In the book Oliver Twist 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 a criminal. He highlights the workhouses bought about in 1834 as a result of the poor law. 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 rather chose the life of crime that they live. Prostitution also portrayed as 'dirty and corrupted' from the Victorian view however Dickens tried hard to show prostitutes as victim. 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.
Oliver, who was orphaned at birth and left in a workhouse is the main character in the story; he is depicted as a nai?? ve young boy who is drawn into crime through desperation and a lack of knowledge of the London streets. Dickens depicts Oliver as a victim of neglect and drudgery who was not born into crime but draw into it through untrustworthy people such as Fagin, The Artful Dodger and Sikes who told him 'not to fret' and persuaded him to stay with Fagin the 'spectable old genelman'.
This behavior from Dodger shows that he is saying kind but dishonest words to Oliver to encourage him to stay in London with the pickpockets. Oliver's innocence is shows through irony, although Dickens is writing in third person he writes in way that shows Oliver's viewpoint which emphasizes the irony, for example when Oliver is with Fagin and the 'young gentlemen' he sees them as 'anxious' and 'obliging' to relieve him of his coat and possessions when they are really just stealing from him.
The reader is aware of this which enhances the irony of Oliver's innocent and trusting nature. Oliver is very quick trust and is a shy boy who allows other people to lead him along, he was 'grasped, pulled, and drew' not only into Fagin's home but into crime, and he has no control in the matter. Oliver doesn't have the strength or the confidence to break away from Fagin and crime. When Oliver met Jack he was shy and thought him 'a strange boy' however his view of him changed over time he became an inspiration to Oliver, a 'gentleman' and leader.
This language suggests that Jack took it upon himself to look out for Oliver. As a result of this Oliver sees it as Jack is looking after him and wants to look out for him however it is clear to the reader that Oliver is once again being nai?? ve and Jack is really just being ordered by Fagin to train Oliver into a pickpocket. Not all criminal are born criminal, many are drawn into crime and can't break free even if they wanted. The young children have no choice because they are desperate and have no food, money or shelter.
Dickens is suggesting that crime is an act of desperation. Nancy is a prostitute in the novel however Dickens portrays her as a victim rather than the Victorian view as a corrupted and dirty prostitute however it is clear to the reader she is a Godly woman who has a conscience and acts upon it. Nancy is clearly a woman who believes in God as she says phrases such as "so help me God" when she is betraying Sikes and Fagin to Rose Maylie. To the reader it shows that Nancy has morals and is able to sometimes pull away from her trapped life as a prostitute.
Nancy is aware that she is a branded criminal who people 'shrink openly from' but she still has a dream of throwing her cares away and live a life much like Rose Maylie's. In this sense she is very nai?? ve as it seems impossible for someone to just break free of the crime in London however she tries to nurture the childish dream of running away and starting a new life. When Nancy is talking to Rose she admits that she is a criminal and that the 'poorest women fall back' but she feels older than she really is and is unable to breakaway from being a criminal.
When Bill found out that Nancy had betrayed them Bill was very violent, Nancy pleaded with him to 'spare my life, for the love of heaven, as I spared yours'. Here Nancy was very vulnerable and still pleaded on God's name for her life. Nancy is scared of Bill all the time but she still loves him and cannot leave him, in this situation he is again unsure ad afraid that the person she has loved I trying to kill her.
Dickens is trying to show that although prostitutes are seen as dirty and corrupted they are often sweet Christian girls like Nancy who have used prostitution to make a living in London and if given a chance would be wholesome and virtuous. Dickens shows the stereotypical view of a greedy Jew through Fagin; he is portrayed as a devil that chooses a life of exploiting young boys and crime. Fagin corrupts the young boys at his house by treating them as young gentlemen and letting them 'smoke long clay pipes and drinking spirits with the air of middle aged men'.
Fagin is letting these small boys live like men and not children, Dickens could be trying to show that Fagin himself was abandoned and raised by a stranger as a child and it is all he knows. Regardless of that Fagin is corrupting these boys and turning them into exactly what the Victorians expect. Young children who scrounge and beg from the streets and ruin peoples trade by thieving. In the novel Fagin is shown as a 'very old shriveled Jew' with 'matted red hair, bare throat, a greasy flannel gown and is holding 'a toasting fork'.
All these attributes give the impression that Fagin is a devil with red hair and a trident. It shows he is untrustworthy and evil who is sending people to hell. In the novel Fagin is portrayed as someone who likes to stir rumors and gossip, he likes to annoy people and cause trouble. He successfully does this when Nancy goes to Rose. He hints that she betrayed them to Sikes, knowing full well how Sikes will react. He says 'tell about – NANCY' to attract Bill's attention, he uses this to mock people and gets them into trouble.
It emphasizes his devil like and malicious personality. Fagin is depicted as the devil of the novel, Dickens goes along with the Victorian view of a Jew and sculpts Fagin around it. He is trying to show that although most criminals shouldn't fit into the stereotype some do and people should be wary of them. Bill Sikes is portrayed as the real villain in Oliver Twist, he is a thuggish criminal who is violent and often takes advantage of others, and he chooses his life of crime and enjoys it.
Like Fagin, Sikes is shows as an animal or something that is evil and corrupted. Sikes is often described with a 'heaving chest' and 'savage resolution'. This shows characteristics of an animal with a savage nature, the language indicates that Dickens is trying to show the fact that Bill is not only a criminal he is a mean criminal who has no compassion or thoughts for anyone. In comparison he thinks about himself a lot, and concentrates on not getting caught rather than what he is actually doing.
When Sikes is murdering Nancy, Dickens uses vocabulary such as dragged, hurled, and struggled; these words imply anger and brutality. Sikes uses his violence to take control of people and this amplifies the Victorian view of a criminal. In Sikes character Dickens is trying to suggest that there are some vicious and dangerous criminal in London that people should be wary of. Sikes is a leader of the criminal underworld and is helping to trap innocent and nai?? ve young boys.