Social Criticism In Oliver Twist By Charles Dickens

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As one of the most important social commentators of the period, Dickens reflected the most intriguing concerns of the period. Apart from being such an important representative of the social fiction, he also experienced the harsh situations of the period personally, as his family was living in a poor area, his father was imprisoned due to problems with money and he was forced to leave school and go to work. He started working in a blacking warehouse and the experience was traumatic for him: “real names such as Fagin (Bob Fagin was a workmate in Warren’s Blacking warehouse) and compelling eccentricities caught Dickens’ eye” (Schlicke, 83). Then, Dickens himself built up a successful future, first as a journalist and then as a writer. Since he…show more content…
Then, we know that his mother dies after giving birth to Oliver, so he finds himself alone in a world that would be hostile with him. The reader is thus introduced in one of several worlds that served Dickens as powerful tools of criticism: the workhouse. During Oliver’s stay in the workhouse he faces the harsh conditions of these places and we witness it in the hypocritical figures of both Mr Bumble the beadle and Mrs Mann. The former is supposed to take care of orphan children but he only makes their conditions more lamentable. The latter is a selfish woman who only sees orphans as a way to make profits, keeping the food and the money she receives for their supervision for her. In fact, her name –Mrs Mann– may be symbolic as she has nothing to do with a motherly figure taking care of her children. Then, Dickens used these characters to make the situation of the workhouses visible to his readers, and he used Oliver as the main witness of these conditions. Oliver is in fact a clear instance of this situation and he “suffered the tortures of slow starvation for three months” even forced to ask for more food in one occasion and being then punished: “Please, sir, I want some more” (Chapter 2, 15). The reason lying behind this is that workhouses policies were to put the poor people in the worst circumstances so that they would be encouraged to aspire to better conditions, to improve their situation when circumstances were at their worst. In fact, following Ruth Glancy words, we come to know that “all aspects of life in the workhouse were strictly governed by rules, including the subsistence-level food allowed to the

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