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Life Story Of An Orphan English Literature Essay

4389 words (18 pages) Essay in English Literature

5/12/16 English Literature Reference this

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Please sir, can I have some more? is a world famous quote of a little orphan named Oliver Twist, who lives in a workhouse. Oliver Twist was published in the year 1838, it’s a novel written by Charles Dickens. It is a very famous work, many people think it’s the best book he ever wrote, from the moment it was published people thought about it as a classic. The book was originally published in series, each chapter was published separately with a magazine, this magazine called ‘Bentley’s Miscellany’. This magazine was edited by Dickens himself. Each week the readers waited full expectations for the next chapter, each chapter ended with a cliff-hanger so people where very excited for the following chapters. The story about Oliver twist is also used in a movie, theirs is even a musical about it. The film is what we have seen, it was also brought in different chapters. We noticed for ourselves that the cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter where working, we continuous would see the next one after the other. But because of the length of the chapters that was impossible to stand.

With the various characters and situations that Dickens used in his tale he wanted to make a commentary against the society in his time. He wrote about the hypocrisy, the flaws of institutions and how bad poor people were threaded. According to Dickens there was a lot wrong in the society, the government and law systems infected it all. He believed in people and that they were all good in their hearts but the bad society disrupted it. Although he saw all this problems around him, he only wrote about it but never took any actions against it. But he is and stays a great writer of his time, besides Oliver Twist he also wrote books like, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘David Copperfield’. Who were also a great success.

Now we told you some general information about the novel and his writer, we are going to tell you something about our report. First we want to tell you why we exactly choose ‘Oliver Twist’ as our subject. Above all other subjects it took our interest because of the name that is very famous. But when we talked about it, we both did not know much about it. Jeroen only knew it as animated movie, this is why we thought “let’s pick ‘Oliver Twist’ and find out what it’s all about”. When we discus the content of the report, we particularly build it on three main features:

Our discussion about the film

Biography of Charles Dickens

The English society in the time Dickens Wrote the novel

Film discussion

In this chapter we are going to discus some of the characters wich we think are the most important characters of the story. After we have done that we are going to compare a scene from the series we saw with a chapter wich can be found in the Mirrors text book.

Oliver Twist, a little boy who is the main character of the story. Oliver was born in an orphanage. He was born there because his mother was wondering the streets all alone when she was about to give labour. The people in the workhouse took his mother in and she died short after Oliver was born. The boss of the workhouse, Mr Bumble gave Oliver both his name and surname. From that point on he has been tought to work. In the workhouse where he lives all the kids are treated very badly. At some point when Oliver gets older he has to learn a profession, and he tries to become a undertaker. He doesnt like this at all. He runs away from the workhouse and begins a journy to London to begin a new life over there.

Fagin is the the leader of a gang of pickpockets in London, he takes care of Oliver Twist when he first arrives in London. Fagin is an old and greedy man who takes good care of al the boys, but it’s mostly for his own good.

Bill Sikes is a mean criminal who hates everybody. He robs for a living and is very agressive. He has a little pitbull who follows him everywhere. He is an acquaintance of Fagin. Even though they know each other, Sikes hates Fagin and is only interested in a share of money Fagin owes him.

Nancy is Bill Sikes girlfriend, she is part of Fagin’s pickpocket crew. She is the only person who really cares for Oliver, and tries to help him escape from the criminal world he got involved in, she tries to help Oliver to get adopted by Mr. Brownlow. Eventually she backstabs the crew of Fagin and her boyfriend Sikes by giving valuable information about them which could mean the end of both men. Nancy gets killed by Sikes once he realizes she had been trying to get him arrested.

Mr. Brownlow is a kind rich man who takes care of Oliver after he got falsely accused of pickpocketing. Mr. Brownlow is with him in court, and bails him out. Oliver at that moment is very weak and ill, and the goodhearted Mr. Brownlow decides to take Oliver with him to his house so that he can recover. Oliver quickly wins the sympathies of Mr. Brownlow, to the point that Mr. Brownlow considers adopting Oliver

Monks is a misterious man who suddenly appears after Oliver arrives in London. father cheated on his wife, the mother of Monks, with a women who then gets pregnant with Oliver. Later in the story, Monks finds out that he is Olivers’ half brother.

The artful Dodger is a little boy who is part of the pickpocket gang of Mr. Fagin. He’s the best thief from the crew, that explains his nickname ‘the artful’. He tries to teach Oliver to become a skilled thief. It’s a clever boy with a sharp tounge to get himself out of tough situations.

