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The violence in the fragment of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Petculescu Nicoleta Catalina, group 1
I think that this theme is one that should be dealt in so much more books. Even if you haven’t got the
opportunity to read the entire novel, this fragment is sufficiently to contour a portrait of the epoch
Dickens is talking about. The narrator satirizes the hypocrisies of his time, in a manner that attracts all
kind of readers.
The word violence can be easily misinterpreted. It means much more than a beating. In the fragment we
can found: starvation (“Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of slow starvation.”),
physical punishment (“The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle, pinioned him in his arms,
and shrieked aloud for the beadle.”), death (“That boy will be hung”), child labor (They were in a work
house), child sells etc.
Taking into consideration the description from the beginning of the text it can be easily observed the
universe where these children live in “a large stone hall, with a copper at one hand”. Not such a friendly
location, isn’t it? What about the “menu”? “One or two women, ladled the gruel at meal-times; of which
composition each boy had one porringer, and no more”. The meal that they received was enough to stay
alive, and in the same time not to get fat. However, Dickens uses the antithesis between the master and
the boys : “ The master was fat, healthy man”.
For many people starvation isn’t such a big deal, but let me ask you, how much time you would resist
with this kind of conditions. Let’s take the example of one of the boys : “that one boy […] hadn’t been
used to that sort of thing (for his father had kept a small cookshop) hinted darkly to his companions, that
unless he had another basin of gruel per diem, he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy
who slept next to him ”. Hunger makes people think incoherent. Because of this despair, Oliver is forced
to ask for more food.
In that times, and perhaps this thing has not change so much, a person who can think independently is a
threat. Because Oliver expressed his desire he is send to be hung. “Oliver was ordered into instant
confinement.” So, you ask just for a bowl of gruel and you get physically and emotionally harassed.
Much more, the conclave was extremely surprised by such a demanding. For them it was a sign of total
disrespect, insubordination.
And to emphasis the value that a poor child could have the next quote should be more than enough :“ […]
offering a reward of five pounds to anybody who would take Oliver Twist off the hands of the parish.”
Five pounds…for a boy? In our days this would be inacceptable!
The violence theme in Oliver Twist makes you wonder if your life is as bad as you thought it was. Using
the hyperbole Charles Dickens succeeds to make a Universe that explains perfectly the time he lived in,
and makes you feel like you are a part of that world, but in the same time he rises a question : “What
should I do, that incidents like this will never happen?”