Oliver Twist Symbolism Essay

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Urban Spaces in Oliver Twist The plot of Oliver Twist might be boiled down to an essential struggle between men and their environments.

Were it successful, only one fate can be possible, as is repeatedly shown, and that the gallows.

Another important characteristic of the urban setting, with which Dickens treats extensively, is its corrupted, governmental, earthly justice.

Its chief personifications are all corrupt; from the Bumbles and Manns who are corrupt in charity, to Fagin and Sikes who are corrupt in morality, to the live board and the magistrate of the court who are corrupt in justice. In the Dickensian style, she is so much a caricature of bureaucratic corruption, that she cannot be considered fully round. Bumble is a union of two like caricatures, a marriage of convenience attended by the bureaucratic expedience and corruption innate to these two. She is an extension of the setting in that she mirrors in personality and function, the labyrinthine illogic of the Poor Laws and houses.

This labyrinthine quality -- a complex of by-ways and laws -- is a recurring motif throughout the novel. He is a career criminal; he is cruel and violent; and by the story's end he is a murderer.and, though the reader travels through many settings in these pages, each a meta-character unto itself, perhaps the most important to Oliver Twist -- certainly the most important to its cautionary aims -- are the urban settings.Oliver is bustled through a progression of urban settings from the novel's onset, a scaling crescendo beginning in Mrs.Fagin is depicted, frequently, as a devil, perhaps the devil himself.He is a Jew -- and the anti-Semitic currents of the time associated Jews with the devil -- his hair is bright red, he is shown brandishing a tri-pronged fork; he is a corruptor, a beguiler, and when Oliver first escapes the clutches of the urban setting, by running away from the Sowerberrys', the urban setting responds by escalation.Oliver's response is always in accordance with his quintessentially good nature, although it is shown that the courts and bureaucracy of the system do not distinguish between "guilty" and "innocent" criminals, nor even between "good" and "bad" paupers.Oliver has been branded from birth with the preconception which that society had of the poor, and it is this preconception of itself which the urban setting works with to attempt to brand Oliver one of its own.The bureaucratic devils of the parish -- reminiscent of C. Lewis's Screwtape, more hateful than truly evil -- have proved ineffective, and a greater devil -- the devil, in fact -- is sent in to handle this particular case.Fagin's settings are his apartments, another place described as labyrinthine, with the entrance in an alley, and the visitors often going by labyrinthine paths to evade police on their way there.Mann's juvenile workhouse and climaxing on the "labyrinthine" streets of London.The moral corruption of these urban settings is a foil to Oliver's incorruptible nature; the prisons -- which are the workhouse, poverty, Fagin's gang, and even Middlesex itself -- attempt to trap and crush Oliver's better nature, leading him, against this nature, inexorably towards the true prison of Newgate and the ultimately the gallows outside.


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