Book Review of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
One of the most popular works of a great novelist, Oliver Twist is the purest distillation of Charles Dickens’s genius.
Oliver Twist was an unfortunate boy who was born into a life of poverty and misfortune in a workhouse in 1830s England, orphaned almost from his first breath by his mother’s death in childbirth and his father’s unexplained absence. This poor boy was a juvenile offender against the poor laws. The poor laws, in the 1830s England, was a special law that was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by the Whig government of Lord Melbourne that reformed the country's poverty relief system. It classified poor or dependent people into three major categories and established a requirement for “residency” before aid was provided. In effect, the poor laws separated the poor into two classes: the worthy for example orphans, widows, handicapped and frail elderly and the unworthy for example drunkards, shiftless and lazy. Oliver, obviously, was grouped into the worthies. The parish authority sent him to a workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders rolled about the floor each day. There Oliver spent the first nine years of his miserable life under the 'care' of a woman named Mrs. Mann. Oliver was brought up with little food and few comforts. Around the time of Oliver's ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble, a parish beadle, removed Oliver from the baby farm and put him to work picking oakum at the main workhouse. And that was the beginning of the nightmare for Oliver Twist.
Moving to the main workhouse was no better. Oliver stayed in the place for six months. One day, the desperately hungry boys decided to draw lots, and the loser had to ask for another portion of gruel. The task fell to Oliver, who at the next meal tremblingly came forward, a bowl in hand, and made his famous request: "Please, sir, I want some more."
In Oliver’s wretched life, he met a lot of people, including some of the most sinister characters, the master thief Fagin; the leering Artful Dodger; the murderer Bill Sikes along with many other sentimental and comical characters. Anyhow, Oliver had pulled through the hard times. When he was under the supervision of the master thief Fagin, he was caught by the police, and taken to court. The victim of the pickpocketing, Mr. Brownlow, took pity on him and took him into his own home to help the boy recover from an illness. At last, Bill Sikes died then Fagin was captured and he was sentenced to death by hanging. And Oliver lived happily without any more problems with his aunt. The other boys who worked in the pickpocket business with Fagin had run away. It was a happy ending. The justice was served and the good lived happily.
Oliver’s life is really miserable and unfair. In the story, he was accused as a juvenile offender against the “poor- laws”. What is “Poor- laws”? It is the policies and practices of aiding the poor current in England. The English poor laws classified poor and the dependent people into three major categories and established a requirement for “residency” before aid was provided. Dependent persons were categorized as: vagrant, the involuntary unemployed and the helpless. In effect, the poor laws separated the poor into two classes: the worthy for example orphans, widows, handicapped and, frail elderly and the unworthy for example drunkards, shiftless and lazy. The poor laws also set down the means for dealing with each category of needy persons and established the parish for example local government as the responsible agent for administering the law. Parish officials were given the authority to raise taxes as needed and use the funds to build and manage almshouses; to supply food and sustenance in their own homes for the aged and the handicapped for example blind, crippled; and to purchase materials necessary to put the able-bodied to work. If vagrants or able-bodied persons refused to work they could be put in jail.
Back to poor Oliver, his history contains a lot of laughter, tears, anger
Most remarkable memory in my opinion is when Noah Claypole insulted Oliver’s dead mother, that’s was when little Oliver finally release his rage and tried to strangle Noah, but ended up being beaten by Noah, Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry. This was so unfair to Oliver, at the same time I really admire the braveness of Oliver to stand up for his very own mother.
I think that this story has clearly express the huge gap between the rich and the poor in England at that time. And I think the poor are very pitiful. The unfairness in the country at that time is really repulsive.
Charles Dickens has done a great job on satirize the system of the society at that time. He attacked English institutions with a ferocity that has never since been approached. Yet, he managed to do this without making himself hated; also, he had used a lot of sarcasm and interesting adjectives. And that I really admire this writer a lot.
Not only in 1830s England. The problem of discrimination to the poor still existed nowadays. Lots of rich people still think that the poor people are lower than them and they often look down on them. I hope this kind of attitude will disappear one day and let us live in a fair and harmonious society. In conclusion, Oliver Twist is a novel of social protest, a morality tale, and also an interesting detective story that includes laughter, tears and anger. Through Oliver’s story, I hope everybody will respect each other and live in an impartial, harmonious and friendly world.