"The Oliver Twist's world is a world of Poverty, Oppression & Death"

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An Appropriate Estimate of Oliver Twist

      The essence of the novel is the world of Oliver Twist; poverty, oppression and death. Of course, Oliver Twist is a touching and forceful indictment of injustice, poverty and callousness rampant in the society of England. But whenever we consider the statement of Arnold Kettle mentioned above, we should keep in our minds that still poverty, callousness and treachery persist as it were in Dickens' period and that the novel deals with happiness, joy, peace and hope which is also the offering of England. In this connection Dickens has presented characters like Mr. Brownlow and the family of Maylies who are enjoying comfort, peace, luxury and prosperity.

The Insolvent People of Dickens' Time

      Among the dismal and grim side of life picture in novel, first we notice the poverty of certain categories of people of Dickens' time. It is informed to us through repeated pictures of the foul and filth of the localities in which men had to lead their life. These pictures present the insanitary conditions of some localities. Of course, one feels disgusted and detest when one goes through those passages which contain the descriptions of the squalid and dirt of few areas that Oliver had never seen. The street is full of mud and foul smell. Drunken men and women can be seen smeared in filth and children are crawling in and out at the doors of their houses. Same surrounding and atmosphere we find where Sikes, Toby crackit have their lodgings. These descriptions are drawn too realistically and elaborately.

The Sufferings of the Poor Children

      The poor children who are involved in criminal activities, their condition is very wretched and miserable. Artful Dodger, Charley Bates and Tom Chitling, the boys of Fagin's group have all been tempted to this kind of life by the old and wicked Fagin who is a master in making young boys trained in crime and fulfill his selfish motives. Even girls have been getting training for committing various kinds of contemptible activities. When Nancy was just of five or six years, she was forced to do crimes, and she has to continue it till the time she was murdered by Sikes. When she narrates her tragic story to Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow, touched to see her plight. She represents a class of those child thieves who were exploited by criminals in Dickens' time.

Instances of Callousness in Oliver Twist

      In Dickens' time the oppression and callousness was as common as the poverty. The children and paupers of workhouses and baby-farms are leading a miserable life. Oliver himself can be put among them. Mrs. Mann, the superintendent of baby-farms knows very well what is good for the infants and poor boys but she knows even better what is good for herself. She does not spend all the money after the paupers and infants that she gets as weekly stipend by parish authorities. She spends very less amount of that on boys, and keeps rest of the money to herself. But the example of utter callousness is presented in the case of Mr. Bumble, the beadle. How can we forget the response of Mr. Bumble when Oliver, has asked for more gruel. "Please, Sir, I want some more" it has become very popular as an outlet of a poor child's feeling of distress. Mr. Bumble gets shocked and rushes to report higher officials as some severe crime committed by Oliver. The punishment given to Oliver is that he is offered to anybody who would pay five pounds to the board of the workhouse and subsequently Mr. Sowerberry pays for him and takes him along to his shop. The behavior of Mrs. Sowerberry is too cruel and oppressive. She gives those scraps of meat to Oliver which is left by her dog. Moreover Oliver is given a place among the coffins to sleep. Yet Mr. Bumble later says that she has overfed the boy, that is why he has become so defiant. Mrs. Sowerberry herself thinks that she has been giving Oliver excellent food. When Oliver dashes Noah Claypole to the ground on insulting his mother, Mrs. Sowerberry starts crying that he has attempted to kill her and others. When Mr. Sowerberry listens, he gives severe beating to Oliver, and Oliver runs away from there in that very night.

      Among other examples, Fagin sends his boys supperless to sleep when they return empty handed. He gives good deal of thrash to Oliver when Nancy drags Oliver to his den. Oliver would have beaten more if Nancy does not come forward to save him against the furry of Sikes. Sikes' treatment of Nancy is another evidence of cruelty. He always ill-treats her inspite of her utter devotion to him. She attends upon him very carefully during his illness but in return receives curses and abuses. Finally she is brutally killed by Sikes under the suspicion of giving particulars about him and Fagin to Mr. Brownlow. In this reference of callousness Monks also contributes a lot. He always instigates Fagin to pervert Oliver, harass him and involve him into some criminal deed. When he meets Oliver incidentally, he badly abuses him and is about to beat him but falls down to the ground being the victim of epileptic fits.

Death: Theme of the Novel

      Death enters in the very beginning of the novel. A woman, delivering a child, talks about her death that it is imminent. She says to the nurse: "Let me see the child, and die." Then she expires after seeing her child. This is very tragic moment that prepares the reader's mind to anticipate and read various misfortunes which are going to fall upon the child. Later we read about the death of a lady who is starved to death. Her husband says: "There was neither fire nor candle; she died in the darken the dark". He continues to say that he had gone into the streets to beg for her but was sent to prison. After that when he came back, he found her dying. This is also a very poignant moment in the novel. Next we read about the death of old Sally. The dying old nurse sends the message to Mrs. Corney that she wants to confide in her something, but Mrs. Corney says that she can not do anything to save a dying woman. Thenafter we read the most gruesome murder of Nancy who has been leading a life of crime and vices. She has been living like Sikes' mistress and devoted to him completely but he murders her too callously. The summit in this regard is the death of Dick. Oliver starts shedding tears when he learns about Dick's death. Dickens says: "It is a world of disappointment, often to the hopes we most cherish." Apart from these most tragic death scenes, there is also the mention of the deaths of Fagin, Sikes and his dog, and Monks.


      Arnold Kettle says in regard of oppression that methods of oppression in the workhouses of the time were simple—violence and hunger. Workhouse is the symbol of oppression but it is not limited within the limits of workhouses only. The whole world is like a workhouse governed by the man like Mr. Bumble — eight or ten people sitting round the table.

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