Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

Historical and Cultural Context

Oliver Twist is a novel by Charles Dickens that was published in 1838. It tells the story of an orphan boy who faces many hardships as he tries to survive on the streets of London. To understand the historical and cultural context of Oliver Twist, we need to look back at the early 19th century in Britain.

At the time when Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Britain was going through a period of great change. The Industrial Revolution had transformed the country's economy, leading to the growth of cities and towns and the development of new industries. This rapid change had its downside, however, as many people were left jobless and struggling to make ends meet.

The plight of the poor was a major concern in Victorian England, and Dickens was one of the writers who drew attention to it through his novels. In Oliver Twist, he portrays the harsh realities of life for the poor and the exploitation they faced at the hands of the wealthy.

The novel also reflects the prevailing attitudes of the time towards crime and punishment. The early 19th century was a time of great social upheaval, and the authorities were struggling to maintain law and order. The harsh penalties for even minor offenses, such as stealing a loaf of bread, were seen as necessary to deter people from committing crimes.

Dickens was critical of this approach and used Oliver Twist to highlight the need for reform of the criminal justice system. He also criticized the workhouse system, which was supposed to provide relief for the poor but was often harsh and degrading.

A. The country was going through a period of great change due to the Industrial Revolution.

B. The country was experiencing political stability and prosperity.

C. The country was isolated from the rest of the world.

D. The country was fighting a war with Japan.

A. The poor were not working hard enough.

B. The poor were not educated enough.

C. The poor were not provided with adequate living conditions.

D. The poor were too powerful and needed to be controlled.

A. It was too easy on criminals.

B. It was too harsh on criminals.

C. It was full of too many women judges.

D. It was too expensive to maintain.

A. It provided them with good living conditions and opportunities.

B. It helped them find employment and improve their lives.

C. It was harsh and did not provide enough.

D. It was a source of comfort and support for the poor.

DISCUSSION: How is Oliver Twist still relevant today?

Further reading