Task: Oliver Twist is an extreme criticism of Victorian society’s treatments of the poor. Explore how Dickens presents his views about class divisions and the suffering of the poor in any two chapters. Throughout the novel of Oliver Twist, Dickens portrays his feelings and strong views towards Victorian society’s treatment of the poor and also about class divisions. I am going to write about two chapters and explore them in depth. Firstly I will explore chapter two and show how it represents the treatment of the poor.
First of all in chapter two Dickens introduces us to young Oliver Twist; a boy who has been in care since the day he was delivered into this world of cruelty as an orphan baby. “Oliver was the victim of treachery and deception” In these words Dickens Is trying to tell the reader that the middle class were dishonest, they couldn’t be trusted. Dickens’s father was sent to prison due to financial problems by the middle class. He himself was bullied by a member of the middle class, during working in the blacking factory. In addition Oliver is impersonated as a ‘victim’ because of his innocence and purity.
As we know Oliver was raised and ‘brought up by hand’ by the self- centred, manipulative Mrs Mann. The meaning of Oliver being ‘brought up by hand’ was that she used violence as a way of getting the children to obey her. Mrs Mann was a member of the middle class. She received money to feed and cloth each individual child, and “so appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use” In other words she kept a large amount of the money to her own purpose such as alcohol, meaning the children would starve.
This demonstrates that the middle class were selfish; they treated the poor like filth, as if they were no importance to the world. Oliver was tortured throughout his childhood; He didn’t have general rights. Today its different everybody had the right to eat, but Oliver didn’t believe he had that human right, if he dared ask for more he’d be beaten badly by Mrs Mann or The Beadle. She would starve the poor youngsters. Today harming a child is a serious offence, but in 1837 it was a normal way of punishment.
Dickens brutishly implies The Beadle, along with the middle class, as being self indulgent. By contrast Oliver is terrified of The Beadle but The Beadle himself was a little nervous and scared of the board, he honoured them. This is shown as a hierarchy, with Oliver immovable at the bottom, and the magistrate right at the top. This demonstrates class divisions because it shows how each class reacted and behaved towards the other class. Mr Beadle changes his attitude when confronting the board, and then again to the lower class.
He has two complete opposite attitudes towards the two different classes. This explains how they are separated from one another, like they belong to different worlds. Later in this chapter Oliver is taken to the workhouse. He joined many other lonely miserable children, leading abnormal lives. They worked hard constantly all day everyday. They only stopped at meal times, but it wasn’t much of a meal, all they were given was a bowl of thin porridge called “gruel”, it was hardly enough to keep them alive.
In 1834 the poor law was introduced, people who worked in these factories were given suitable amounts of food and worked average hours. But the upper class believed they were getting it easy, and enjoying themselves to much, living on free food and leading a life not having the worry of feeding their families. So the system made a dramatic change. The food was cut down to the bear minimum (extreme rationing) and they were forced to work long tiring hours. Basically the middle classes intentions were to slowly starve and work them to death, to make them suffer.
They just wanted them to make money for themselves; to them they were just workers, like machines, the upper class controlled them, and the poor just accepted and went along with it, they had no power over their own feelings and rights. Most importantly this relates to how Oliver is so ravenous, he is forced to ask for more. “Please sir I want some more” When doing so the beadle is astounded, how he has the nerve to ask for more. They purposed Oliver was the devil, that he was troublesome and wicked because he dare ask such things.