Pathos: in the Novel Oliver Twist

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Oliver: A Pathetic Figure

      Oliver Twist is primarily the story of an orphan Oliver who goes through several vicissitudes of life, facing inner isolation, poverty, starvation, and exploited by others. In the early stage of life while living in the workhouse he undergoes several worse-treatments, callousness and cruelty. Thenafter he falls into the hands of thieves and criminals, and his sad plight arises our pity for him. Very rare he experiences the sweetness, blessings, love, kindness, all the time he is callously oppressed by the vicious people of the society.

      Therefore Oliver remains throughout a pathetic figure, though towards the end we leave him in the blissful hands of Mr. Brownlow, a gentleman who adopts him as his son. On his ninth birthday we've found him a pale thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and decidedly small in circumference. Mr. Bumble, a beadle shifts him from the baby farm to the workhouse where not even a thin ray of happiness is bestowed upon Oliver, zone kind word or look had never lighted the gloom of his infant years. Before presenting him to the 'board', Mr. Bumble gives him a tap on the head with a cane in order to wake him up, and another on the back to make him lively. Poor Oliver cleans his tears that linger in his eyes before bowing in front of 'board'. After the interview he rushes to a large ward and on a rough bed, he weeps bitterly and sleeps. When Oliver has committed a serious crime of asking for more, he is put into a solitary confinement. He has to wash himself in cold weather under the pump and Mr. Bumble creates a tingling sensation on his body through cane in order to prevent him catching cold. Thus all the treatment; that Oliver undergoes in the hell-like workhouse is profused with pathos. Unalloyed Pathetic Situations Here, we are going to examine few purely pathetic moments that arises sense of pity and sadness in the heart of readers.

Mr. Bumble is Moved to Sympathise

      When Mr. Bumble was taking Oliver to the undertaker Mr. Sowerberry's house, Oliver has been ill-treated in the way. He feels himself all alone. Mr. Bumble orders him to pull his cap off his eyes and hold up the head. "Although Oliver did as he was desired, at once; and passed the back of his unoccupied hand briskly across his eyes, he left a tear in them when he looked up at his conductor. As Mr. Bumble gazed sternly upon him, it rolled down his cheek. It was followed by another. The child made a strong effort, but it was an unsuccessful one. Withdrawing his other hand from Mr. Bumble's, he covered his face with both hands and wept until the tears sprung out from his thin and bony fingers.

      Well exclaimed Mr. Bumble, stopping short, and darting at his little charge a look of intense malignity. "Well! of all the ungratefullest, and worst-disposed boys, as ever I see, Oliver, you are the..."

'No, no, sir; sobbed Oliver, clinging to the hand which held the well-known cane; no, no, sir; I will be good indeed, indeed, indeed I will, sir ! I am a very little boy, sir; and it is so—so—'.

'So lonely, sir ! so very lonely !' cried the child. 'Everybody hates me. Oh! sir, don't pray be cross to me !' The child beat his hand upon his heart; and looked in his companion's face, with tears of real agony.

      Mr. Bumble regarded Oliver's piteous and helpless look with some astonishment for few seconds; hemmed three or four times in a husky manner; and, after muttering something about "that troublesome cough", bade Oliver dry his eyes and be a good boy; and, once more taking his hand, he. walked on with him in silence."

      Dickens' proficiency in melting the flint heart of beadle is most effective. Dickens has concentrated on restraining the feeling of compassion of the beadle and thus has given greater realistic, touch and dignity to the situation.

Fagin's Feeling of Compassion

      The second pathetic situation in the novel is the feeling of compassion in the foul heart of Fagin for the sufferings of wretched Oliver. Fagin has kept Oliver in absolute isolation. He is pale and utterly tormented. Fagin, the Jew, decides to involve Oliver in the planned robbery of Sikes and Toby. On returning from Sikes' place, he asks about Oliver to Dodger. Dodger replies that he is in the bed. Fagin opens the door and sees Oliver "lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so pale with anxiety and sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed; when a young and gentle spirit has, but an instant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of the world has not had time to breath upon the changing dust it hallowed." Fagin has no heart To wake Oliver up: "Not now, said the Jew, turning softly away, "tomorrow. Tomorrow."

      How astonishingly Jew's "turning softly' lays its acute impression on the mind of the render.

