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Oliver Twist: The Life Of An Orphan Child During Victorian England

1198 words - 5 pages

Depending on wealth or social class, children's lives during the Victorian era greatly differ from children's lives today. Some greatly distinct examples include: child labor, health and safety, and overall living conditions. The novel Oliver Twist written by Charles Dickens, provides evidence as well as support to the statements above regarding children during the Victorian era.
“I shall begin with the foundling hero, whose illegitimate birth in a workhouse many Victorians evidently read as a prelude to the boy's almost certain misfortune and descent into crime” (Paroissien). Oliver Twist's birth was a rather tragic one, as his mother passed away almost immediately after. Oliver 's father ...view middle of the document...

While Mr. Sowerberry was a bit humane to the boy, the rest of the household was not. Residing along with them was Mrs. Sowerberry, Charlotte, and Noah Claypole.
“At the workhouse [Oliver] is one among many charges who are confined and abused by supervising moral derelicts; and at the Sowerberrys' he is fed a dog's leavings, bedded down among the coffins, and persecuted for his social inferiority by the charity-boy, Noah Claypole, who at least is not an orphan” (Duffy). “In the hands of cruel employers, typified in the novel by Gamfield and Sowerberry, children often ran away and drifted into crime. And when apprentices fled from the harsh conditions and brutal treatment commonly associated with menial jobs, adolescents often took to stealing, parliamentary investigators discovered, because they had no other way to survive” (Paroissien). Oliver did exactly as what is stated and ran away to London, in hope to find a better life.
The child walked for seven days, only finding true kindness in one home. A small cottage where an elderly woman resided. She allowed Oliver to rest and offered him what little food she had. Aside from her, Oliver passed through many towns which specifically forbid begging of any sort, which shows evidence of low tolerance even for starving children with no home to call their own. “Because Oliver is "so jolly green," he is quickly spotted as a potential recruit by the alert young thief who finds him starving in Barnet High Street. And he is easily ensnared with the promise of help, the first kind word or gesture Oliver has ever received in his life. "'Don't fret your eyelids on that score,'" says the Artful Dodger, sympathetically, when Oliver confesses that he has no money and nowhere to stay” (Paroissien). The Artful Dodger then introduces Oliver to Fagin, an old Jew who's also the leader of a small gang of child pick pocketers. Fagin shows kindness towards Oliver, giving him food, clothing, and a place to stay; however in return expects Oliver to be of some use to him for his own benefits. Fagin not only shows the children how to steal food but also valuables such as jewelry, handkerchiefs, and wallets. As stated before, orphan children often went down the route of crime in order to survive. If caught, they were shown no mercy; either being beaten, hanged, or locked away in prison for the crime of theft. “Child crime shocked the Victorians. Dickens' account of Fagin's gang of young pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger, in 'Oliver Twist' published in 1837, played to this popular concern. In 1816, Parliament even set up a 'Committee for...

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