanage, Oliver
experienced a great amount of abuse. For example, while suffering from
starvation and malnutrition for a long period of time, Oliver was chosen by the
other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner one night. After
making this simple request, the master (at the orphanage) aimed a blow at
Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for
the beadle. The whole beginning of Oliver Twist's story was created from
memories which related to Charles Dickens' childhood in a blacking factory
(which was overshadowed by the Marshalsea Prison ). While working in the
blacking factory, Dickens suffered tremendous humiliation. This humiliation is
greatly expressed through Oliver's adventures at the orphanage before he is sent
away. Throughout his lifetime, Dickens appeared to have acquired a fondness for
"the bleak, the sordid, and the austere.² (Bloom 231) Most of Oliver
Twist, for example, takes place in London's lowest slums. The city is described
as a maze which involves a "mystery of darkness, anonymity, and
peril." (Bloom 232) Many of the settings, such as the pickpocket's hideout,
the surrounding streets, and the bars, are also described as dark, gloomy, and
bland. Even while his life was in danger while in the hands of Fagin and Bill
Sikes, two conniving pickpockets, he refused to participate in the stealing
which he so greatly opposed. All Oliver really longed for was ³to escape from
harsh living conditions and evil surroundings which he had grown up in.² (Walder
299) However, no matter how tempting the evil may have been, Oliver stood by his
beliefs. Therefore, he can be referred to as: Unfortunately, many critics have
found it hard to believe that a boy such as Oliver Twist could remain so
innocent, pure, and well spoken given the long period of time in which he was
surrounded by evil and injustices. Fagin the head of a group of young thieves,
spends most of his time trying to "demoralize and corrupt Oliver and
prevent him from ever coming into his inheritance." (Hobsbaum 72) To
Oliver, he is seen as an escape from all previous misery. He also helps Oliver
to ease any fears about starvation and loneliness. One element relied heavily
upon in this novel is symbolism. Obviously, escape is an important symbol in
Oliver Twist. Oliver is seeking various forms of escape from conditions which
makes him unhappy and from his loneliness and starvation. Since dealing with
escapism, it is not surprising that death also plays a major role as a symbol in
this story. In the novel, death and coffins symbolize a happy and peaceful
manner of escape. It is suggested that only loneliness and brutality exist on
earth. Supposedly, there is no sanctity on the planet, which is a belief that
goes against the idea of a ³Heaven on earth.² (Praz 54) Another important
symbol within the novel is "two separate and conflicting dualisms: one,
social, between the individual and the institution; the second, moral, between
the respectable and the criminal." (Praz 56) Most of Oliver Twist seems to
imply that "it is better to be a thief than to be alone." (Walder 152)
This tends to make the reader think that Dickens favors the criminal aspect of
his novel over the moral side. However, the conflict between the individual and
the institution leads to Dickens' criticism of social injustices such as
injusticestowards the poor. Also in the form of satire, Dickens attempts to
"challenge the pleasurability of fortune." (Romano 81) Aside from
satire, Dickens uses various other devices in writing this novel. One of the
most common is that of coincidence. For example, Oliver just happened to end up,
first, at the house of Mr. Brownlow, who at one time was a really good friend of
Oliver's father. Then, later on, Oliver ends up at Rose Maylie's house, who, as
it turns out is his aunt. Both of these occurances are also even more rare just
because of where they happened. In Dickens time, London was not as huge a city
as it is now, but it was still one of the larger places at the time. So,
coincidence? Maybe in a town like Plainsville, TX (pop. 75), but not in London.
(Rosales 927) "Written in abrupt, truncated chapters," (Winans 238)
Oliver Twist took the form of a new type of English prose. It depends heavily on
the use of abstraction, or the avoidance of various facts. However, the novel
has itıs own form of narration. Oliver Twist is written in the third person,
therefore the reader gains a view of the story from the position of an onlooker
or outsider. They form their own opinions about the characters from
"watching them." With a theme dealing primarily in social injustices
and various writing techniques such as the use of coincidental incidences and
abstractions, the book has a lot to offer society in terms of pointing out many
problems which still exist today, such as child abuse and injustice to the poor.
All of which are bad things in our society that are not usually in the
spotlight. In order to conquer these evils, they must first be understood and
explaining the severity of these experiences seems to be a job which Charles
Dickens did very well.

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