Holly Huffstutler Dr.

Walsh LIT 232-002 Oliver Twist: Our Boring yet Effective Hero In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens paints an effective picture of the lives of poor children under the highly bureaucratic parochial system and the lives of criminals that populated poor London. He does this through the use of brilliant sarcasm to create interesting and lifelike characters at every of English society that is represented in his story. The word ‘lifelike’ in this sense means to act like a human being. And human beings tend to grow as the years pass. They are affected by the situations they encounter. Their traumas and their triumphs form their characters. However, the title character of Oliver is shown to possess none of these qualities. From the time he is brought to the workhouse by Mr. Bumble to his adoptions in the end by his caring family, nothing changes his attitude of wide-eyed trust and blandness. Oliver’s lack of human qualities is by no means a failure of Dickens’s novel. His unshakable innocence acts as an excellent foil for the multi-layered cynicism of everyone who crosses Oliver’s path and provides a solid connection between the vast array of characters and experiences in this story. In the ten years we know of Oliver Twist he is portrayed as perpetually childlike and incorruptible, despite the fact that he’s had very little treatment that differs from contempt, violence, or indifference. Oliver is thrown into every situation that you would expect a person to be gradually hardened from: poverty, starvation, violence and exposure to a criminal underworld populated by kids his age and younger. But Oliver never gets hardened. With all the character has gone through the reader would be more than willing to let any evidence of evil slide but this doesn’t happen because Oliver’s

then as a nine-year-old who cried because he was leaving home. In addition to his watery eyes a trait of Oliver’s that evidences Oliver’s lack of personal growth (for better or worse) is his eternal trust. Or to be more judgmental about . Dickens explains the enigmatic nature of Oliver’s character very briefly and vaguely with this passage.” (25) Dickens’s assertion that “Oliver cried very naturally indeed”. It is the ‘well-born’ (including Rose Maylie even though she doesn’t believe it) people in the novel who are most capable of love and goodness in this story.’ Oliver is revealed to be linked with people we are introduced to as good. responsible and most importantly…upper class. Brownlow and the Maylies. (24) in additions to being a huge understatement. and bows to the table the board is sitting at0 and proceeds to cry unceasingly throughout this interview. Oliver’s ‘inherited’ goodness and unchanging personality is made apparent throughout the novel. (‘home’ used in the loosest possible sense here) then cried some more because he was “frightened at the sight of so many gentlemen” (24) and finally “sobbed himself to sleep. Therefore the fact Oliver is a part of this class is the only explanation that Dickens gives for his unswerving goodness. loving. Namely Mr. The reader is made aware of it when he is first brought before the board (which Oliver is too teary-eyed to see. shows the reader that Oliver hasn’t had the ability to cry or be shocked by cruelty beaten out of him which would have been a very human response.dark side doesn’t exist. pure. “It cannot be expected that this system of farming would produce any very extraordinary or luxuriant crop…But nature or inheritance had implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver’s breast” (21) In that statement is Dickens’s justification for Oliver’s pure soul: that it is ‘inherited. The reader sees Oliver first as a bawling newborn.

and the watches. Fagin sees Oliver for the open. When Bill Sikes questions why Fagin would want . with so many watches: but. He sees Dodger steal Mr. he might not have the trouble of emptying them. cost him a good deal of money. “In an instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs. himself. trusting person he is and plans to use it to his advantage. Though at least in this case he had the good sense to be confused by their presence. therefore one must conclude that he didn’t find anything suspicious about all this. (70) In fact Oliver doesn’t figure out what profession he’s been adopted into he’s out on the job. This is shown when he first meets the Artful Dodger and is introduced to Fagin and the rest of his ‘pupils. that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face” it doesn’t occur to him what this all means. they unfortunately are. when he went to bed. rushed upon the boy’s mind. One young gentleman was very anxious to hang up his cap for him. as he was very tired. “Oliver thought the man must be a decided miser to live in such a dirty place. Even when he sees Fagin’s hidden box of treasures while half-asleep he doesn’t question where I came from. and another was so obliging as to put his hands in his pockets: in order that. and the Jew.” (66) Oliver’s reaction to this is not noted. While Oliver is unaware of his rose-colored perception of the people who surround him. “the young gentlemen with the pipes came round him. Brownlow’s handkerchief and then it all becomes clear.it. Dodger and Charley are demonstrating for Oliver exactly how to “pick a pocket or two” in “such a funny and natural manner. and the jewels.’ Shortly after Oliver is introduced to Fagin and Company the following occurs. his eternal gullibility.” (68) Even when Fagin. thinking that perhaps his fondness for Dodger and the other boys. and shook his hand very hard especially the one in which he held his little bundle.” (73) Oliver is shocked by this insight because he measures the world by his own purity.

properly managed. he’s a literary device. Someone has to be there to tell the story. And that is of course Dickens’s imaginative description of the world and people that people that Oliver grows up with. kids Fagin’s reason is because he sees the vast difference between Oliver and them. considering how unrealistic Oliver is. to consider him the great failure of Dickens’s novel. The contrast is first established by showing the visual distinction between him and Dodger. they float over him and are recorded through him. vibrant and often violent experiences and personalities don’t really affect him. my dears. These characters are set pieces. It would be easy. my dear…not worth the taking. and in so doing shines a clearer light on them. He’s the central character that all the other characters rotate around. In this story that is Oliver. Where Oliver seems to have . The story does this by showing the contrast by between him and them. I could do what I couldn’t with twenty of them” (137) Fagin knows Oliver is so inclined to cling to anything you tell him that he can keep using him until he gets caught and hanged. He is an observer. Their looks convict ‘em when they get into trouble. To give them too much life would distract from what’s really going on in the story. That would be missing the point. The world and those people are the second half of what Oliver is established to facilitate the telling of.him above all the other. a very common one. And unfortunately unless we gain insight into the narrator’s head these characters are usually very dull. At which point he’ll be too brain-washed to turn Fagin in. they hold everything together. and I lose ‘em all. Any story with this many personalities floating around needs one stable point than connects them all. more qualified. “Because they’re of no use to me. Because the character of Oliver Twist isn’t a character at all. With this boy.

in a most striking way. However.” (3) . Dodger is representative in the book of the kind of young criminal who has had to grow up too fast and project a larger-than-life bravado just to survive and prosper in his world. in the area of language. Language that’s complex and heavy with sarcasm and bitterness. and to serve (with his unbelievable perfection) as a foil for the lives and habits that were common in the impoverished London Dickens hoped to expose. Oliver on the other hand tends to accept things at face value and usually doesn’t have a clue what they’re saying.been frozen at age five. To focus the numerous amount of characters and plotlines to one stable point. as the reader gets enveloped in the vibrant world that Dickens creates in this novel it becomes clear that Oliver is written one dimensionally for a reason. I know he will” (129) Oliver Twist is without a doubt the least emotionally developed figure in the otherwise brilliant array of layered characters that fill the novel that bears his name. The contrast between Oliver and everyone else is further established. Judging by his own words: “ I confess I have yet to learn that a lesson of the purest good may not be drawn from the vilest evil. Causing the others (especially Charley Bates) to laugh at his naïveté: “I never did see such prime company as that ‘ere boy. The underworld characters of Oliver’s acquaintance speak in a language closer to Dickens’s narration of the book. he’ll be the death of me. I have always believed this to be recognized an established truth.

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