, Oliver Twist, And Great Expectations Essay, Research Paper
Social Reform in Dickens
In Oliver Twist and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, both main characters refuse to except the poor hand the world has dealt them. Pip and Oliver reach a great epiphany in regards to social injustice, and in turn rebel against the system that oppresses them. They are tired of being mistreated and neglected, and thusly decide to make a stand. Charles Dickens exhibits to us through Oliver and Pip that the revolt of the weak against the strong results from the oppression of the rich caste. As a result of their revolt against the system, Pip and Oliver are ostracized for their non-conformist ideals. Thus change in an oppressing and conformist society can only be achieved through change in moral, social, and political instincts.
In both novels the main character faces abuse and neglect which result in rebellion and distancing of them from the society which chooses to hold them down. In Oliver Twist, Oliver receives a great amount of abuse through the orphanage. While suffering from starvation and malnutrition for a long period of time, Oliver is chosen by the other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner. After making this simple request, the master aimed a blow at Oliver s head with a ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle (16, ch. 2). This pain and neglect caused a change in Oliver. He realized that he must rebel against the society that wishes to oppress him, in order to truly start living. In Great Expectations, Pip receives a great deal of abuse at the hands of his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery. On one occasion I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face ignominiously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient length (12, ch. 2). This anguish inflicted by the hands of his sister resulted in Pip distancing himself from any ties with his family. Thus his independence grew as a direct result of the abuse he had faced.
In both novels the main characters have to escape from harsh living conditions and evil surroundings which in turn forces them to grow as individuals, and become independent from a conformist society. Oliver finds himself residing in an orphanage that is dark and sordid. As well he finds himself in London s lowest slums, such as the pickpockets hideout, the surrounding streets, and the bars, which are all described as dark, gloomy, and bland. The city is described as a maze which involves a mystery of darkness, anonymity, and peril (56, ch. 7). These horrific conditions do not keep Oliver down, but foster a need for growth inside him. Pip also is forced to live in conditions that are unattractive and unappealing. 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 dress, which Miss Havisham constantly wore, had turned yellow with age. Pip was forced to live in this lonely house that had been a product of an evil society. This left Pip wanting to change, he was unwilling to become like the place he had grown up in.
Another similarity between the two novels is the fact that both Oliver and Pip have been dealt a poor hand that does not allow for a meaningful existence. Since both characters are pure and innocent spirits the need for a real life results in their absolving themselves of their old lives. Oliver must live in an orphanage, which fosters hate and misery. Fagin, the head of the group of young thieves, spends most of his time trying to demoralize and corrupt Oliver, and prevent him from ever coming into his inheritance. To Oliver, he is seen as an escape from all the previous misery. However, no matter how tempting the evil may have been, Oliver stood by his beliefs. He was a boy of ideal and incorruptible innocence. The society that wished to hold him down ended up forcing him to grow as an important and integral individual. In Great Expectations, Pip also faces similar circumstances. The situation Pip wants to escape from is one of poverty. In this poverty exists only loneliness and brutality. Pip realizes that what he is trying to escape from is not the poor element of society, but the portion of society that would demean the poor element. The society that would inflict such pain and anguish upon such a pure and innocent boy. The people that wished to hurt and hold him down also change pip.
In conclusion, both books seem to have much in common, such as feelings shared by the main characters, as well as themes dealing primarily in social injustices. Both Pip and Oliver reach a point in which they have a realization about the society that has mistreated and neglected them. This epiphany results in a change in each characters direction in life. A change in moral, social, and political instincts occurs. It is the society that tries to press their conformist ideals upon them, that ends up being the stimulus needed for such great change.