Gothic Elements in the Novel Oliver Twist

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      Gothic novel was popularised towards the end of eighteenth century. From Defoe to Miss Burney the novel was characterized by realism. The novelist of that period tiled to mirror the real life and they treated their themes very realistically without any romantic aroma. But later on this trend began to weaken its hold on the writer's minds that could be seen in the change of tone and temper of the novelist. The novelists began to lay emphasis on the romantic tendencies and their attention got diverted from utter realism.

      Gothic novelists had transformed the scene of action from the contemporary to middle ages and tactfully and liberally started using the supernatural elements. They often dealt with such ingredients like haunted castles, dilapidated buildings etc. They also tried to make their novels horrible by depicting scenes of darkness and night, by leading the readers, to churchyards, graves and injecting the narrative with hair-erecting murders and such tragic incidents. They primarily concentrated on imparting nightmarish atmosphere to their novels. Horace Walpole was responsible to set this trend in the novel The Castle of Otranto (1764) Other novelists who had contributed a lot in the this specific domain were Mrs. Ann Radcliff, M.G. 'Monk, Lewis, Miss Clara Reeve and Marry Shelley.

      Gothic Tradition has highly influenced the mind of Dickens in Oliver Twist though the background is of contemporary England yet the atmosphere of fear and desperation of Oliver's world belongs to the Gothic tradition. The various elements of Gothic novel is used in Oliver Twist. They are grim atmosphere, violence, graveyards, terror, crime, exciting adventures.

      In Oliver Twist there are frequent reminders of death, the disgusting atmosphere of workhouse, the incident of Oliver s apprenticeship to Mr. Gamfield and his job at Mr. Sowerberry's shop are all surrounded the chill of death. Mr. Sowerberry's shop resembles a lot to the graveyard and Oliver's first night there fills him with the feeling of awe and horror : "An unfinished coffin on black tressels, which stood m the middle of the shop, looked so gloomy and death-like that a cold tremble came over him, every time his eyes wandered in the direction of the dismal object, from which he almost expected to see some frightful form slowly rear its head, to drive him mad with terror. Against the wall were ranged, in regular array, a long row of elm boards out into the same shape; looking in the dim light, like high-shouldered ghosts with their hands in their breeches- pockets. Coffin-plates, ehn-chips, bright-headed nails, and shreds or black cloth, lay scattered on the floor; and the wall behind the counter was ornamented with a lively representation of two mutes in every stiff neckclotlis, on duty at a large private door, with a hearse drawn by four black steeds, approaching in the distance. The shop was close and hot. The atmosphere seemed tainted with the smell of coffins. The recess beneath the counter in which his flock mattress was thrust looked like a grave."

      No one can deny the fact that this expression is very much like Gothic. 

      The name of the character of Monks is derived from the Gothic novelist ’Monk’ Lewis. Mathew Gregory Lewis had written a Gothic novel The Monk, it was charged with such fierce imagination and the Monk is presented in such a emphatic manner that 'Monk’ was associated with the name of Lewis and he became 'Monk' Lewis. In Oliver Twist Monks with his unpleasant looks and scar covered with handkerchief, his mysterious appearance everything make the reader recall 'Monk’ Lewis. The house where the meeting of Monks with Mr. and Mrs. Bumble was held is also on Gothic tradition. It took place in a "dull, close, overcast' summer evening that is soon transformed into darkness. The house on a little colony of decayed houses on a "low, unwholesome swamp'. Both Mr. and Mrs.. Bumble were in old and shabby dresses and in the hands of Mr. Bumble there was a lantern. The colony "had long been known as the residence of none but low ruffians, who under various pretenses of living by their labor, subsisted chiefly on plunder and crime. It was a collection of mere hands; some, hastily built with loose bricks: others, of old worm-eaten ship-timber: jumbled together without any attempt at order or arrangement, and planted, for the most part, within a few feet of the river's bank. A few leaky boats drawn up on the mud, and made fast to the dwarf wall which skirted it; and here and there an oar or coil of rope: appeared, at first to indicate that the inhabitants of these miserable cottages pursued some avocation on the river; but a glance at the shattered and useless condition of the articles thus displayed, would have led a passer-by, without much difficulty, to the conjecture that they were disposed there, rather for the preservation of appearance, than with any view to their being actually employed.

      The house in which Bumbles and Monks entered had long since gone to ruin The rat, the worm, and the action of the damp, had weakened and rotted the piles on which it stood; and a considerable portion of building had already sunk down into the water; while the remainder, tottering and bending over the dark stream, seemed to wait a favorable opportunity of following its old companion, and involving itself in the same fate.

      The dark room in which the meeting between the three was held flashes the dark underground cells of Gothic novels. At the end of the meeting Mrs. Bumble hands over to Monks a locket and a ring and suddenly "wheeled the table aside, and pulling an iron ring in the boating, threw back a large trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused that gentleman to retire several places backward, with great precipitation.

      Monks says to Bumbles that he could have easily made them fall into the swift current of water if he had planned to do so, then after he throws the locket and ring into the river that he had just taken from Mrs. Bumbles.

      Fagin's residence in the city of London is very deserted dilapidated and like the settings of Gothic novels. Even the sun light can not pierce into his den. Oliver finds the place completely dark and whatever the little light was there intensifies that all-prevailing darkness. In the novel the Three Cripples where the criminal feed to meet is another dark and dirty place.

      In Oliver Twist no supernatural machinery is used. In the novel there is a scene of Mrs. May lie's house where Dickens has managed to use supernatural elements, when Fagin and Monks peep through the window and Oliver was nodding inside the room.

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