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Oliver Twist- Great Expectations Essay, Research Paper

Perhaps the reason why these two novels share some of the same qualities is because theyboth reflect painful experiences which occurred in Dickens past. During his childhood,Charles Dickens suffered much abuse from his parents.1 This abuse is often expressed in hisnovels. Pip, in Great Expectations, talked often about the abuse he received at the hands ofhis sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery. On one occasion he remarked, “I soon found myself gettingheavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and havingmy face ignominously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions atsufficient length.”2While at the orphanage, Oliver from Oliver Twist also experienced a great amount of abuse.For example, while suffering from starvation and malnutrition for a long period of time,Oliver was chosen by the other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner onenight. After making this simple request, “the master (at the orphanage) aimed a blow atOliver s head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.”3The whole beginning of Oliver Twist s story was created from memories which related toCharles Dickens childhood in a blacking factory ( which was overshadowed by theMarshalsea Prison ).4 While working in the blacking factory, Dickens suffered tremendoushumiliation. This humiliation is greatly expressed through Oliver s adventures at theorphanage before he is sent away.Throughout his lifetime, Dickens appeared to have acquired a fondness for “the bleak, thesordid, and the austere.”5 Most of Oliver Twist, for example, takes place in London s lowestslums.6 The city is described as a maze which involves a “mystery of darkness, anonymity,and peril.”7 Many of the settings, such as the pickpocket s hideout, the surrounding streets,and the bars, are also described as dark, gloomy, and bland.8 Meanwhile, in GreatExpectations, Miss Havisham s house is often made to sound depressing, old, and lonely.Many of the objects within the house had not been touched or moved in many years.Cobwebs were clearly visible as well as an abundance of dust, and even the wedding dresswhich Miss Havisham constantly wore had turned yellow with age.9However, similarities are not just found in the settings. The novels two main characters, Pipand Oliver, are also similar in many ways. Both young boys were orphaned practically frombirth; but where Pip is sent to live with and be abused by his sister, Oliver is sent to live in anorphanage. Pip is a very curious young boy. He is a “child of intense and yearning fancy.”10Yet, Oliver is well spoken. Even while his life was in danger while in the hands of Fagin andBill Sikes, two conniving pickpockets, he refused to participate in the stealing which he sogreatly opposed. All Oliver really longed for was to escape from harsh living conditions andevil surroundings which he had grown up in.11 However, no matter how tempting the evilmay have been, Oliver stood by his beliefs.Therefore, he can be referred to as “ideal and incorruptible innocence.”12 “It is Oliver sself-generated and self-sustained love, conferred it would seem from Heaven alone, thatpreserves him from disaster and death.”13Unfortunately, many critics have found it hard to believe that a boy such as Oliver Twistcould remain so innocent, pure, and well spoken given the long period of time in which hewas surrounded by evil and injustices.14Pip, on the other hand, is a dreamer. His imagination is always helping him to createsituations to cover up for his hard times. For example, when questioned about his first visitto Miss Havisham s house, he made up along elaborate story to make up for the terrible timehe had in reality. Instead of telling how he played cards all day while being ridiculed andcriticized by Estella and Miss Havisham, he claimed that they played with flags and swordsall day after having wine and cake on gold plates.15 However, one special quality possessedby Pip that is rarely seen in a novel s hero is that he wrongs others instead of being hurt

himself all of the time.16Another similarity between Oliver and Pip is that they both have had interactions withconvicts. Fagin the head of a group of young thieves, spends most of his time trying to”demoralize and corrupt Oliver and prevent him from ever coming into his inheritance.”17To Oliver, he is seen as an escape from all previous misery. He also helps Oliver to ease anyfears about starvation and loneliness.18Just as Fagin is Oliver s means of escape, Magwitch, an escaped convict, is Pip s. However,as Fagin provides Oliver with an escape from misery, Magwitch tries to provide Pip with anescape from poverty by becoming his anonymous benefactor.Obviously, escape is an important theme in both Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Eventhough they both have different goals in mind, Pip and Oliver are seeking various forms ofescape from conditions which make them unhappy: Pip from his poverty, and Oliver fromhis loneliness and starvation.Since dealing with escapism, it is not surprising that death also plays a major role in bothstories. In the two novels, death and coffins symbolize a happy and peaceful manner ofescape.19 In Oliver Twist, it is suggested that only loneliness and brutality exist on earth.Supposedly, there is no sanctity on the planet, which is a belief that goes against the idea of aHeaven on earth.20Another important theme within the novel is the theme of the “two separate and conflictingdualisms: one, social, between the individual and the institution; the second, moral, betweenthe respectable and the criminal.”21 Most of Oliver Twist seems to imply that “it is better tobe a thief than to be alone.”22 This tends to make the reader think that Dickens favors thecriminal aspect of his novels over the moral side.However, the conflict between the individual and the institution leads to Dickens criticismof social injustices such as injustices towards the poor.23 Also in the form of satire, Dickensattempts to “challenge the pleasurability of fortune.”24Aside from satire, Dickens uses various other devices in writing these novels. one of the mostcommon is that of coincidence. For example, in Oliver Twist, Oliver just happened to endup, first, at the house of Mr. Brownlow, who at one time was a really good friend of Oliver sfather. Then, later on, Oliver ends up at Rose Maylie s house, who, as it turns out is his aunt.In Great Expectations, the use of coincidence is also noticeable. For instance, Pip finds outthat Magwitch and Molly, Mr. Jagger s servant, are the parents of Estella long after he firstmet them. Then, later on, Pip just happens to be visiting Satis House (Miss Havisham s oldhome) at the same time as Estella.”Written in abrupt, truncated chapters,” Oliver Twist took the form of a new type of Englishprose.25 Both Oliver Twist and Great Expectations depend heavily on the use of abstraction,or the avoidance of various facts.However, the novels each have their own form of narration. While Oliver Twist is written inthe third person, Great Expectations is in the first person.Therefore, in Oliver Twist, the reader gains a view of the story from the position of anonlooker or outsider. They form their own opinions about the characters from “watchingthem.”In contrast, when reading Great Expectations, the view is given through the character of Pip.So, since we only know about Pip s feelings and what he tells us, our opinions of the othercharacters are highly influenced by what he thinks of them.In conclusion, both books seem to have much in common such as feelings shared by themain characters, themes dealing primarily in social injustices, and various writing techniquessuch as the use of coincidental incidences and abstractions.However, they also differ greatly from one another. For example, Pip searches for moneywhile Oliver searches for security, and while Pip was raised in a home environment, Oliverwas raised in an orphanage. Yet, both books have a lot to offer society in terms of pointingout many problems which still exist today, such as child abuse and injustice to the poor. Inorder to conquer these evils, they must first be understood, and explaining the severity ofthese experiences seems to be a job which Charles Dickens is very good at.


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