Dickens' Characters are Conventional Types in Oliver Twist

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      There is no denying the fact that Dickens' characters are mostly conventional types. They can be easily divided into three or four sections - innocent boys like Dick and Oliver himself; the terrifying and disgusting type Fagin, Sikes; the entirely good characters like Mr. Bronwlow, Mrs. Bedwin, Mrs. Maylie, Rose Maylie; another category is of comic-villainous characters like Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Mann, Mrs. Gamfield, Mis. Corney. But whatever the case may be, whether the characters are conventional or representative, Dickens' characters remain vital because they are always treated as individuals. There are so many villains in Dickens' novel but none of the one resembles the other. Even Fagin and Sikes, belonging to the same criminal world, are entirely different. Artful Dodger and Charley Bates who belong to the same group of Fagin are treated completely as individuals.

      Dickens generally lays individuality to his characters through the faithful delineation of their externals and through making their speeches peculiar and different to others. Mr. Bumble is always presented with his official locked hat, magnificent coat with gilt-edged lapel and gold-laced cuff, his plush breeches and cane. Fagin is "a very old, shriveled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted rob hair." Dickens has also implied animal images to present his devilish features.

      Sikes is too ugly 'fierce', 'deperate', 'savage', and 'surly'. Artful Dodger is snub-nosed, flat-browed boy with bow ledge and little ugly eyes. His hat is not properly fixed on his head and it may fall down any time if he does not know the style of giving a twitch to his head and placing the hat on its previous position. He is also in the habit of putting on a man's coat which goes down to his heels. Artful Dodger is presented as grave and serious but Charley Bates, very gay and jovial. Mr. Griniwig also has his style of screwing his head on one side whenever he speaks. He has the habit of looking out of the comers of his eyes which remind the beholder of a parrot.

      Except peculiar physical appearance, characters are also given the speech peculiarities. Fagin has the habit of addressing everyone as 'my dear'. Mr. Grimwig has the peculiar manner of uttering a specific phrase whenever he has to lay emphasis over his ideas. That phrase is, "I shall eat my heart." When Dodger encounters Oliver for the first time, he says, "Hello, my covey; What's the row ?" Thus we don't feel the need of seeing who is speaking; we immediately recognize it through their peculiar manner of speaking.

      Besides peculiar speech habits and physical appearances, the psychological traits of different characters also lays them individuality. Fagin is jovial but Sikes is grave and depressed; Mr. Brownlow is generous and gentle, Mr. Bumble is callous but comic.

      Few critics say that the characters of Dickens' novel are comic caricatures. But the fact is, Dickens exaggerates the comic traits of his characters to intensify the comic effect. He does not distort but exaggerates. For example, Mr. Fagin and Mr. Gamfield are exaggerated but they are not distorted. Thus Dickens' characters are neither entirely conventional, nor comic caricatures.

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