The scene we are going to compare is the scene where the artful Dodger and Charley Bates take Oliver with them on the streets to show him how to rob people. The three boys take a walk on the streets to pick out the perfect target for their mugging plans. Of course they are looking for a rich and preferably old person so they got a lot to steal from but not to worry for him to chase them.

The first thing we noticed very quickly is the difference in how the scene of chapter begins. In the series this scene starts with Fagin and his gang all sitting in his hide out talking. Fagin speaks to Oliver, and tries to make him clear when thieves get caught, they always were working alone, and never for an organization. After Fagin has finished his talk he asks to the children, ‘Shall we play the game?’. As a reply on his question all the kids get really exited and they start moving the furniture. Fagin hides a couple of valuable items in his pockets, such as handkerchiefs and watches. He starts walking around the room pretending everything is all fine. The kids have to try to ‘rob’ Fagin without him noticing they steal away his possessions from his pockets. They point of this game is that he teaches the kids to mug people in a stealthy way without getting in any trouble. The series makes it look like is Fagin a friendly old man.

The same chapter but then in the book starts in a different way. It begins with Oliver sitting alone in Fagin’s room. Also a very big difference is that in the book, Charles Dickens mentions Fagin not by his own name, but he mentions him as; The Jew. In the beginning of the chapter Oliver is sitting alone in the Jew’s room. He has been there for days picking marks out of pocket handkerchiefs. Fagin finally enters the room and tells Oliver he can go outside along with Charley Bates and Dodger. While taking a walk to the street with the boys, you can read about the behavior of Fagin. Here you can read how cruel the man can be. He describes how lazy Fagin really is. Some times if the boys come home empty handed he would shout at them and send them straight to bed without having anything to eat. It’s also mention that one time he knocked Dodger and Charley Bates down a stairs when they had a brawl with each other.

You can clearly see some of the major differences between novel and movie. In the series, which is of course more up to date, Fagin is portrayed as a more kind and warm man who takes good care of Olive and all the other kids who are all in his little pick pocketing gang. They make him look like an innocent old man who only tries to make the best of it while being so poor and taking care of all those children. In the novel the original version of Charles Dickens who can see that he is being portrayed as a greedy, old not caring Jew. This of course has something to do with the fact that Charles Dickens maybe was an anti-Semite.

Another difference in this scene is the point they are about to rob the old man. In the series Dodger and Charley Bates rob an old rich man who is standing at a book-stall. They lift his coat without the man noticing and pick his handkerchief out of his pocket and run away. Only till the man feels in his pocket and looks around he alarms the people around him to stop the thieves. Dodger and Charley Bates both sneak away by stepping into a small street, while Oliver keeps running on the main road. By now he is being followed not alone by the old man he robed, but also by three other man. While running Oliver looks behind to make sure he stays ahead of all the angry men. When he looks in front of him again he sees that a man in front of him who punches Oliver in his face. After this Oliver falls on the ground and passes out.

This biggest difference here between the novel and the series is the moment after robbing the man. After they robed him and they flee the escape in the novel takes much longer. In the novel Dodger and Charley Bates hide in a doorway and they walk along with the angry mob so they don’t blow their cover and get away problem free. While trying to flee, Oliver is being chased by a lot more people in the novel than in the series (see picture). The story describes the fear Oliver feel while trying to run away from the crowd. Each time the robed man yells ‘stop the thief’ more and more people join the crowd, it works like a domino effect on the people trying to stop Oliver and bring justice to him. Oliver is being stopped the same way as in the series. Oliver gets punched in the face by an innocent bystander and knocks him out on the ground. The biggest difference on the ending of the chapter is that once Oliver got knocked down, the crowd from a circle around Oliver and curse him out. The series show that Oliver immediately gets carried away to the court room, while in the novel the robbed man, Mr Brownlow, feels sorry for Oliver.

Charles Dickens Biography

Charles John Huffman Dickens (see picture) was born on 7 February 1812 in Portsmouth; he lived 58 years and died on 9 June 1870. He was the son of John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow; he was the second of eight children. He was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian period. That’s a period in time where Queen Victoria ruled. During this period England prospered. This was a profit gained from the overseas British colonies and from the industrial revolutions at home. Charles Dickens became one of the most popular novelists of all time. He created some of literature’s most iconic characters, with theme’s which reflects the criticism Dickens has on the English society. The enormous popularity of his novels and short stories is so huge that they have never stopped selling, and his books have never gone out of print.

