Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist in relation to the Newgate Calendars
Born into a poor English family in 1812, Charles Dickens worked his way up from a life of poverty and debtor's prison, to become a writer of national acclaim. In his Victorian era, he was an exception to the rule because it was very difficult to break through the barriers of social class and better oneself. Because of his bleak childhood, Dickens was one of the few writers of his time who could express the horrors of society as they really were. One of his most famous novels is Oliver Twist. This story centers on a young boy named Oliver whose real identity is unknown when his mother dies in childbirth. As an orphan, he is exploited by corrupt and selfish authority figures, and is forced into a life of poverty, hard labor, misery and crime. Oliver suffers horribly and often takes the blame for others' misdeeds. Dickens is showing that Oliver is a good person, and the bad things that happen to him are through no fault of his own, but because society and the people around him are bad.

From his earliest childhood days, Oliver is treated harshly by society. He was born in a workhouse where he is barely given enough food to live and is forced to do hard manual labor. Dickens satirically describes the authorities' view of the poor in this passage: "'Oho!' said the board, looking very knowing, 'we are the fellows to set this to rights; we'll stop it all, in no time.' So they established the rule that all poor people should have the alternative of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it" (34). The Board Members decide they are too lenient on the starving boys, so they decrease their rations and increase their labor. In Oliver's workhouse, the young boys decide to ask for a little more food. Oliver is picked to ask for more, and as a result, he is beaten and thrown in to a tiny, dark cell by himself. Dickens

vividly describes the torture this little nine-year old boy suffers in...
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