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The Victorian Compromise, Charles Dickens: life and works; Oliver Twist: plot, themes, characters; "Oliver wants some more" analysis

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THE VICTORIAN COMPROMISE
The Victorian period was a time of contradiction, often referred to as the Victorian Compromise:
on the one hand th

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THE VICTORIAN COMPROMISE
The Victorian period was a time of contradiction, often referred to as the Victorian Compromise:
on the one hand th

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THE VICTORIAN COMPROMISE
The Victorian period was a time of contradiction, often referred to as the Victorian Compromise:
on the one hand th

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THE VICTORIAN COMPROMISE
The Victorian period was a time of contradiction, often referred to as the Victorian Compromise:
on the one hand th

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THE VICTORIAN COMPROMISE The Victorian period was a time of contradiction, often referred to as the Victorian Compromise: on the one hand there was the progress brought about by the Industrial Revolution, the rising wealth of the upper and middle classes and the expanding power of Britain and its empire; On the other hand there was the poverty, disease, deprivation and injustice faced by the working classes. The change brought about by the Industrial Revolution was rapid: towns and cities grew at an incredible pace as new factories and industries were started and thousands of people moved to the cities for work. The inventions, developments and new industries showed how advanced the country was and how it was a world power. The upper classes continued to prosper and the middle classes had the possibility to improve themselves and their fortunes. Under Queen Victoria's reign the values of the Church, family and home were fundamental. ● The family unit was based around the authoritarian father, with the mother in a submissive role. ● Morality and respectability were key, and society became almost puritanical. ● Monuments and buildings were constructed to celebrate civic identity and pride. Philanthropy and charity were important, so libraries, wash houses and swimming baths were also built to allow members of the working classes to improve themselves. However,...