Charles had a hard life. When he was ten years old he and his family moved to London. His father had a lot of financial difficulties and ended up in jail for his debts. Young Charles had to stop several times with school to go to work. At the age of twelve he landed in a blacking factory where he had to work ten hours a day. The living conditions of workers became a major topic in his later work. When he was fifteen he started working at a law firm, he taught himself shorthand and became reporter for the Morning Chronicle after some time. In this period his first literary work arose from his journalistic work. This was descriptions of London life and the outdoors; these stories were later combined under the title Sketches by Boz. ‘Boz’ was the nickname of his younger brother Moses, who was always cold.

A lot of his work first appeared in magazines in serialized form. That was a popular way of publishing fiction at the time. Other writers completed entire novels, but Dickens often wrote his novels in parts, in the order they were meant to appear. He wrote them in a particular rhythm ending with one cliffhanger after another, this to keep the public eager for the next story in line. His works were praised by a lot of other writers, especially for his mastery of prose and his gallery of unique personalities.

In his writings he also shows some signs of racism. In his story Oliver Twist the character Mr Fagin (see picture) is a man of Jewish decent. Dickens portraits the man as a cold greedy old man. One of the well known stereotypes of Jewish people is that they are greedy people. In the story, instead of calling the character by it’s name, he mentions him as the Jew. For most of these reasons Charles Dickens is being blamed of being an anti-Semite.

In Dickens’ novels you can often detect a lot of events that Dickens himself actually experienced in his own life. One of these events for example, is the fact that Dickens him self had to work in a factory as a child. Dickens experienced child labor himself. He uses these aspects of his own life to describe some of the problems the main characters in his novels have to deal with, but he also uses these aspects as criticism he has on the English society.

These child labor problems can be found in his novel Oliver Twist. The workhouse where Oliver was born and raised, he along with the other children who live there was forced to work. Forcing these young children to work is of course child labor one of the points Dickens, like earlier said, had experienced himself.

Another point from Dickens his life can be seen in the Oliver Twist series. Dickens used to work himself when he was a child. He worked at a blacking factory were the conditions used to be horrible. When he got older he started to work at a law firm were work was less dangerous, and not so terrible for your health. You could say the he had advanced in hierarchy. He began as a low class worker in a factory and ended up in a law firm. You can see a same kind of effect in the novel Oliver Twist. Oliver begins his ´career´ in a work house. After fleeing from that horrible place he becomes a pickpocket. After his heist doesn’t work out the right way, and he comes in court, the man who he robbed feels bad for Oliver and decides to take Oliver home with him and takes good care of him. It also happens that the prosecutor, Mr. Brownlow, it a very wealthy man. He supports Oliver, helps him with reading and he can do all this without any problems because he´s a rich man. This can be compared to the situation of Charles Dickens, he also started as a poor worker in a factory just like Oliver Twist. But eventually he ended up as a novelist which made him a wealthy person. The same thing happened to Oliver, he started of poor, but eventually becomes a wealthy boy after being adopted by the kind Mr Brownlow.

When Dickens was younger his father ended up in jail. One of the punishments in those day was that they would put a whole bunch of criminals on a boat, and sent them to Australia. They would sent the criminals there, because they had just discovered the continent, nothing lived there. The prisons were build in the middle of the desert, so if it would happen that one of the criminals would manage it to escape from their cells, they would obviously never survive in the dry desserts.

The English society Dickens wrote his novel

Charles Dickens was born in 1812, and died young in 1870. This was during the Regency era, this was the period between 1811 and 1820, and the Victorian era was during 1837 and 1901. As can be seen, Dickens lived most of his life during the Victorian era. The novels written by Dickens often contain loads of criticism aimed at the British society during those days.

The Regency era is the period between 1811 and 1820. During this period the British king George III was considered unfit to rule the county. His son, the prince of Wales George IV (see picture), was pointed out to rule the country as a Prince Regent. In 1820 he would eventually become the king of the United Kingdom, after his father had passed away.

The Regency era was characterized for its distinctive trends in the British architecture, literature, fashion, politics and culture.

The Regency was noted in history for its elegance and achievements based on art and architecture. Like said before, the era included a time of social, political and even economic changes. The war with Napoleon had been fought, which affected international- and the domestic trade. Also this victory had an impact on both the British and the foreign politics. Because of the major changes not only on a economic and a social level, but also changing the ways of art, Britain was shaped to a whole.

