Comic Figures in Oliver Twist Entirely Caricatures

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      Caricatures means the descriptions of characters in which few distinctive characteristics are highly exaggerated to produce comic effect. In a caricature the general and normal features of the person are laid hidden and the idiosyncrasies, frailties and peculiarities are exaggerated so as to create a ridiculous impression of the character. A caricature is very close to cartoon. The chief purpose of drawing a caricature is to produce genuine humor or humor intermixed with satire. Distortion is the main feature of a caricature. It ruins the remarkable proportions of a character. If we closely observe Dickens' art of characterization, we shall remark that he exaggerates but he does not intend to distort. It is an artistic representation of an eccentric when we are given the picture of Mr. Gainfield looking like a parrot and giving cudgels to his donkey. Likewise, the portraiture of Artful Dodger in his quaint dress and using a quaint lingo is the result of novelist's artistic imagination of a shabby thief.

      In the whole novel Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Mann, Mr. Gamfield, Noah Claypole, Artful Dodger, Fagin, Mrs. Corney, Grimwig, Giles, Mr. Fang etc. are all hyperbolically presented to a certain extent. In the particular reference to Mr. Fagin, Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Mann, Mr. Gamfield etc the callousness of these characters are exaggerated and given satirical touches also. Mr. Fang, Blathers and Duff are inefficient, Mr. Griming is eccentric and a genuine comic figure.

      Most of the critics say that Dickens has caricatured his characters. Somerset Maugham in his book The Novels and Their Authors remarks, "Dickens’ genial method of creating character was to exaggerate the traits, peculiarities, foibles of his models and to put into the mouth of each one some phrase, or string of phrases, which stamped his quintessence on the reader's mind." Of course, Dickens' characters can be called the caricatures of people he had met but who attracted him through scorn and dislike, not through love.

      Thus it would be probably more suitable to say that Dickens did not caricature but exaggerate. A caricaturist may draw the nose of a person like a bamboo but Dickens never distorts or change the proportion. He can show a mouse in monkey's stature but with the certain impression that you are looking at a little magnified mouse. We can say that his imagination works best on grotesque and he exaggerates them.

University Questions

Are the comic figures in Oliver Twist not entirely caricatures? Justify the statement with reference to the novel.
'The comic characters are not complete caricatures'. Discuss it with the examples from Oliver Twist.

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