Oliver is an abandoned child who, at the age of nine, is returned to the workhouse where he was born. There, he endures a wretched existence without any formal education. One day, he runs away and meets a young pickpocket on the road. Intrigued, he follows the pickpocket to London and is introduced to a group of young criminals led by Fagin, an elderly Jew. Oliver is coerced into participating in their illicit activities. However, he is rescued by a kind gentleman named Mr. Brownlow. Unfortunately, members of the gang abduct Oliver, but after several events, the gang is apprehended by the authorities. Through these events, it is revealed that Oliver is related to Mr. Brownlow and finally finds a sense of belonging.
The story portrays the adventures of an orphan who manages to maintain his pure-hearted nature despite the harshness of his life. Dickens blends a sentimental and melodramatic tale of a child exploited by a gang of thieves with incisive social satire and realism. This enables him to address significant social concerns, such as the new Poor Law, which sentenced destitute individuals to workhouses with living conditions similar to that of prisons.
Poverty during the Victorian era was abominable. Many children lived in appalling conditions that would be deemed unacceptable today. Consequently, it was not unusual for them to resort to a life of crime instead of facing the hardships of full-time work at the age of five or the slow starvation in workhouses. Although some effort was made to provide education to children in workhouses and charity schools organized by churches, most of them only provided a meager shelter and minimal education.
Thus, the humorous element of the story accentuates serious issues such as social injustice. Dickens skillfully intertwines social criticism with lively depictions of universal characters, such as Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Mann. Mr. Bumble is characterized as a man with a hypocritical sense of his own importance and the mission of the workhouse.
OLIVER TWIST: CRITICAL NOTES
Charles Dickens represents the contradictions that were typical of the Victorian era. On one hand, he openly condemned the rigidity of Victorian morality, but on the other hand, he was deeply influenced by it. While he denounced the evils of his society, he was not able to propose radical solutions to address them. Instead, his solutions were paternalistic and moral rather than economic or political. Unfortunately, his novels often contained too much sentimentality, sensationalism, and melodrama. Dickens was fully aware of the social injustice, political incompetence, poverty, and suffering of the masses, as well as the class conflicts of Victorian England. This resulted in a critical attitude towards contemporary society. Dickens' novels were set in a variety of locations, such as the countryside, provincial towns, and industrial settlements.Ascolta su Spreaker.
The most important characters in his novels are the children, who symbolize society's guilt for their loneliness and misery. Their integration into society doesn't occur through its acceptance of them, but through their own personal growth. The narrator is typically a third-person omniscient and intrusive voice, while the language is clear, vivid, and effective.
Unfortunately, the characters are often flat and lack psychological depth.
The most recurring themes in Dickens' novels are childhood and social criticism. By describing the lives of children, Dickens criticizes the social institutions and conditions of the industrial revolution that forced children to work in miserable conditions. In his novels, events are narrated by a third-person narrator, but often seen through the eyes of the child protagonist, which distorts the events and fills them with gothic elements. Most of Dickens' characters belong to the lower-middle class, the class he knew best and the first to assign a protagonist role in fiction. He focuses on their economic worries, fear of social instability, and poverty with sympathy based on his own experiences. While Dickens' criticism of society is almost exclusively moral, he attacks the law, parliamentary government, and the educational system. Unfortunately, he doesn't suggest any solutions or improvements. Despite this, his attitude isn't destructive because he doesn't want to overthrow the socio-economic system.
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