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Charles Dickens Exposes The Dangers And Horrors Of Victorian London In Oliver Twist

4599 words - 18 pages

Charles Dickens Exposes the Dangers and Horrors of Victorian London in Oliver Twist

All of Charles Dickens novels are set in the period he wrote them in
and contain certain points of social and political beliefs that he
highlighted with the desire to change his audience's views, on mainly
the poor, but also all those that were treated unjustly because of
laws and stereotypes. 'Oliver Twist' is the story of a young orphan
who is the illegitimate son of two good people. It shows the attempts
of a collection of villainous characters to break his hereditary
kind-heartedness and innocence. This is to benefit them through his
considerable, unknown inheritance that they have found out about.
However, behind the story Dickens hides messages raising the issues of
the terrible conditions of the workhouses and the Poor Law Amendment
Act of 1834, the abuse and exploitation of children, poverty, crime,
inequality, prejudice towards different religions and nationalities
and ignorance to the existence of some physical disabilities and
mental illnesses.

The poor law act was a typical example of a whig-benthamite
reformation legislation of the Victorian period. That is to say it
follows Bentham's theory of segregation. It gained general
parliamentary support and was passed with considerably less
consideration and discussions as was normal when new laws are
proposed. It ensured that conditions in the workhouses were as vile
and uncomfortable as possible so that only the truly destitute would
even consider submitting. It also implied that the poor were only in
that state because they were lethargic and were therefore named the
'undeserving poor' when in reality it was the lack of opportunity that
held back the poor people from improvement. They had no education and
no means to gain qualifications to use to get better jobs. They only
had very few options; to stay where they were in horrific conditions,
to submit to the terrible workhouse or turn to crime.

After three years the law had become fully effective and the
consequences of decision were obvious. Dickens was always protesting
against the harsh treatment of the poor and was always on a crusade to
resolve the problems. It was at this point that Dickens decided to
take action by writing 'Oliver Twist'. Dickens can really sympathise
with the poor characters in his book and the young children in his
novel as he has been in their position. After his father was taken to
debtor's prison, twelve-year-old Dickens was sent to a shoe blacking
factory to earn money. His experiences in the factory and around that
time were so traumatic that he only spoke about it to his wife and
closest friend. These experiences affected Dickens' writing and helped
contribute to the graphic imagery found within 'Oliver Twist' that
show the horrors of London.


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