Charles Dickens was born in February 7th 1812 during the rule of George III. His father had a poor head for finances, and in 1824 found himself imprisoned for debt. Charles Dickens was sent to work in a shoe-dye factory at a young age. This experience psychologically scarred him. This could have been one of the reasons why he felt so strongly about child labour. He gave an insight into his own experiences by writing about Oliver and about him working in the undertakers at this young age.
The phrase, “ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble” suggests his opinion of life at this time. He felt strongly about this, and wanted others to see the truth behind the blinds in which the church and government pulled over the publics’ eyes. He did this by doing what he did best; writing. Charles Dickens was a popular writer, so therefore he was very influential to his readers. He began serialising Oliver Twist in a magazine called Bentley’s Miscellany in 1837. He left cliff hangers at the end of each chapter so that he could serialise the novel, he made the readers want to find out what happened next, therefore Charles Dickens slowly lured them into the social comment he was making, so that they could see what was happening to people like Oliver.
Charles Dickens might have started his novel in a workhouse to suggest that this was one of the main focuses of the novel, the workhouse conditions. Oliver was born in a workhouse illegitimately. His mother was wealthy and had a high social status, yet he was shunned because he was born out of wedlock. The quote, “to be cuffed and buffeted through the world, despised by all, pitied by none” tells us how Oliver would’ve been treated, he would’ve been hated, and no-one would pity him. Charles Dickens wanted to tell people how terrible the Victorian laws were, by manifesting the mistreatment of Oliver because he was illegitimately born. Charles Dickens could not have changed the law so easily by himself but the public had the influences to change society and he appealed to them.
Charles Dickens created his characters so that the audience could relate to them. For example, Oliver’s mother was a woman of high status, but because of the illegitimacy involved, Oliver was not considered middle class but a lowlife, he was considered the lowest class in society. This would’ve captured the middle class people’s attention because they would see how even people of good birth can be treated badly because of the social rules of the time, and the fact that someone of their ‘class’ was mistreated so badly would make them feel sympathy for Oliver and consider whether the mistreatment of children like Oliver should be allowed. “If he could have known that he was an orphan, left to the tender mercies of churchwardens and overseers, perhaps he would’ve
cried more” might’ve appealed to the audience, maybe more to adults that have children because the thought of a child crying is something a parent would want to prevent from happening. If Oliver’s character was that of someone like the Artful Dodger, he would’ve appealed less, because the Artful Dodger did not have the innocence of Oliver. This was a strong way to spread his social message to the public.
The fact that Oliver said to the master “please, sir, I want some more” portrays his innocence and his hunger and when Charles Dickens wrote ,”the simple fact was, that Oliver, instead of possessing too little feeling, possessed rather too much”, he showed the innocence of Oliver’s personality. The fact that the terrible events that happened to him scarred him greatly and yet he still carried on, he had overcome the burden in his life and carried on, and this appealed to the audience even more.
I think that Charles Dickens not only set the novel in London but other places in England as well to show that it was not only London that had these problems, basically, Charles Dickens was making a social comment about England as a whole, showing that there were these problems all over England. I think he also based parts of Oliver’s life in the workhouse to show his readers how awful the workhouse conditions were and the harsh mistreatment that people of any age could receive.
The way Charles Dickens wrote his novel was an extremely effective way to catch his reader’s attention. He used Oliver’s innocence to appeal to the readers so that he can use their sympathy to aid him in his mission to change the social climate. He used his own experiences to make the effect more powerful. Charles Dickens disliked the way society was run. The workhouses, child labour, illegitimacy, injustice, all these he made comments on using his novel and using Oliver’s character as an example. He used his popularity to influence people with his opinions and his social comments. He wanted to capture his readers’ sympathy and use it to try and make the society a better place to live in, a place where everyone could be treated fairly and equally without discrimination.