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Oliver Twist Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 951 words Published: 12th Jun 2017

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Explain and discuss the main problem or obstacle that is introduced. Discuss how the protagonist or any other significant characters deal with this problem. Describe how this problem escalates, who is involved in this conflict, climax, and how this problem is dealt with. (Length: ¾ of a page)

Character (Protagonist, Antagonist and/or other significant characters)

Describe the exterior physical traits and personality of the protagonist. To do this effectively, you must consider the character’s home environment, social group and personal attachments/relationships. Analyze the character’s thoughts and perceptions, behavior, actions and reactions in the book. Do the same to the antagonist and/or any other significant characters. (Length: ¾ of a page)

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Oliver Twist: Oliver is a young orphan who is usually described as wearing tattered clothes. Although he is the protagonist, he has very little influence over the course of his life. Through Dickens’ writing, Oliver is revealed to be a saint-like figure. He is contradictory to others in his social class by almost every means possible. He speaks proper English whereas his companions speak rough slangy English. He is a very kind and loyal person who wants to always help the ones who provide for him and take good care of him like, Mrs. Maylie and Mr. Brownlow. He wants to live honestly even if that means to die trying. Even when he is tortured, he maintains his purity and does not become angry. Oliver is not a character torn between good and evil; he is simply a good person in all situations.

Fagin: The ruthless and antagonist who hire young orphans to steal and pickpocket for him. In return, he feeds them and provides shelter. Dickens’ portrayal of Fagin seems to be influenced by anti-Semitism. Constant references to him as “the Jew” throughout the book imply that his negative characteristics are linked to his ethnic identity. He is described as a “loathsome reptile” (p. 145) and that he has teeth like the fangs of a dog. Fagin believes that betrayal is part of their lifestyle and enjoys watching people get executed. He is the ultimate opposite figure of Oliver in the story.

Nancy: Although she is neither the protagonist nor the antagonist she is the most complex character used by Dickens to portray the problems present in Victorian London. Dickens portrays Nancy as a good person who has gone so deep into the evil side that coming back is impossible. As an orphan Nancy has been a thief and drinks a lot. Presently, she is a prostitute who works for Sikes and remains very loyal to him no matter how much he abuses her. In between characters that are only able to comprehend the good or evil, Nancy is capable of both. Perhaps, the noblest action in the book was when Nancy sacrifices her own life to save Oliver’s. She understands the terribleness of the path she has chosen and does not want a poor creature like Oliver to take the same path. Her ultimate decision to do good shows that no matter how terrible the environment might be, a strong soul cannot be poisoned. Her love for Sikes is strong even though she realizes that it will lead to her destruction. When Mr. Brownlow offers help, Nancy kindly rejects and says that she has gone too far and her death is inevitable. She maintains her loyalty to Sikes until the moment he kills her.

Setting (Initial setting and/ or any other significant setting)

The setting of a story or novel helps the reader to visualize the environment and its importance. Describe the initial setting and how it adds to the overall storyline. Describe any other setting you believe serves a purpose to the reader. How important is a setting with regards to the plot? (Length: ¾ of a page)

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Workhouse: Orphans and peasants are brought here to work. They are deprived of their civil rights and given very little food. The children are separated from their parents; couples are separated in hop of reducing breeding of the lower class. Ironically, the authorities who preach the necessity of a meager diet in the workhouses are very fat gentlemen who have far more luxurious lives. The woman in charge of taking care of the orphans takes most of the money allocated to their welfare for her own needs. This results in many children dying under her administration but she files the cases as accidents. This initial setting shows the environment that Oliver was brought up in.

London: Although the story takes place during the Industrial Revolution in London (around the 1830’s), Dickens depicts the extreme poverty present in London during the period and ineffectiveness of the Poor Laws. The Poor Laws were one of the main reasons Charles Dickens chose to write this story. There are many orphans who live on the streets and turn to pick pocketing for enough food to ensure another day of survival and pain. Many of the peasants on the street have no other option other than thievery or prostitution. This setting gives the reader some explanation on the actions of many characters like Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Sikes and Oliver. Fagin merely takes advantage of the situation and promises adequate nourishment, clothing, and proper shelter in return for the services of the young orphans in thievery. In the end he gets punished but the ultimate cause of poverty, which Dickens believes to be the society remains unchanged. This setting explains the hypocrisy of the society, with the help of Dickens’s satirical writing, and challenges the conventional views of rich people regarding poverty being related to the hereditary of the peasants.


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