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Society’s Attitude Towards Under Privileged Children In The Novel Oliver Twist

3633 words - 15 pages

Society’s Attitude Towards Under Privileged Children in the Novel Oliver Twist

‘Oliver Twist’ is one of Charles Dickens most enduringly popular
novels. Best known for his host of distinctively cruel, comic and
repugnant characters, Charles Dickens remains the most widely read of
the Victorian novelists. ‘Oliver Twist’, a meek, mild young boy, is
born in the workhouse and spends his early years there until, finding
the audacity to ask for more food, “Please, sir, I want some more.” he
is made to leave. Oliver represents the underprivileged children in
this novel. Dickens shows us society’s attitude towards Oliver and the
under privileged children, they were abused, beaten and “brought up by
hand.” ‘Oliver Twist’ is a criticism of the workhouses, the judicial
system and the criminal world of London society of the time. Dickens
use of satire and descriptive style conveys the pain of the
unfortunate to the reader. His narrative skills are loaded with biting
sarcasm and irony making the novel a chilling revelation of the life
of the orphans.

Dickens was a lifelong champion of the poor. He himself suffered the
harsh abuse visited upon the poor by the English legal system, as he
himself was an orphan. In England in the 1830s, the poor had no voice,
political or economically. In Oliver Twist, he presents the everyday
existence of the lowest characters of English society. He goes far
beyond the experiences of the workhouse, extending his depiction of
poverty to London’s squalid streets, dark alehouses, and thieves’
dens, he gives voice to those who had no voice, showing us a link
between politics and literature with his language techniques and
social commentary. The novel is that of a young individual boy but the
suffering and humiliation is universal.

Oliver represents all the orphans of the 19th century Victorian
England. Oliver’s birth is symbolic of his life. His whole life is a
struggle. His birth begins a life that is a long tale of woes. His ill
treatment in the branch workhouse was one more phase in his life of
“sorrow and trouble”. His mother dies during childbirth because
medicine was not quite advanced at the time and so the child becomes
an orphan. “once- a parish child-the orphan of a workhouse-the humble,
half starved drudge- to be cuffed and buffeted through the world-
despised by all, and pitied by none.” Authorities at the workhouse
send Oliver to a branch-workhouse for “juvenile offenders against the
poor-laws.” “without the inconvenience of too much food or too much
clothing.” Dickens shows us the cruel system and how harsh their
treatment was on the children as they were “brought up by hand”. The
overseer, Mrs. Mann, receives an adequate sum for each child’s upkeep,
but she keeps most of the money and lets the children go hungry,
sometimes even letting them die. Hunger was a part of their life and a
meal of their gruel left the children with hunger as their “bowls
never wanted washing”....

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