Oliver Twist was orphaned when his mother died shortly after childbirth and was moved from orphanage, to a workhouse, and to an apprenticeship. Each place he was treated appallingly. In a particularly fearful moment, Oliver runs away and makes his way to London. There he falls in with a band of thieves.
With biting social commentary, it's obvious how Dickens feels about the treatment of the poor during this time period. Based on his background, having been in a workhouse himself, it's understandable why he feels so strongly. His insights into humanity are spot on, and he doesn't limit his criticism to the wealthy. Noah, a charity-boy (slightly above an orphan), was pleased at the fortune of having Oliver around so that he finally had someone to torment, as he had been tormented. The narrator sarcastically remarks,
This affords charming food for contemplation. It shows us what a beautiful thing human nature sometimes is, and how impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lord and the dirtiest charity-boy.It's angering to read about how the orphans were treated as almost sub-human. Mr. Bumble even remarks that, "What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It's quite enough that we let 'em have live bodies." Uh! How awful!
On a lighter note, I love Dickens' humor and sarcasm. I found it amusing that Mr. Bumble, one of the most despicable characters in his treatment of others, was proudly wearing his buttons displaying the scene of "The Good Samaritan." Mr. Grimwig created some great comedic moments with his ridiculous, "I'll eat my head!" mantra.
The scene in Mr. Brownlow's study when Oliver is marveling at his books is one of my favorites. At one point Mr. Brownlow says to Oliver,
You shall read them if you behave well...and you will like that much better than looking at the outsides--that is, in some cases, because there are books of which the backs and the covers are by far the best parts.To which Oliver replies, "I suppose they are those heavy ones, sir." I got a chuckle out of that.
I've read a few other Dickens' novels and really loved them. I'm sort of on the fence about this one. There are some shining moments. I'm interested, but not invested (if that even makes sense). I'm hoping that the next section will really pull me in.
In a bit a randomness, my six-year-old received an assignment this past weekend to choose a famous Victorian person or invention and share it with the class. When I asked him what he wanted to do he said, "Do you know Charles Dickens? He's a writer." He was amazed that we had several of his books at home and that I was currently reading one. He did his little report yesterday on Dickens' 199th birthday and he thought that was pretty cool. We discovered that Dickens is buried at Westminster Abbey, and since we're heading to London on holiday next week so we will be sure to make a stop there.