The Meeting of Oliver and Mrs. Bedwin

      In chapter (41) Mrs. Bedwin's meeting with Oliver is one of those brief moments where pathos and humor is not harmoniously blended. This is the well known remarkable feature of Dickens' style. The best of Dickens' humor and pathos comes out from those pages which consist in the description of the everyday life of poor and homely English folk. This sensibility has made Dickens the most renowned writer of England. Indeed he is the eminent genius of our 'sunniest smiles and our most unselfish tears.'

      Rose Maylie has brought Oliver to Mr. Bronwlow's home and has explamed to him everything that had happened to the poor boy. Mr. Brownlow excitedly meets Oliver and sends him to Mrs. Bedwin, his housekeeper and who cares a lot for Oliver. She is without her specs and thus cannot see the boy and wonders why she has been sent for. "But Oliver's patience was not proof against the new trial; and yielding to his first impulse, he sprang into her arms.

'God be good to me!' cried the old lady, embracing him, 'it is my innocent boy!'

'My dear old nurse !' cried Oliver.

      'He would come back—I knew he would,' said the old lady, holding him in her arms. 'How well he looks, and how like a gentleman's son he is dressed again ! Where have you been, this long, long while? Ah ! the same sweet face, but not so pale; the same soft eye, but not so sad. I have never forgotten them or his quite smile, but have seen them everyday, side by side with those of my own dear children, dead and gone since I was a lightsome young creature'. Running on thus, and now holding Oliver from her to mark how he had grown, now clasping him to her and passing her fingers fondly thorough his hair the good soul laughed and wept upon his neck by turns."

      No human being can be spared from moving and shedding tears of joy.

Pathos Alloyed with False Sentimentality

      Dickens has been charged by several critics for over sentimentality. This lack of restraint on the sentiments mars the beauty of them. There are several incidents in the novel where the sensibility of novelist degenerates into utter sentimentality. For example, the touching episode of Oliver's parting from his friend Dick in chapter (7). After being beaten by Mr. Sowerberry, Oliver resolves to flee from the house of Mr. Sowerberry. Early in the morning Oliver passes by the workhouse. "Oliver stopped, and peeped into the garden. A child was weeding one of the little beds; as he stopped, he raised his pale face and disclosed the features of one of his former companions. Oliver felt glad to see him, before he went; for, though younger than himself, he had been his little friend and playmate. They had been beaten and starved, and shut up together, many and many a time.

Hush, Dick !' said Oliver, as the boy ran to the gate, and thrust his thin arm between the rails to greet him. ’Is anyone up?

'Nobody but me' replied the child.
'You mustn't say you saw me, Dick said Oliver. "I am running away. They beat and ill-use me, Dick; and I am going to seek my fortune, some long way off. I don't know where. How pale you are!"

'I heard the doctor tell them I was dying' replied the child with a faint smile.

'I am very glad to see you dear; but don't stop, don't stop !' 'Yes, yes, I will, to say good-bye to You rephed Oliver. 'I shall see you, again, Dick. I know I shall ! You will be well and happy!

'I hope so; reached the child. 'After I am dead, but not before. I know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of Heaven and Angels, and kind faces that I never see when I am awake. Kiss me,’ said the child, climbing up the low gate, and flinging his little arms round Oliver's neck. Good bye dear ! God bless you!'.

      One can easily observe that this scene has all the potentials of genuine pathos and it is not intermixed with comedy or any other element. It is more than the dramatization of child's emotions when he says 'After I am dead but not before' or emphasized the dreams of Heavens and Angels.

Sentimentality Measures Goodness

      It seems that Dickens assesses the good of his character through his ability of shedding tears. In Oliver Twist most of the good characters justify this belief. 'Mr. Brownlow's heart, being large enough for any six ordinary old gentlemen of humane disposition, forced a supply of tear into his eyes, by some hydraulic process which we are not sufficiently philosophical to be in a condition to explain.' Even at the minute provocation Mrs. Bedwin, Rose and Mrs. Maylie are ready to shed tears. Dr. Losberne also weeps. Oliver goes to churchyards and sobs unseen when unhappy. He even weeps when Rose plays some pleasant tune on her piano but these are the tears of joy, tranquillity and peace. To most of the readers all these expressions are sheer sentimentality.

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