Autobiographical Elements in the Novel Oliver Twist

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      "Oliver, and all the other passive young men in Dickens' novels, are idealized representations of some other side of their author's being." It is not a troublesome task to discover that side. We have to keep in our mind the religious impact on Dickens' mind. In associating grace with the incapability to do anything on behalf of one's destiny except bear and observe it unfold and freeing it of the stain of willful or self-interested participation in one's fate, it would be clear that Dickens was expressing a more primitive protestant tendency than Bunyan. The ability to withstand passively the ill-designs of Fagin make Oliver rescue. He has great strength of inner morality, that enables him to keep himself unaffected by the evils.

      "Oliver is the lusus naturae, Christian boy. If there is something in all of this that seems touched with self-deception and self-congratulation, it is only fair to add that it did not take Dickens very long to discover that one can not finally put aside or cancel out one’s time in the workhouse by coming to a long-lost inheritance. The experience of Oliver Twist without doubt record Dickens' memory of the central episode in his own childhood and the neglect he suffered at the hands of his parents. As we have seen, these early circumstance - the prison, the breaking up of the family, the agony of being deserted and forgotten, the public exposure and the rough companionship of the boys at the blacking factory—had excited in him an extreme and ineradicable feeling of humiliation, of having been violated, degraded and declassed. In his autobiographical sketch he wrote:

      "It is wonderful to me how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age. It is wonderful to me, that, even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough on me-a child of singular abilities, quick eager, delicate and soon hurt, bodily or mentally to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainty it might have been, to place me at any common school....No one made any sign. My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school and going to Cambridge."

      No device, no council, no encouragement, consolation, no support, from anyone that I can call to mind, so help me God.

      "I know that I worked, from morning to night with common men and boys, a shabby child...I know that I have lounged about the streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily fed. I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a little vagabond."

      "The autobiographical sketch was written in 1847, almost twenty five years after the events it recalls. The man who wrote it was the greatest and most famous English novelist of his time yet those events were as vivid to him as if they had just happened: "Even now, " he continued, "famous and caressed and happy, I often forget in my dreams that I have a dear wife and children; even that I am a man, and wander desolately back to that time of my life." Those events were indeed alive - as alive as his immense success, which by then had begun to fail of its redemptive powers.

      "Nevertheless, in Oliver Twist suffering has no consequences in the character of the child; it is Oliver's self-generated and self-sustaining love, conferred it would seem from heaven alone, that preserves him from disaster and death. This is perhaps an accurate indication of how Dickens was inclined to remember his own childhood at that time; it was as if those dreadful months of loneliness and servitude were not to be of ultimate account. Only success, only the achievement of one's birthright—whether that involved becoming a famous writer, or a gentleman, or both—was the conclusive judgment on one's being.' Dickens: From Pickwick to Dombey by Steven Marcus.

University Questions

Bring out the autobiographical elements in the novel, Oliver Twist
Write an essay on the autobiographical ingredients of Oliver Twist.

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