Victorian novels Oliver Twist

Dickens came in contact with Cruikshank, the illustrator, early on in his literary career. Cruikshank became a very important part of Oliver Twist since everyone loved his illustrations. Dickens was writing the Pickwick Paper at the same time of Oliver Twist. The book revolved around the New Poor Law, a law which increased the amount of poor people. This explains why Oliver is born into such a poor situation. (Michael Slater)

Research the impact of Educational Reform Act (1870) on the Victorian publishing industry and on literacy, and therefore, on “popular” fiction.

The Education Reform Act forced all children into school. Basically the government had to provide education even for people who could not access it. Almost all of the population had learned to read from this, which allowed for the increase in publishing. Since most people were now literate, new writing styles and genres were all introduced on print and could now appeal to nearly everyone. (Matthew Taunton)

Victorian novels often contain “strong plots…, melodrama, one-dimensional villains, and amazing coincidences” (Panesar 31).

Which of the following exists in this novel? Provide examples for any that apply.

Oliver Twist is definitely a melodrama. It uses heroes and villains against each other to give a reader such emotion. The two main villains, Sikes and Monks, both go against heroes in Nancy and Oliver. Nancy’s death shows a change in emotion and the direct comparison of hero vs. villain. (Claire Wood)

Here are some Victorian themes from the novel. Look up the historical context and apply them to the plot.

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A reader can say that crime is the most important theme in this novel. Dickens shows the reality and darkness of London at the time. From Fagin’s pickpocketing business to the way to Sikes brutal murder of Nancy, crime is seen everywhere in Oliver Twist. (Bruce D. Reeves)

Poverty–the workhouses, the life of the criminal class in 19th Century England (do not forget to consider Dickens’ intro)

The New Poor Law was enacted in 1834 and diminished the conditions of workhouses in England. Oliver is born into one of these workhouses and is raised poorly. Oliver is barely able to survive his beginning years because of the extreme conditions in the workhouse. (Michael Slater)

Research The Poor Laws and then consider the scene when Oliver first goes with Sowerberry to a pauper’s house to collect the mother who has died.

The Poor Laws put some people into serious poverty. The conditions were awful and most people were struggling to stay alive. Some poor people were in such poverty that they starved to death. The mother at the pauper’s house is one of the people who have died of starvation. Charles Dickens describes the man as “thin and very pale” (Dickens 36) to show the harsh condition that the poor were forced to live in.

Two social classes are shown in Oliver Twist: the criminal class, and the middle class. The middle class is occupied by people like Rose’s family and the Brownlows. The middle class lifestyle seems amazing when compared to the poor and is much more similar to the class of rich people. We forget that they are only middle class because the lifestyle is so much greater than the poor. The criminal class was of course an extremely dangerous lifestyle and we see this from Fagiin sentence to death. (Charles E. May)

Mr. and Mrs. Bumble are the two characters who suffer the most from greed. Their original lifestyle was surrounded around taking advantage of the poor. When they continued to be greedy they were forced to suffer just as the poor people do. (Charles E. May)

This novel is a realist novel. How so? (social and psychological realism)

It provides a very accurate description of Great Britain at the time. It shows the harsh realism of the poor in London. It is also real because it depicts Oliver as a child that was born as a burden to the world, which relates to many children at this time. It also revolves around the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which was the act that made poverty so much harder to live in at the time. (Michael Slater)

A Newgate novel is a novel that magnifies the life of a prisoner. In Oliver Twist, the prisoner is Fagin, who is locked up near the end of the book. Fagin has to encounter the Newgate prison, which nearly drives him insane. Dickens truly reveals the harshness of a Newgate prison when Fagin is sentenced to death. (Bruce D. Reeves)

Critics have commented that the book explores basic human fears. Which fears are implicitly revealed? Look at the story and at the setting. There are passages that describe terrifying scenes (neighborhoods, streets, buildings)

All throughout the book, Charles Dickens depicts London as a dark, horror filled city. He is somewhat using realism to show this since London at the time was terrible for some poor people. The cruel, crime filled lifestyle that Fagin and Dodger live is evil by itself. (Charles E. May)

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