Themes in the Novel Oliver Twist

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      Oliver Twist is an intricate and complex novel that reveals various aspects of Victorian life. Reader may read the novel as a 'parish boy's progress from unhealthy world of workhouse, through the criminal world, to the earnest, dignified and well-to-do world of middle class. Dickens has made an attack on the corrupt and debased workhouses, churches and also the system of law and other social institutions. Oliver Twist explores the world of crime and the evils hidden within the boundaries of churches and workhouses. Besides, it is a ludicrous presentation of the incompatibilities, incongruities in human behavior.

      Consequently, due to these diverse probabilities, Oliver Twist cannot be said to deal with single and simple theme. Multifarious themes are subtly knitted together and some of them haunt the inner world of the reader even after finishing the book and keeping it aside.

Crime Causes Isolation

      One of the leading ideas of the novel is the virtual and very close relation of crime and isolation. There is no denying the fact that when criminal world is introduced we meet few mirthful and jovial characters also that hold them together. Critics have even indirectly indicated that the world of crime provides an alternative to the basic social order of the England of nineteenth century. But this impression soon vanishes when the reader acknowledges the truth that the visible sense of brotherhood among the criminal characters is just a camouflage to hide the utter loneliness of the individuals. The men selfish, self-concerned, in the underworld are successful. The boys of Fagin's group may not realize this essential truth but grown-ups and experienced men grasp it easily. All the false impressions and illusions of comradeship prevailing among the criminals are ceased when Oliver is left alone by his mates to suffer in the hands of police in chapter (10). Those boys do not have any moral rather they rejoice in their success. They are least bothered about Oliver being taken by the police. They take to their heels when situation demands for that. A female character Nancy has a genuine love and regard for Bill Sikes. She rejects all the temptations for Sikes. Though Sikes treats her not better than his dog, yet she loves him passionately. She becomes a prey to the susceptibility and Sikes kills her. Noah Claypole gives a false interpretation of the conversation between Nancy and Brownlow and Sikes gets furious to learn that Nancy has gone against him and given particulars about him to Mr. Brownlow. Consequently he batters her to death. Sikes lives in his world alone and he has no room for human emotions and feelings. Fagin the worst among the criminals has no good sense, he is entirely devoid of moral and human values. Every criminal character just believes in the concept of number one. This concept is well explained by Fagin when he gives lessons to Noah Claypole; "even men's good friend. He hasn't as good a one as himself anywhere.'' Thus these characters only care for themselves and turn to others in order to ensure their own safety. The consequence is utter isolation in everybody belonging to underworld. Sikes is isolated and it makes his death more pathetic. Fagin is also lonely during his last moments.

      This utter isolation makes these criminals incapable of experiencing any human sympathy. The best among them is Nancy but her feeling of love and sympathy is tattered by Fagin, Sikes and Monks. Every activity of these characters are inspired by having more and more money. They are not interested in making their life good and full of morals. Thus they can be regarded as the caricatures of the indispensable shallowness of criminal world.

      Oliver does not fit in this world because he always craves for affection, kindness and love. He strives to be loved and respected because he has experienced nothing except humiliation, disgrace and neglect. Only Nancy is soft for Oliver but her feeling can be explained in the terms of satisfying maternal urges.

Oliver Twist Condemns the Contemporary Social Order

      In the nineteenth century people were cocksure about their social conditions, law and order. They thought that England was going through great prosperity and development. The voices of philosophers like Carlyle and Ruskin had failed to penetrate into their smugness. The truth was entirely different. The English society was badly suffering from economic disparity because only ten percent of the total population was leading a secure comfortable life. Rest were striving trades man, skillful-labors, those unskillful were migrating homeless and jobless labors. Mayhew comments that among the poor labors only one-third were completely employed and rest were employed partially. Thus, even to this gruesome poverty, the response of society was negligible, no one was interested to raise his voice for the upliftment of the poors. It is undoubtedly a paradox that on one hand the Victorian people were feeling egoistic about their material prosperity but on the other were entirely unconcerned about the welfare of the poors. Very gradually the laws for poor, free schools and public health authorities came into existence but they were a fun of social law. Bumble, Corney, Main, Fangs and Gamfield are the farcical portraiture of these contemporary vain efforts. Dickens' purpose was not just to scold the contemporary social law but he also showed the requirement of changing laws.

The Indispensable Influence of the Dead Over the Living People

      The point to ponder in Oliver Twist is the influence of the person who are dead over the minds of the living and how dead characters are affecting the activities of living beings. Oliver's mother dies soon after giving him birth and she becomes just a shadowy figure for him but when Noah Claypole insults his mother and speaks ill about her, Oliver cannot stop himself from giving a good deal of thrash to Noah. This makes Oliver so defiant that he remains undaunted even in front of detestable Mr. Bumble. This desperate reaction of Oliver leads him towards the den of Fagin.

      When Mr. Brownlow sees the innocent face of Oliver, he is deeply moved to and surprised to discover the resemblance between the impressions and features of Oliver's face with the portrait lady hanging upon the wall of his house. During his stay at Mr. Brownlow's house Oliver feels a soothing effect of the lady of the portrait over his mind. Infact that portrait lady is the mother of Oliver. She also haunts the memory of old Sally who had robbed her of golden locket when she was dying. Though the enigma of Oliver's identity is solved when it is told by Mrs. Bumble to Monks. Thus living Agnes can not do anything for Oliver but her role as a dead is quite significant and noteworthy.

      Another example Is the role of Nancy after death. It leads Sikes to his fatal end. He feels always haunted by the apparition of Nancy. He feels Nancy following him perpetually. Her eyes stares at him continuously and at the end he could have escaped it if lie does not feel the Nancy's deadly eyes that makes him stumble and lose his balance. Consequently he gets strangled by the-noose of the rope through which he was trying to escape. Thus, such kind of the treatment of dead is very rare not only in the Victorian but Modern fiction also.

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