How did Charles Dickens create sympathy for the protagonist in the opening four chapters of Oliver Twist?
Sympathy is often defined as a feeling or an expression of pity or sorrow for the distress of another. It is noted that Charles Dickens quite frequently applied various techniques to evoke from potential readers, the feeling of sympathy for the protagonist Oliver, in the book ‘_Oliver Twist_’.
The novel pursues the life of a fictional character called, the obvious ‘Oliver Twist’. From the very beginning, attracting the sympathy of the reader is accomplished as Dickens commences with Oliver’s destitute mother arriving, heavily pregnant at a parish workhouse. Not long after arriving ...view middle of the document...
As if the conditions of the workhouse were not appalling enough, families were often separated upon entering the workhouse. Dickens’ own depiction and opinion of the workhouses were often representedthrough the experiences of the character, Oliver. For example, we saw in the very first chapter where Dickens described how the children were neglected and starved.
_‘…had contrived to exist upon the smallest portion of the weakest possible food… the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world.’_
Literary history saw evident that Oliver Twist was not the only novel which Dickens used to unveil the inequality and social evils towards the poor. Other novels included ‘_A Christmas Carol’, ‘Great Expectations’ and’ A Tale of Two Cities.’_ The question as to whether Oliver would have been better off if his mother had lived became non-existent, as mothers were also often separated from their children. The general assumption could be made that Oliver’s situation was not unique to this time in history, as a matter of a fact; Oliver was just another item in the ‘supermarket’ of Victorian society. Oliver being a child of the system, as mentioned before, had had presumed a bleak future ahead of him which is evident on page 3.
‘…he was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble.’
The Poor Law of 1834 was supposedly created to provide public relief and support for those victims to poverty. Prior to the introduction of the poor law, the underprivileged were treated and regarded as burdens of the English society. The purpose of the poor law was so for these opinions and views of higher classes to modify however, this change of mind didn’t occur, in the opinion of Dickens himself. Dickens actually quoted about the poor law ‘…which under its many forms ended thoroughly demoralizing people… we hear the laborers described as lazy, mutinous and imperious to overseers. The whole character of people was lowered by the admission that they had a right to relief independent of work’. In simpler forms, Dickens own opinion of the poor law was that it was indeed a ‘poor’ law and did not aid the demolition of the social stigma attached to the poor at all. The general opinion of those belonging to higher classes was that the poor deserved to be poor; supposedly that it was a punishment. Consequently, the workhouses were knowingly made as miserable as possible. This again, reveals that Oliver was not alone in the suffering for the duration of his early life.
Despite the fact Mrs. Mann lacked the all important maternal instinct; it was only a small fraction of unfortunate events in Oliver’s first eight years of life. His early years consisted of survival as he, and many other individuals suffered from ill-treatment, neglect and starvation – all of which became evident in chapter 2.
_‘… Contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food... it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or...