George IV, the Pirince Regent himself was a great protector of art. Because he was so obsessed by art, he ordered to renovate some of Britain’s most extravagant buildings. Examples of these buildings are Brighton Pavilion (see picture), the Carlton House and many other fine British public works and architecture. Obviously this renovation was going to cost alot of money, all at the expense of British citizens. A famous poet named Shelley had this to say about the decision George IV made:

‘this entertainment will cost 120,000 pounds. Nor will it be the last bauble which the nation must buy to amuse this overgrown bantling of Regency’ (*1 references page)

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Obviously there wasn’t only glamour and glory during the Regency. In the poorer districts of London there was a lot of crime going on, like robberies, womanizing, gambling

and constant alcohol abuse. All these problems combined with the massive population boom, which has grown from less then a million people in 1801 to one and a half million in 1820, which made the streets of London look like a big chaos. Poet Robert Southey had this to say about the situations in London at the time:

”The inhabitants of this great city seem to be divided into two distinct casts, – the Solar and the Lunar races… ” (*2 references page)

Once the Regency era came to an end in 1820, the Victorian era came up short after. This is the period Dickens lived most of his life in. It’s a period where a lot of inventions took place, but also a period with a lot of social problems.

One of these major problems is the employment of young children. The children often would work in a factory of as a chimney sweep. Child labor played an important part during the industrial revolution. In 1840 only 20 percent of the children in London had schooling. At the time of 1860 less then half of the children between five and fifteen were in school.

The children of the less fortunate were expected to help to support the family by working so they could support the family budget. The children would work for long hours in dangerous jobs. While doing these jobs it would earn them low wages. Little thin boys were hired by chimney sweeps, small kids were employed to crawl under heavy machinery to clean them up or fix them. The coal mine would hire children too, they could enter narrow tunnels which were too small for adult people. Although most of the jobs which were fit for children were dangerous, there were some children were fortunate of having jobs like domestic servant. Besides all of these jobs, many young people worked as prostitutes. The majority of all the prostitutes who worked in London were between 15 and 22 year old.

“Mother bides at home, she is troubled with bad breath, and is sair weak in her body from early labour. I am wrought with sister and brother, it is very sore work; cannot say how many rakes or journeys I make from pit’s bottom to wall face and back, thinks about 30 or 25 on the average; the distance varies from 100 to 250 fathom. I carry about 1 cwt. and a quarter on my back; have to stoop much and creep through water, which is frequently up to the calves of my legs.” (*3 references page)

This quote taken from a 12 year old girl describes how horrible the conditions were to work in a coal mine (see picture).

Charles Dickens himself had to work as a child. At the age of twelve he landed in a blacking factory where he had to work ten hours a day. He uses his own experience and the society around him to process this into his novels.

Oliver Twist worked in a workhouse where he got treated like scum and had to work under horrible conditions.

During this period Britain had a lot of problems with poverty. This had to do with a huge population increase which was accompanied by fast urbanization, which got stimulated by the industrial revolution. The large number of people looking for work in the cities kept the wages down to a barley subsistence level. Houses were scarce and expensive. London is a example for all of these problems, where the population grew in record rates. Large houses turned into flats and slowly turned into horrible looking slums (see picture).

Poverty is also a big influence on the stories Dickens writes. Oliver Twist grows up in a poor community, of course this had to do with the fact he’s very poor himself. In his stories the rich and the wealthy are often portrayed as greedy, cruel people. This had to do with the fact that Dickens had to work as an infant himself. Most of the time in real life, the gentlemen who ran factories were greedy rich people. This can also be seen as criticism on society. This had to do with the fact that the gap between rich and poor was gigantic. Either people had money or they had nothing.

In the series they also show how abused the city streets look. Everything is dirty, streets are overcrowded and the people are living together in large numbers in one house. The situation gives you a perfect picture of how the people were living in those days.


Oliver Twist is a world famous feel-good story written by one of Britain’s most praised writers. The story can be seen as literary masterpiece, but also as a book filled with criticism, aimed at the society.

There are also a lot of things that can be said about the author Charles Dickens, and the British society at the time that he was alive. Some of the rough things that Oliver Twist experienced are a reflection of how the writer saw his own life in his younger days. The picture of that society shown in the series is definitely very gloomy and depressive, so if you think about the life of Charles Dickens, it is impressive that he came to be such a gifted writer who could give the people a realistic image of the British society in those times.

The series we have seen really grabbed our attention. It took a long time to sit trough the entire series. It got a hold of out interest because of the exciting cliffhangers at the end of every chapter.

We were both shocked by the dark and dirty streets of London in the 19th century. Of course we have heard about the Industrial Revolution and what a tough time this was for the British citizens, but the images of the series gave us a better education of the topic.


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