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Oliver Twist - chapters 4,5,6 analysis

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Marina Buteler

on 15 March 2015

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Transcript of Oliver Twist - chapters 4,5,6 analysis

'A dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours.
There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. The sole places that seemed to prosper amid the general blight of the place, were the public-houses; and in them, the lowest orders of Irish were wrangling with might and main. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth; and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands.'
Oliver Twist,
by Charles Dickens:
chapters 4, 5, 6

Oliver Twist
Fagin also represents a harsh parody of the Protestant work ethic. Oliver is “anxious to be actively employed” because he notices that Fagin’s
“morality” manifests itself when Charley and the Dodger return home empty-handed.

Oliver is found again
Accordingly, with a clean white apron tied over her gown, and her curl-papers tucked up under a straw bonnet,—both articles of dress being provided from the Jew’s inexhaustible stock,—Miss Nancy prepared to issue forth on her errand.
’Stop a minute, my dear,’ said the Jew, producing, a little covered basket. ‘Carry that in one hand. It looks more respectable, my dear.’
’Give her a door-key to carry in her t’other one,
Fagin,’ said Sikes; ‘it looks real and genuine like.’
’Yes, yes, my dear, so it does,’ said the Jew, hanging a large street-door key on the forefinger of the young lady’s right hand.
(Excerpt from

by Charles Dickens)

Explain the statement below:
Oliver and Nancy both gain a voice the moment they shed their pauper clothing.
Oliver in London
Dickens clearly blames the crimes committed by the poor on the people who passed the draconian Poor Laws. Thus, in order to survive, Oliver must accept the aid of Fagin’s band.
'Dickens achieves his biting criticism of social conditions through deep satire. Throughout the novel, absurd characters and situations are presented as normal, and Dickens often says the opposite of what he really means.'
Oliver is shocked and horrified when he sees the Artful Dodger and Charley Bates pick a stranger’s pocket and again when he is forced to participate in a burglary.
Oliver is taken to the police station
Oliver Twist is an extreme criticism of Victorian society’s mistreatment of the poor. Part of Dickens’s motivation for writing Oliver Twist was to expose the horrid conditions in which the lower classes were expected to live.

It was believed that certain vices were inherent to the poor and that poor families developed rather than discouraged such vices.
Dickens uses a lot of really sharp
in Oliver Twist to satirize the various institutions (the parish workhouse system, the justice system, the poor laws, etc.) and the mistreatment given to the poor by the upper class that he thought were inhumane and unjust.
Can you find evidence in the text to support the statement above?
Oliver's trip to London parallels the migration of the poor to the urban centres of England during the Industrial Revolution.
What were the Enclosure Acts?
In 1833 Earl Grey, the Prime Minister, set up a Poor Law Commission to examine the working of the poor Law system in Britain. In their report published in 1834, the Commission made several recommendations to Parliament. As a result, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. The act stated that:

(a) no able-bodied person was to receive money or other help from the Poor Law authorities except in a workhouse;

(b) conditions in workhouses were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help;

(c) workhouses were to be built in every parish or, if parishes were too small, in unions of parishes;

(d) ratepayers in each parish or union had to elect a Board of Guardians to supervise the workhouse, to collect the Poor Rate and to send reports to the Central Poor Law Commission;

(e) the three man Central Poor Law Commission would be appointed by the government and would be responsible for supervising the Amendment Act throughout the country.
Dickens characterizes Fagin as a “very old wrinkled Jew” with a “villainous-looking and repulsive face.” Victorians stereotyped the Jews as avaricious.
True to the anti-Semitic stereotype, his wealth is ill-gotten
How does he obtain it?
Dickens’s narrator refers to him 237 times in the first 38 chapters as “the Jew” or “the old Jew,” while the ethnicity or religion of the other characters is rarely mentioned.
Dickens responded that it reflected nothing other than the fact that a sizable number of the leaders of London thieving rings at the time were Jewish.

What is a public-house?
Oliver in London
Victorians castigated the poor for laziness. As a result of the conditions of charitable institutions, paupers have to choose between the harsh conditions of the workhouses and the harsh conditions of the streets. Because begging is a punishable offense, those who stay outside the workhouses are often forced to turn to crime in order to survive.
Oliver’s experience in the courtroom highlights the precarious position of the poor in the eyes of the law.

Without hard evidence or witnesses, and despite Brownlow’s testimony that he does not believe that Oliver is the thief, Mr. Fang convicts Oliver and sentences him to three months of hard labor. In Oliver’s weakened condition, the sentence is really a sentence of death.

relationship between clothing and identity
middle and lower classes in Victorian society
the door key
TASK 1, 2, 3

Throughout the novel, Dickens uses Oliver’s character to challenge the Victorian idea that paupers and criminals are already evil at birth, arguing instead that a corrupt environment is the source of vice.

Do you think Oliver is a believable character?
wretched = very bad or unpleasant

heaps = large amount

blight = something that causes harm or damage like a disease

sole = only

wrangle = to obtain something by persistent maneuvering

wallow = to roll about in deep mud or water
(Excerpt from Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens)
a strange game
narrow and muddy streets
a witness
the lady in the picture
the motherly housekeeper
a big man of about 35
a handkerchief
a horribly old face and red hair
an old friend of Mr Brownlow
Full transcript