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Oliver Twist Coursework

Essay on The Theme of Childhood in Oliver Twist

778 Words4 Pages

How Does Dickens present the theme of childhood in Oliver Twist.

This essay shows the theme of childhood in Charles Dickens in the book
Oliver Twist. Oliver Twist's story begins with his birth in a workhouse. His mother dies shortly after giving birth to him, though long enough to kiss him on the forehead. As an illegitimate workhouse orphan Oliver seems doomed to a life of misery. Though deprived of education, affection and adequate food, Oliver still manages to triumph from rags to riches, when he finally finds happiness with his
Aunt Rose Maylie and his guide Mr Brownlow.

Oliver Twist is born into poverty as an orphan with no known family or inheritance. He is forced to be the property of the workhouse. He spends several…show more content…

His childhood was a great influence on his writing, especially in Oliver Twist. He himself was born into a debtor's prison and experienced similar social conditions. Oliver
Twist starts off in the lowest class and gradually ends up in a middle class family. Victorian society associated positive qualities with the middle class. Dickens is stating that Oliver gets social status through luck, and is the same person irrespective of his social standing. He is saying that society is unfair to judge people's characters by their social class, which is one of the main themes in the book.

Oliver's family only emerges at the end of the novel, though Fagin temporarily takes the place of a father figure. This is shown when
Oliver is described as “one of his boys”. Mr Brownlow also acts as a substitute father when he takes Oliver under his wings and looks after him. Oliver experiences cruelty from several people. Bill Sikes is a regular abuser to Oliver, the difference here though is that he also abused Nancy, to the extent that he murdered her. Another person who is cruel to him is Mr Sowerberry, who for a short period is Oliver's master. Mr Sowerberry mistreats him until he is forced to run away.

However, there are still places with kindness and sympathy shown in this novel. Such acts are shown by more prominent characters. First of all there is Mr Brownlow who takes him in off the streets and makes

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The contemporary literary paradigm regards the novel Oliver Twist written by Charles Dickens as one of the most significant works of the nineteenth century, which contribute largely to English literary heritage. Although the plotline evolves around controversial and misfortunate life of an orphan boy, who attempts to act against the demands the society imposes on him and find a decent place in life, equally pivotal issue is the role and image of women that Dickens tries to convey to readers. The three main female characters in Oliver Twist – Nancy, Rose Maylie, and Agnes Fleming – are depicted as fallen women and described as both victims of exploitation and betrayal.

Dickens’ position about all female representatives becomes clear from the very beginning of Oliver Twist where he urges readers to focus only on the sincerity of women while overlooking all other drawbacks (Dickens, 1985, p. 36). No exception are Dicken’s three female characters (Salter, 1983). Despite the variety of differences, one of the strongest features that unite them is sincerity. Such sincerity in the novel is realized through the enormous sacrifice that each woman is ready to make. For instance, Nancy gives her life for Oliver although they hardly know each other. Agnes decides to release her family from the shame, created by her notorious life. In addition, Rose Maylie rejects marrying Harry for his own sake. Another more vivid point at which the three women bear much resemblance is the fact that all of them are engaged in notorious sexual relations. In the novel, Agnes Fleming has dubious pregnancy from Mr. Leeford, which could ruin the reputation of her family.

Nancy is a prostitute with miserable life and without hope for a better future. Rose Mayle is described as having sexual relationship with her own nephew – a fact that the Victorian society would strongly frown upon. Despite the fact that these female characters are revealed in the negative light of social judgments for their actions, Dickens develops an effective method of justifying their rejection by society. In an attempt to convey the priority of the inner world over social image, Dickens tries to appeal more to the emotional level of readers than to the logical or rational.

While the similarities between Nancy, Rose and Agnes are implicit, the discrepancies between these women are intentionally explicit. Dickens builds dissimilarities on the basis of notorious facts and social judgments that follow. As a matter of fact, different social and life conditions that those women had to undergo shape their characters in various ways. In other words, Dickens shows that in their souls the three characters are the same; the only thing that makes them different is our perception. When Nancy and Rose meet for the first time, a stark contrast between their social images is vividly observed. Rose is from a reputable family, with good manners, a model for Victorian women. Nancy leads a street life; she is a prostitute without having any family or relatives. These two women exist in two opposite worlds between personal happiness and family well-being and brutality and poverty:

“Thank Heaven upon your knees, dear lady,” cried the girl, “that you and friends to care for and keep you in childhood, and that you were never in the midst of cold and hunger, and riot and drunkenness, and – and something worse than all – as I have been from my cradle” (Dickens, 1985, p. 362).

At first even Dickens describes Nancy as an “infamous creature” (Dickens, 1985, p. 362). However, when Nancy is on her deathbed, Rose passes to hera white handkerchief, with which Rose’s purity, innocence and redemption are also passed. Therefore, because of sincere and true soul, Nancy is able to transform from a socially perceived prostitute into a pure girl. Finally, Agnes is also from a well-known family but commits a sin. If Rose and Nancy are contradictory different, then Agnes is the middle between both of them. Through the use of three different characters Dickens tries to include all social strata, where Rose is a symbol of high class, Nancy shows the lower class and Agnes the middle (Salter, 1983). This method assists Dickens in debunking social misconception that a social position of a woman defines her character. All three women in the novel have different social positions, but committed similar mistakes and behaved in the same honorable way when needed (Dickens, 1974). Thus, it can be admitted that Dickens focused on justification of fallen women – those who were rejected by the society.

Although Nancy, Rose and Agnes may seem extremely different because of different social strata and conditions that they grew in and lived, their inner part, soul, remains the same. First of all, the three women have notorious sexual experience. Such fact is applied to create the image of a fallen woman regardless of her social status. Secondly, each woman realizes her mistakes and sacrifices herself for the sake of saving others. By creating such characters, Dickens showed that his perception of women is made not according to social prejudices or conditions but according to the sincerity and inner intentions.

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