Pathetic Elements in the Novel Oliver Twist

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Not Absolutely Black but Comic Ingredients

      There are several angles to view and judge a work of art, so is the case with Oliver Twist. One angle of seeing it is to regard it as a reflector of the prevailing corruption, evils and curses of the contemporary society. Another perspective is to view it as containing the themes of poverty, exploitation, oppression and death. One more angle is to consider it as the story of an abandoned child's cry of anguish at the inhumanity to which he is subjected. One should also pay his attention to the essential point that the novel is not entirely black though it is so black as worthy to be called nightmarish. The story of Oliver Twist shocks the readers of even modern time, but it is not absolutely dark. The grimness and horror of the atmosphere is lightened by several comic elements. In the very beginning darkness is illumined by the use of Dickens' irony and wit when he attacks on the management of the workhouses. Besides, we have the episode of Mr. and Mrs. Bumble's conjugal life which intends to amuse us. Then there is the comic chatting of the boys of Fagin's group, specially Artful Dodger, Charley Bates and Tom Chitling. Apart from these there are also two chapters in which the happy and peaceful lives of Mr. Brownlow and Maylie members are depicted. These chapters also scatter the dark clouds of the novel.

Oliver's Miserable Condition at the Workhouse and at Mr. Sowerberry's House

      Sad tone is ringing throughout the novel. After reading the whole novel what remains with us is the impression of callousness and ill-treatment to which Oliver is subjected till Mr. Brownlow adopts him as his son. In the very beginning we feel sad when Oliver's mother dies soon after giving birth to him. The last lines of chapter one sink us into sadness by giving a peep into the future of Oliver. We are told that Oliver cries and cries on after descending into the world and would have cried even more if he had known what is in store for him. Our sad feelings get intensified when are told about the miserable condition of the unfed and badly nourished orphans and paupers and when Oliver faces the fury of the manager of the workhouse on asking for more gruel. Oliver's condition shakes us when he is presented before a magistrate in the company of Mr. Bumble who wishes to give him in the hands of Mr. Gamfield, a cruel and disgusting chimney sweep. This time Oliver bends down in front of the magistrate and appeals him not to send him with a dreadful man. He tells that he is ready to bear all kinds of punishment but he would not like to go with Mr. Gamfield.

      Oliver again arouses our pity when he is apprenticed to Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker. On the very first night Oliver is given those scraps of meat to eat which are left by the dog of the undertaker. He is given a place amidst the coffins to sleep. More pathetic is that scene when Oliver is given the job of a mule to lead the funeral procession especially of a child. But the climax of Oliver's misery comes when he is given harsh beating by Mr. Sowberberry because Mrs. Sowerberry and Noah Claypole has given him the wrong account of Oliver's defiance. Oliver tolerates everything but in the night when he is left all alone, he weeps bitterly. This scene of Oliver's falling upon his knees and shedding tears is very pathetic and moving. It is the most touching scene in the novel. Thenafter comes the episode of Oliver and Dicks' meeting who is conscious to the bare truth that he will die very soon.

The Troubles after Leaving Mr. Sowerberry's House

      After leaving the house of Mr. Sowerberry, Oliver starts moving towards London without knowing his destination. He does not have food to eat and money to invest. On the seventh morning after leaving the undertaker's house he enters a small town and sits down with wounded feet upon a doorstep. We can assume the misery of this wretched boy who has nobody in this vast world to take care of him. Thenafter he encounters criminal Fagin through Jack Dawkins' help. Just notice his misfortune that though Oliver has not picked the pocket of Mr. Brownlow yet he is dashed to the ground and taken to the jail by police. When he is acquitted, he collapses and lies on the ground without anybody to took after. Now, Mr. Brownlow takes him to his house and makes arrangements for his proper treatment.

The Endeavours of Criminals to Pervert Oliver

      Oliver's happiness does not exist for very long. He is soon caught by Nancy and dragged to the den of Fagin where he is beaten and threatened for running away. Then everyone makes his utmost effort to allure and persuade Oliver to do criminal activities. Monks again instigate Fagin to pervert Oliver by all measures. This aggravated effort of injecting poison in Oliver's blood proves too miserable for him. Bill does not appeal him in any case. Here Oliver's mental agony reaches the climax when Sikes forcibly takes him on his expedition of robbing the house of Mrs. Maylie. Oliver inwardly decides not to help Sikes but alert the inmate of the house. Fortune favors Oliver and finally, he is given refuge in the merry surrounding of Mrs. Maylie's house.

The Culmination and End of Oliver's Plight

      One day, Oliver encounters a stranger in his way to deliver Mrs. Maylie's letter to the landlord of the inn concerning Rose's illness. The stranger utters all kinds of curses on Oliver and rushes to home in state of terror. Again Oliver sees this man with Fagin close to the window of Mrs. Maylie's house. His heart fills with terror. Actually this man is Monks and he is the half-brother of Oliver. He is mad to pervert Oliver because he does not want to share the inherited property with Oliver as expressed in his father Edwin Leeford's will. But again Oliver is saved from his ill-will by Mr. Brownlow. Fagin and Sikes meet their end and Monks after spending all his money falls a prey to epileptic fit and dies. Ultimately he is adopted as a son by Mr. Brownlow.

The Plight of other Boys

      Not only Oliver's but other children's plight is described in the novel though Oliver is the chief sufferer among them. All the orphans and paupers of baby-farms and workhouses are ill-healed. Dick died because of the lack of P—er medical treatment. Nancy also in her childhood was forced to join criminals by the adverse circumstances. Rose and Mrs. Brownlow deeply move to listen, her tragic story. Thus we see that at several moments our heart fills with sympathy and pity because of the pathetic note.

University Questions

"The novel Oliver Twist is wholly black. It is the abandoned child's cry of anguish at the inhumanity to which he is subjected." Express your own view about this critical comment.
Bring out the pathetic elements in the novel, Oliver Twist.

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