BELONGING AND PLACE – Oliver Twist

(with close reference to Chapter 8 – Oliver Walks to London, and Encounters on the Road a Strange Sort of Young Gentleman)

belonging and place oliver twist

The Area of Study requires students to explore the ways in which the concept of belonging is represented in and through texts. Lucky for us, belonging is an open-ended term that can be used very loosely, as there are many different types of belonging out there. Following is a short analysis of belonging in Oliver Twist in terms of place. This analysis has close reference to Chapter 8: Oliver Walks to London, and Encounters on the Road a Strange Sort of Young Gentleman.

“The ways the urban and rural spaces are represented in Oliver Twist are very much in line with the romanticised values of the time. They are seen as binary opposites where the city is a negative and sinister place, and the countryside is idyllic and peaceful. Chapter 8 is significant because it signifies Oliver’s move from the rural to the urban, and the hardships he encounters along the way. Oliver fits into both places too well, making the novel harder to believe as a lot of factors haven’t been considered, such as the plausibility of events, for example Mr Brownlow taking Oliver in because he reminded him of someone. It’s a sense of escapism – justifying the treatment of poorer people in the hopes that their fate will be similar to Oliver’s. However, Oliver’s experiences in both spaces have allowed him to become a well-rounded person, because in the novel morality issues affect everyone regardless of social status.

Crime is also romanticised in many ways, and this was an extremely radical idea at the time. Although Charles Dickens was trying to portray that the Victorian viewpoint of crime was wrong, he designed his novel to show that some criminals are drawn or forced into crime rather than being born criminals. Dickens includes the condition of the workhouses which were very basic and the work was hard and unforgiving, he described this to set the scene of how young children coped when they were alone in the world. He presents some criminals as innocent victims that have been pulled into a life of crime through desperation and despair such as Oliver and Nancy, however some criminals such as Sikes have not been drawn into crime, they chose that life. Prostitution is also portrayed as ‘dirty and corrupted’ from the Victorian view however Dickens also attempted to show prostitutes as victims of their situations. Through writing Oliver Twist Dickens highlighted fundamental issues that were wrong with the Victorian society and made a stand against the stereotypes of the poor.

Dickens also uses setting to emphasise the difference between criminals being victims and those who live that sort of life by choice. For example, when Oliver is led to Fagan’s lair in Chapter 8, it is clear that crime in this novel is accompanied by an appropriate dismal and disturbing setting. In spite of Oliver’s naivety and his lack of awareness of the true profession of Fagan and the boys he sees, it is clear that this setting indicates that something is very wrong with the boys that Oliver spends time with.”

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