Bill Sikes as Evil & Oliver as Embodiment of Goodness in Oliver Twist

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      Bill Sikes is a very vital character not only in Oliver Twist but in the whole range of Dickens' novels. He is most powerfully portrayed in comparison to Fagin and Monks. His striking qualities are callousness, inhumanity, wickedness and oppression. In chapter (13) Sikes first appears in the novel. Dickens depicted him as dirty, unshaven, scowling looks with 'the kind of legs which....always look in an unfinished and incomplete state'. This is the reflection of his ugly, brutal inner self. The novelist intensifies this impression by such epithets as 'savage', 'surly', 'bitter', 'fierce', 'harsh', 'furious' and 'desperate' whenever he draws the character of Sikes. He is presented in such a way that we get him as a monster of evil from the very first point of seeing him. Bill Sikes has a white hairy dog, that dog is very faithful and accompany him all the time. But Sikes has no affection for his dog. He often gives his dog terrible kick and the dog was used to such kind of ill-treatment. It lays down peacefully in the room without slight groaning. Later when Sikes realizes that dog might be a threat to his life because its presence with him can disclose his identity and police might arrest him, he decides to destroy the dog. But the dog senses his dangerous intentions and runs away.

      Oliver is very innocent and a novice in the world of crime. Throughout the episode of attempted robbery, Sikes ill-treats him. He threatens him at the point of his pistol. This monstrous behavior of Sikes is most evident in his relation with Nancy. Nancy is completely devoted to him, she is ready to do anything for him but he treats her very badly. He often curses upon her, utters abusive words to her, but she remains constant in her love. He has the habit of addressing her as 'a growl like that he is accustomed to use when addressing his dog'. He indeed has his faith upon her but when he hears that she has betrayed him, he kills her very brutally.

      There is no justice in calling Sikes an incarnation of Oliver but it is difficult to point out on what grounds can Oliver be an embodiment of goodness. He looks delicate and handsome and foremost innocent His innocence remains unaffected, unstained though he is all the time tempted to join the criminal world through the members of Fagin’s group. Another remarkable quality of Oliver is his courage. He courageously says the magistrate not to apprentice him to the dreadful Mr. Gamfield. He also gives a courageous reply to Noah but he insults his motlier. He feels grateful to those whose have ever shown mercy upon him. He pleads in front of Fagin to return the books to Mr. Brownlow otherwise he would consider him as thief. He always feels grateful to Mr. Brownlow and Maylies because they have shower their love and mercy upon him. We notice his sensitivity in the episode of bidding an unhappy farewell to Dick.

      In the Preface to the Third Edition of Oliver Twist Dickens says that he 'wished to show in little Oliver the principle of good surviving through every adverse circumstance and triumphing at last'. This shows that Dickens was intended to make Oliver the embodiment of goodness. In the very first sentence of the novel Oliver is called an 'item of mortality'.

University Questions

Do you agree that Bill Sikes is an incarnation of evil and Oliver is an embodiment of goodness. Answer with reference to Oliver Twist.

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