Oliver Twist Essay

1373 words - 5 pages

The filthy slums of London…the dark alleys, the abandoned, unlighted buildings. The rain and fog envelop the dark city. The atmosphere is dismal; evil dominates this world. The major action of Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens moves back and forth between two worlds: the filthy slums of London, and the clean, comfortable houses of Brownlow and the Maylies. The first world is real and frightening, while the latter is idealized, almost dreamlike, in its safety and beauty. Thus, the scenes set in the slums are the most memorable, for they are where misfortune befalls Oliver. Death, used as a symbolic device, helps unify and intensify the allegorical struggle between good and evil, which is at the novel's core.After spending nine years, since birth, in a deplorable workhouse, Oliver Twist's troubles multiply when, painfully hungry, he asks for "more." As a punishment for calling attention to his empty belly, Oliver is apprenticed to an undertaker, where he is treated so cruelly that he makes his way to far off London, instead of returning to his workhouse. Not knowing where to go, he is "rescued" by the Artful Dodger, who tells him "I knows a respectable old gentleman as lives there wot'll give you lodging for nothink." (51). The "respectable old gentleman" is none other than Fagin, a crafty, old, shriveled scoundrel who enriches himself by teaching outcast boys how to steal. It's unsettling to witness the calculated manipulation of the trusting and impressionable Oliver into the world of petty crime. And, it isn't only Fagin who spreads evil among the cast-off waifs of London. There is someone viler, someone even Fagin fears; Bill Sikes, a brute and a murderer. He has his own criminal pursuits with the little hero in mind. Through many a "Twist," and the help from a wealthy benefactor, Mr. Brownlow, Oliver manages to escape the clutches of Nineteenth Century Victorian London - for a time.Oliver is generally quiet and shy, rather than aggressive. But when he is nine years old he does two bold things that change his life. At the workhouse he asks for more food: "Please sir, I want some more." (12), and when he's an apprentice he beats up Noah Claypole and runs away: "I am running away. They beat and ill-used me … I am going to seek my fortune." (46). After that, most of the things that happen to him are out of his control. They are the result of luck: either good or bad, or the active intervention of someone else. Dickens describes his characters in many ways. First, a character's personality may be noted by the way in which he is described. For example, the evil and the ugly appearances of such characters as Fagin, Sikes, and Monks are due to their character. The same, of course, is true of the novel's good characters. For Oliver, Rose, and Mr. Brownlow are attractive characters. Secondly, a character may be revealed by his manner of speech. Mr. Grimwig's "…I'll eat my head…"(91) reveals his stubbornness, and Mr. Bumble's...

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