AP English Literature
Angels In The House and The Fallen
In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens has a myriad of characters that are used to portray the social norms and environment of his time. In doing so, he effectively and satirically criticizes Victorian views of how many people were viewed solely based on superficial things such as status and or gender. In the case of gender, Dickens effectively depicts and critiques how women were viewed and “supposed to be” by comparing and contrasting “angels of the house” and those that are “fallen.”
One such character is Rose Maylie, a woman with romantic ties to one Harry Maylie. Rose is the exemplar of what an “angel” should be. She is extremely mannerly, prim, and proper; summarily, she can be defined as “a creature as fair and innocent of guile as one of God’s angels” (Dickens). Not only she is characterized as an “angel” through her demeanor and actions, she is outright called an “angel.” Furthermore, the connotation of the flower that bears the same name, which possesses a sweet and gentle imagery, only serves to further justify Rose as an “angel.” Lastly, her selflessness of giving up a happy relationship to allow a Harry to succeed and prosper when she says that he should “have turned to high and noble pursuits” is evident of a prime characteristic of what Victorian age women were supposed to be; she is sacrificing and acting on the behalf and for the benefit of a man (Dickens).
Another character that possesses Victorian “angel” qualities is Agnes Fleming. However, she descended from her “angel” status and became someone who has “fallen.” The mother of Oliver, she fell in love and consummated an illegitimate relationship with Edwin Leeford, who was married and already had a child. Despite this potentially scandalous fact, Agnes was very characteristic of an “angel” as she waited and “trusted patiently” for Edwin to marry her (Dickens). Unfortunately, the two...