Analysis of Dickens' use of irony, satire and humour in Oliver Twist.
There are multiple examples throughout Oliver Twist of irony, satire and humour. Although a dark novel, there are many moments of humour and an extraordinary amount of chuckling, giggling and knee-slapping by characters. Each of the literary techniques of humour, irony and satire, employed by Dickens help add focus and depth on the various conflicts between the novels outcasts and its established society. It is impossible to cover all avenues within Oliver Twist that might be considered as humorous, satirical or ironic but some of the more obvious and important examples of each will now be discussed.
There is ambiguous humour in conflicts between the institution and the individual found throughout Dickens' Oliver Twist. An example of this coming early in the second chapter when Oliver is told that “the board has said he has to appear before it forthwith1”, the humour here comes in Oliver’s ignorance of “not having a very clearly defined notion of what a live board was” and on entering the room of “eight to ten fat gentlemen” he is told to “bow to the board”, “seeing no board but the table, he fortunately bowed to that”. Oliver’s ignorance here is both humorous and sad, as it underpins his youthful ignorance and helplessness in the face of his situation which is very much out of his control.
There are many examples where Dickens juxtaposes humour and ridicule with aggression and cruelty; one example being the introduction of Mr. Gamfield in chapter three, who was “alternately cudgelling his brains and his donkey2”, this gives rise to laughter on the part of the audience and also gives, in my opinion, an impression of Gamfield as ridiculous or as a fool. Soon after we are told that he gave the donkeys jaw “a sharp wrench”, and “another blow on the head, just to stun him till he came back again”, this portrayal of him as aggressive and violent is juxtaposed with the fool implied...
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