Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/3272
Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. A Thief or a Victim?
Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist in order to show what it was like to live in 19th century London. In the novel he emphasizes three essential points of this period: The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, The Workhouse system and the criminal environment of the time. In his novels, Dickens uses various characters and situations to draw attention to social matters. He attacks the falsity and shortcomings of the government and its laws as well as its ways of treating poor people and examines the criminal system. However, Dickens does not propose any solutions; he simply shows the suffering caused by these approaches and their deep inequities.
In this essay I will attempt to examine the social realities of three essential themes in the novel which Dickens writes upon: The Poor Law Amendment Act – especially how poor people were affected by the Poor Law and which created workhouses for the impoverished, the workhouse system and the criminal world. By comparing historical insight of the workhouse to Dickens’s description in the novel, we see that the novel is based on the real events of 19th century Victorian London. A deeper unveiling of the character Oliver, the protagonist, is reached by examining the way he feels, acts and thinks in the novel. I will also provide some historical facts about how and why it was so easy for children to get involved in criminality. I will explore the initial question, who is Oliver Twist - a thief or a victim, by comparing two worlds which Oliver experiences: the criminal underworld where he meets Fagin and his den, versus the security of Mr. Brownlow’s home where he pleads to stay within instead of being sent back to the wretched place he came from and Mrs. Maylie’s environment where the boy experiences love, kindness and goodness, which he has needed from the very beginning of the novel.