Oliver Twist: Chapter 1 - Summary & Analysis

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Treats of the Place where Oliver Twist was Born, and of the Circumstances attending his Birth.


An Unwed Woman Gave Birth to a Child

      In a small town in England, Oliver Twist was born. Only one night before the time of delivery his mother had got entry into a workhouse. She was an insolvent without anybody to look after. Thus, she was admitted to the workhouse as an act of charity. The nurse who was looking after this lady informed the physician, who had come to see the woman, that the lady was unmarried. This means, that the lady who was going to be a mother was without husband. Her child would be called an illegitimate and bastard in this world. The lady had not even opened her mouth for who was the father of this child. In this course the child was given a name Oliver Twist and his mother died very soon after giving birth to him. As the child came out in the world he started crying and crying. He would have cried even more loudly if he had recognized the fact that he had become an orphan and would be ruthlessly and pitilessly treated by those who were there to look after him at the expense of the charitable trust. He was the orphan of a workhouse—the humble half-starved drudge—to be cuffed and buffeted through the world, — despised by all, and pitied by none?

Critical Analysis

      Dickens has not mentioned any particular time or place of Oliver s birth, because he was intended to present a general picture of the life of a pauper not pacific or individual one.

      In this novel, Dickens has made an attack on the poor law of 1834 which resulted in more evil than reform. The mismanagement of workhouses is elaborately exposed in first seven chapters.

      The shadow of gloom and grimness is seen from the very first chapter and it persists in most of the following chapters. The darkness prevails throughout the novel.

      This chapter is an excellent example of the most remarkable feature of Dickens' style: 'blend of humor and pathos.'

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