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in reality, this was hardly possible. The mortality rate, disease and deprivation faced by the working classes in Victorian towns and cities across the country were some of the worst in the civilized world. ● People were forced to live in overcrowded rooms, in degraded slums with a lack of hygiene. ● Young children were forced to work, for example in textile mills, mines and as chimney sweeps, and poverty and debt were considered crimes to be punished with imprisonment. It is clear that the morals, beliefs and values of the Victorians were not reflected in the reality of the society around them. Nonetheless, this contradiction meant many reformers fought to improve and change conditions for the working and lower classes, particularly in areas such as health and education. CHARLES DICKENS HIS LIFE: Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812. He had an unhappy childhood. His father was imprisoned for debt and at the age of twelve he was sent to work in a blacking factory. When his father was released, he was sent to a school in London. At fifteen, he found employment as an office boy at a lawyer's office. By 1832 he had become a very successful reporter of parliamentary debates in the House of Commons and began to work as a reporter for a newspaper. In 1833 his first story appeared and in 1836 he adopted the Pen Name publishing a collection of articles and tales describing Londo people and scenes. was immediately followe by The Pickwick Papers, which was published in installments and revealed Dickens's humoristic and satirical qualities. After the success of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens started a full-time career as a novelist and produced work of increasing complexity at an incredible rate. Oliver Twist was begun in 1837 and continued until April 1839. In 1842 he embarked on a visit to Canada and the United States speaking out in favour of international copyright and the abolition of slavery. Dickens had a photographic memory of people and events in his childhood, which he used in his autobiographical novels Oliver Twist (1838), David Copperfield (1850) and Little Dorrit (1857), whose protagonists became the symbols of an exploited childhood. Other works include Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854) and Great Expectations (1861), dealing with social issues such as the conditions of the poor and the working class in general. Dickens died in 1870 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. SETTING: London was the setting for most of Dickens's novels. Dickens always seemed to have something new to say about the city and showed an intimate knowledge of it. He was aware of the spiritual and material corruption of daily reality under the impact of industrialisation and the result was an increasingly critical attitude towards his society. In fact, in his mature works Dickens succeeded in drawing popular attention to public abuses, evils and wrongs of the city. CHARACTERS: Dickens shifted the social frontiers of the novel: the 18th-century upper-middle-class world was replaced by one of the lower orders. He was the creator of characters and caricatures who live immortally in the English imagination. His aim was to arouse the reader's interest by exaggerating his characters' habits and the language of the London middle and lower classes. He was always on the side of the poor, the outcast and the working class. Children are often the most important characters in Dickens's novels. There are a lot of instances of good, wise children in contrast with worthless parents and other grown-ups. The novelist's ability lay both in making his readers love his children and putting them forward as models of the way people ought to behave to one another. DIDACTIC AIM: Dickens's task was never to get the most wronged and suffering to rebel, or even encourage discontent, but to make the ruling classes aware of the social problems. STYLE: Dickens employed the most effective language and accomplished the most graphic and powerful descriptions of life and character ever attempted by any novelist. He did so with his careful choice of adjectives, repetitions, words and structures, juxtapositions of images and ideas, hyperbolic and ironic remarks. OLIVER TWIST: Oliver Twist is a poor boy of unknown parents; he is brought up in a workhouse in an inhuman way. He is later sold to an undertaker as an apprentice, but the cruelty and the unhappiness he experiences with his new master causes him to run away to London. There he falls into the hands of a gang of young pickpockets, led by the Artful Dodger and trained by the elderly Fagin, who try to make a thief out of him. One day, Oliver is taken to witness a theft by the gang. Mr Brownlow, the victim, is stricken by Oliver's ragged appearance and after learning more about the boy, decides to take him into his home. Oliver is eventually kidnapped by the gang and forced to commit a burglary; during the job, he is shot and wounded. He is then adopted by Mr Brownlow and at last receives kindness and affection. Investigations are made about who Oliver really is and it is discovered that he has noble origins. In the end, the gang leaders and Oliver's half-brother, who paid the thieves in order to ruin Oliver and have their father's property all for himself, are arrested. LONDON LIFE: The most important setting of the novel is London, which is shown on three different social levels. ● ● The parochial world of the workhouse: The People running the workhouses belong to the lower-middle-class strata of society. They are calculating and insensible to the feelings of the poor; The criminal world: Poverty drives people to crime. Pickpockets and murderers are depicted. They live in squalid slums which blacken the soul and change it forever. In fact, they live in a state of fear and generally die a miserable death; The world of the middle class: Respectable middle-class people are portrayed. They show a regard for moral values and believe in the principle of human dignity. THEMES: This novel was written to attack the cruelty of institutions, like the workhouse, and of individuals towards poor children, who are presented as either innocent or corrupted by adults. Childhood and the terrible effects of poverty on an individual's life are the other important themes in Oliver Twist. At Dickens's time, lots of poor children who escaped an early death were obliged either to work in factories and mines or as domestic servants and chimney sweepers. Others became criminals. Therefore, crime is also at the center of Oliver Twist. OLIVER WANTS SOME MORE This is a pass taken from the II chapter of the novel Oliver Twist. The text can be divided into three parts: the introduction (vv. 1-22), the fact (vv. 23-39) and the reaction (vv. 40-67). ● ● The introduction describes the condition of Oliver and his friends, obliged to suffer a slow starvation for three months. But one boy, tall for his age, threatened some night to eat the boy who slept next him! A council was held, and someone had to ask the master for more food: it fell to Oliver Twist. The second part, the fact, is described in a very precise way: Dickens describes the moment of the dinner, each character and his role, and then describes Oliver's feeling. "Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery". The last part, the reaction. This request has shocked the master, paralysed the assistants with wonder and the boys with fear. To judge this great form of "rebellion" a board was organized in a solemn conclave and everyone believed that he would be hanged or something like that. At the end the director of the workhouse, Mr. Limbkins decided to offer a reward of five pounds to "anybody who would take Oliver Twist off the hands of the parish." The former is the description of the room where the boys stayed, "a large stone hall, with a copper at one end", so a very poor and cold room. The latter is about boys and their condition: Dickens makes a very detailed description of the hunger children, obliged to a "slow starvation for three months", or the voracity of a boy that threatened "to eat the first boy who slept next him". With this description he wants to show to the reader the terrible condition of life in the workhouses, and he wants to arouse pity in the reader. Dickens uses the external and omniscient narrator, in accord to the role of commenting on the story events. The novelist had to be external to the story to have the possibility to judge each happening and decide if it is "wrong" or "good". So the narrator, in his description, is pity for the children, and he stresses and mocks the adults' reaction: for a simple request of a hungry child, it had been assembled as a "solemn conclave" and Oliver had been offered to anybody who wants to take him.