Moralvalues in “OliverTwist”by Charles dickens
Moralvalues in “OliverTwist”by Charles Dickens
“OliverTwist”is a book by one of the English greatest novelist, Charles Dickens.Dickens conceived the book in the year 1837 as a critique of thePoor Law of 1834 in England. The author attacked the decomposingmorals of the society and law in the form of writing, since he feltthat it worsened the plight of many poor people and, in “OliverTwist,” showed several ways in which this could happen. Therefore,Dickens addresses major social conflicts and struggles between therich, who held positions of power, and the poor and working class whofought for economic justice. On the other hand, the book isrepresentations of the need for moral values based on the author’sbelieve that people should not be oppressed, that every persondeserves a chance, and the need to abolish the oppressive law. Thestory offers a contradiction central to bourgeois consciousness,which embraces conventional bourgeois ethics and demoralizes andsuppresses the awareness of the harsh social realities. Therefore,this research paper will focus on the conflicting morals between thesociety and social reality in relation to poverty, childhoodinnocence, as well as, the transcendental moral values which thatinnocence embodies.
Oliver,as the book’s central character, is used a perfect vehicle toexplore important moral issue and values in the English society. Fromthe story, it is evident that the society uses various stereotypesfor the poor in the society by claiming that the poor are bad frombirth and that they have a connection to their hereditarytraits. Some characters such as Mr. Sowerberry and Mr. Grimwigdespise the poor children in the society and claim that they bornrobbers and murders (Dicken, 1992). More so, these group of peoplehold that the poor have no destiny other than to live livesof desperation and degradation. For instance, although Mr. Bumble isa representation of the church, he is obsessed with materials thingsand wealth, and at some point attempts to apprentice Oliver to anabusive chimney sweeper (Dickens, 2012). According to Dickens, thesecharacters represent greed, moral decay and everything that is wrongwith the middle-class is the society
Onthe other hand, Dicken’s characterization Mr. Brownlow and Mrs.Maylie portrays a direct contradiction of the above characters whodespise the poor children. The charity that succeeds in the story isthe generosity of Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Maylie. Mr. Brownlow’s loveand kindness saves Oliver, as he is portrayed as a man who makes surehim is well-schooled. For this reason, Mr. Brownlow is arepresentation of the morally upright people in the society, andthe rightful justice, the kind which is not possible in the corruptsystem of the time. In addition, the characterization of Mrs. Marlie,a wealthy old woman, shows that she has a generous spirit. The oldwoman rescues an orphan, Rose, and raises her as her own daughter,despite the stain on her name circulated by Mr.Leeford.
Anothercommon source of moral conflict is the justice system, which isportrayed by the author though wit and satire. The author introducesthe readers to a magistrate who is drunk in the courtroom.Furthermore, it is also apparent that pickpocketing among otherscrimes considered petty had gone unchecked and unpunished. For thisreason, the crime rates continued to soar. For this reason, Dickensviewed that the justice system could only be restored through reformsand the responsibility of the law to punish and disciplinewrongdoers.
Onthe other hand, Dickens views that justice supports morality andtruth. This is evident seen through the character Charles Bates, askills pickpocket and esteemed Fagin’s gang members, portrays apersonal sense of moral conscience. As a representation of moralconscience in the story, Bates yields to reforms through his defianceto Sikes. He betrays Sikes after realizing the evils and wickednessin Sikes, which eventually turn him towards reform. Conversely,immorality is personified in characters such as Bill Sikes. Sikes wasraised on the streets and he is one of the well known, unspeakableevil people (Collins, 1965). He is a sensational criminal, who by theend of the story kills an innocent girl, and even though haunted byhis actions, is not sorry for his actions. This character representsa lack of moral consciousness, as he also refuses legal reforms andchooses to die on his own hand rather than turn himself in to thepolice.
Inconclusion, Dickens’ novel clearly presents two opposing forces,the evil and moral darkness encompassing a developing society andthe need to fight for redemption. Most importantly, the author pointsout the differences by acknowledging the errors of the society, andthe hypocrisy of religious institutions, and the failing judicialsystem. With a clear image of the impending moral and evil darkness,readers are enlightened on the need for reforms to fight criminalactivity, advocate for human rights, eradicate poverty and increasesocial and economic equality.
Collins,P. Dickensand Crime.London: Macmillan. 1965. pp.2
Dickens,C. OliverTwist.Illus. George Cruikshank. London: Wordsworth. 1992. pp.334
Dickens,C. OliverTwist in Plain and Simple English (Includes Study Guide, CompleteUnabridged Book, Historical Context, Biography and Char.Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.