Representation of Childhood in Oliver Twist

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      Dickens is regarded as the 'capital at a baby'. His portraiture of several child characters like Oliver Twist, Pip, David Copperfield, Tiny Tim, Paul Dombey and Little Nell, all have achieved immense success. The truth is that Dickens did not portray a child but himself became a child during his depiction in the novel. George Orwell has well said that 'no novelist has shown the same power of entering into the child's point of view' as Dickens. When George Orwell was nine years old he read David Copperfield. He found the internal happening of a child in the opening chapters of the novel so lucid and similar to his own that he vaguely thought that the novel was written by a child. Indeed it is a remarkable appreciation and glorification of Dickens as a painter of child's mind in exact words.

      In Oliver Twist some of the conspicuous natures of a child's mind have been delineated clearly. First among is the craving for pure and unselfish love, that in the reference of Oliver is most noteworthy because he has been deprived of the parental love and care in the very dawn of his life in this world. The child Oliver had an intense longing for a sympathetic look and he gels intimate and emotionally attached to anybody very soon whether it is Mr. Brownlow, Mrs. Bedwin, Mrs. Maylie, Rose, or Nancy, whoever showers his/her love upon him, Oliver mechanically makes a harmonious emotional bond with them. Another shaking feature is his innocence which makes everybody to consider him innocent. He thinks that Artful Dodger and Fagin are innocent and holds his belief till the reality ruthlessly dawns upon him. When Fagin plays the game of picking pocket with his associates in order to make Oliver learn the style of picking pocket but for Oliver it was a mere game and he laughs heartily.

Examples from Oliver Twist to stamp Dickens' Virtue of possessing deep insight into Child's Mind

      The mind of a child is generally inquisitive and sensitive. Every first experience brings with it a sense of freshness and Oliver immediately responds to it with such intensity that it would be impossible to observe in grown-ups. In Oliver's case after instantaneous reaction there comes earlier complete rejection or acceptance. He soon forgets the previous experience and changes himself according to the new one. No doubt his early experiences at workhouse, Mr. Sowerberry's house and Fagin's den one most horrible and nightmarish yet he easily keeps them aside and feels peace and contentment in the family of Brownlow as if he has been living there from very long. This is repeated when he again falls into the hands of criminals and fortune puts him into the family of another kind person Mrs. Maylie. Oliver shows the same rejection and acceptance this time also.

      Another example that displays Dickens' deep insight into the child's mind is when Noah Claypole speaks ill about Oliver's mother, Oliver goes out of control and forgets Noah's age and strength. He gives him a good thrash. Only a child's despair and utter defiance can make him able to take extreme steps of fleeing to London.


      To sum up Suzanne Brown observes that the choice of a youngster, as hero is the major achievement of Dickens in Oliver Twist. ".....he together with that other nineteenth-century giant William Wordsworth created a new understanding of the intense, receptive quality of a child soul".

University Questions

Examine Charles Dickens as the master of the portrayal of childhood with special reference to Oliver Twist.
Dickens has a deep insight into the child's mind. Elaborate with reference to Oliver Twist.

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