Crime and poverty in 19th century England

Title: Charles Dickens uses Oliver Twist to make social comments on attitudes towards crime and poverty in 19th century England. With particular reference to chapters one and two show how he achieves this. Charles Dickens uses satire and irony in the novel 'Oliver Twist' to show his views on the controversial 'New Poor Law of 1834', and the corrupt workhouse system, 'What a noble illustration of the tender laws of this farrowed country! They let paupers sleep! ' the poor law seemed to make poverty a crime with only the most desperate of the poor resorting to the grim and depressing conditions of the workhouses.

The Rich view the law as a good law believing that the poor are poor because they are bone idle and lazy, when normally they are a victim of circumstance. They also thought that this law made them look more "liberal". Dickens satirises them to great effect, managing to keep his views on the poor and produces a book adored by the 19th century reader. Dickens himself thinks that 'the law is a ass, a idiot' and he shows the 19th century readers this through the main figure of the eyes of a blameless and honest person called Oliver.

Dickens made the reader focus on the prejudice and hatred that the rich had for the poor 'a gentleman in a white waistcoat said he was a fool', showing the impersonal ways of the workhouse system. Crime is committed due to poverty, arguments, evilness in people and misunderstandings, it was believed by the rich that poverty is why stealing and burglary crimes are committed so trying to do away with poverty would reduce stealing crimes in the 19th century. In the 19th century the public's favourite novels and theatrical styles a melodramatic.

Dickens, knowing this, produced a satirical and melodramatic piece for the masses. Not exactly a vicious diatribe against the system but the public liked it and he kept readers wanting the next part in the 'Oliver Twist' serial. At this time Dickens was writing 'Pickwick' as well as 'Oliver Twist'. 'Oliver Twist' was being written for Bentley's Miscellany as a monthly serial, possibly making some of his writing a rushed attempt. This means that 'Oliver Twist' had some of Dickens's best writing and some of his worst.

In the Novel characters in 'Oliver Twist' are used by Charles Dickens to present society in a variety of ways and to show his views on crime and poverty in 19th century England. Of course first we have Oliver Twist. In the story Oliver is a poor orphan boy. Faced with poverty and crime he keeps his innocence. Despite all the hardships he faces he remains decent and moral. His mother dies at the start of his life; he has been and then is badly treated all his life.

When he was first born he was referred to as 'it' by a surgeon which is impersonal and also called an 'infant of mortality', this shows how unlikely the child was to live and also how impersonal and uncaring the people involved with the poor are. To the people not enveloped in poverty, Oliver is just a statistical number and a burden to the workhouse. Dickens makes the reader empathise with Oliver and shows the reader how being born into poverty really is and how it affects the people in it. One of Dickens's creations to show the dark side of crime is Monks.

Monks is a mad and maniacal character, he is trying to get rid of Oliver so he can inherit a vast wealth when Mr Brownlow dies. He gets someone to go and kidnap Oliver for him and then orders them to kill Oliver to get him out of his way. He is a part of the hell of the criminal world that Dickens is showing the reader in this novel. He is also a feeble and melodramatic character who is captured thanks to the Rose Maylie and the mastermind of Mr Brownlow, he then confesses his plans. In the novel, Dickens uses Fagin to help show the reader the darker side of crime.

Fagin is a villain in the novel; he dominates the story with his manipulative and scheming ways. He is the leader of a group of vagabonds and receives the stolen goods. Even though Fagin has some undesirable traits such as selfishness, cruelty, greed and weakness he is a manipulative figure and has a hold over some characters like Nancy who fears and hates Fagin. Fagin's evil is shown best with his willingness to work for Monks in bringing about of Oliver's death. Dickens uses Fagin to show the darker side of crime that we don't see and brings it to light, making the reader think that no one should have to do what these people do.

This makes the reader hate Fagin and makes the reader believe that he gets what he deserves when he eventually dies in a dramatic scene at the end which can be scene as a payment for his crimes over the years. One character used by Dickens to show how crime affects children at a young age is Jack Dawkins. He is also known as 'the Artful Dodger', he is the best pick pocket that works for Fagin and is the person who introduces Oliver to the gang of thieves at Saffron Hill. Dickens tries to use this character to show how bad crime can be for kids.

His appearance can have two viewpoints from the reader. One is a comical appearance due to the fact they are to big for him and he has to have the sleeves and various other parts of his clothes rolled up due to their size. The other is a more metaphorical view that is that he has grown up faster because of his life of crime, the clothes show this by being intended for an older gentleman, but they are too big for him, maybe suggesting that he shouldn't take the strain of it on his young shoulders.

He is used by Dickens to show crime amongst kids, but instead of making the reader focus on a large group of children he makes the reader focus on one making the reader personally attached to him and making the reader feel more for what crime brings on him. One character that shows how crime can affect your whole life is Nancy. She has been consumed by the dark side of crime and is almost impossible for her to get out of. She is corrupted by Fagin so she would steal for him, she fears yet hates him. She is not an innocent character because she takes part in the kidnapping of Oliver and taking him back to Fagin.

But she shows moral decency even in spite of her environment and her conditioning by attempting to help Oliver when she over hears the plans of Fagin and Monks. She tries to stop Sikes and Fagin turning Oliver into what she has become. In this scene she says 'I won't stand by and see it done, Fagin'. She is harshly murdered by Sikes after her betrayal to the gang. Dickens uses her to show the reader how adults can be manipulated as easily as children to commit crimes and to live their lives on the dark side of crime.

Sikes is a cruel and violent criminal, he says to Oliver 'get up, or I'll strew your brains upon the grass' this shows his violence and cruelty. Sikes is married to Nancy, Nancy clearly loves him but Sikes abuses her and eventually murders her to protect his position. Oliver is also mistreated by Sikes after the attempted robbery on the Maylie house leaves the wounded Oliver in a ditch without thinking whether he'll live or die. Sikes is one of the most evil and dark characters in the novel and Dickens uses him to great effect to show the reader how bad crime is.

Mr Brownlow is the person who takes in Oliver after the pick pocketing incident. He is a kind hearted old gentleman who has complete trust in Oliver. He cares about Oliver's future like no other before him 'How should you like to grow up a clever man, and write books, eh? ' He is the person who devises the plan to capture Monks after Rose Maylie turns to him for help and forces a confession out of him. The way Oliver met him is a weak part of the story but the events that happen to Oliver that improve his happiness happen purely by good luck and chance, this shows some of Dickens's rushed attempts at writing.

With Mr Brownlow Dickens is trying to show the reader that every cloud has a silver lining. Mr Brownlow is part of Dickens's melodramatic writing to keep readers interested in the story. Mr Bumble should be kind as he works with the children of the workhouse but he is seen throughout the novel as a bully and then finally as a coward. He is a shallow character whose only concern is his status and his importance.

He is very impersonal and his special way of naming the child is that of an impersonal alphabetical system best described by himself,'… we name our fondlings in alphabetical order. The last was a S, – Swubble, I named him. This was T, – Twist, I named him. The next one that comes will be Uwin and the next Vilkins. I have got names ready made to the end of the alphabet, and all the way through again, when we come to Z' He is someone who enjoys having power over people who are less fortunate than himself or in worse circumstances than him, and enjoys abusing this power. With Mr Bumble, Dickens is showing how uncaring the people in the system are to the poor children.