Crime And Poverty In Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist

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Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, portrays the reality of living conditions in nineteenth century England. Shortly after the Industrial Revolution and the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, England suffered from extreme social issues concerning workhouses, crime, and socioeconomic separation. Growing up as an orphan, Oliver Twist experiences cruel workhouse conditions, depicting the reality of the poor through the 1830’s. Dickens explains the everyday criminality in London as Oliver is introduced to Fagin’s gang through his poverty. As the poor and rich are distinctly divided throughout the novel, Victorian England’s issue of social class division is addressed. Experiencing these events first hand, Dickens identifies the effects …show more content…
Poor, homeless children “ran wild on the streets surviving as best as they could” (Duckworth 1), following the migration of many rural populations to urban areas during the Industrial Revolution. More factories allowed for additional child labour while overpopulated urban areas caused a struggle for existence. Only the strongest survived, these children were commonly those who resorted to crime in order to support themselves. External forces, including the mistreatment of the young boy as an apprentice, push Oliver towards poverty causing him to set off to the streets of London. Oliver is unknowingly recruited into a gang when an “unexpected offer of shelter [is] too tempting to resist[]” (Dickens 58).When choosing between starvation, and a stranger’s shelter, Oliver chooses the shelter, despite the danger it may place him in. When the New Poor Law deterred any but the poverty-stricken to receive relief through workhouse conditions, homeless children of Victorian England often resorted to extremities in order to survive, such as thievery and prostitution as this provided money rather than poverty. On Oliver’s first thievery expedition, he is awed when “the Dodger plunge[s] his hand into the old gentleman’s pocket, and draw[s] from thence a handkerchief” (Dickens 71), running away immediately. Fagin attempts to introduce pickpocketing to the young boy by sending him …show more content…
After being passed by the government, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 “perpetuated class divisions and reinforced the subjugation of the proletariat to the middle classes” (Holt 255). As the middle class attained the right to vote, they urged for more power. Bourgeois families treated their neighbours less wealthy than them with cruelty to gain authority and feel superior. All men of authority wear an item to display their social standing, however, if one “strip[s] the bishop of his apron, or the beadle of his cocked hat and gold lace, what are they? Men, – mere men” (Dickens 286). While addressing upper class men, Dickens discusses that everyone is equal, and social class heavily relies on what you wear. This was an increasingly troublesome issue as individuals were treated according to how the dresses. When Oliver is born, Mrs. Thingummy steals the gold locket from Oliver’s mother, they key to their social standing identities. Covered in a yellow blanket, Oliver “might have been the child of a nobleman or a beggar”, but as Mrs. Thingummy dresses him into workhouse clothing, “he [is] badged and ticketed, and [falls] into his place at once – a parish child … despised by all, and pitied by none” (Dickens 3). Dickens suggests Oliver comes from a wealthy family as he describes the blanket Oliver is wrapped in and the mother’s locket.

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