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What Do You Consider To Be Dickens' Intention In The First 4 Chapters Of 'Oliver Twist'?

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In this essay I will try to convey my thoughts on what Dickens' intentions were throughout the first four chapters of "Oliver Twist".

Dickens' intentions are made clear by using chapter headings. These were the episodic titles when he released the story to the public every month. The headings convey what happens in that chapter in a few short words.

"Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born, and of the circumstances attending to his birth".

The story begins with Oliver being born and after he gave

"This first proof of the free and proper action of his lungs,"

his mother died, and he was left alone in the world to become a child of the workhouse...

Dickens' intention here is to use dramatic irony and the reader knows more than the character. The audience are meant to identify strongly with Oliver.

As Dickens' develops the story, he adds his own opinions and comments, about the state of society in the Victorian times, and his disgust at the political side of life, which allows for the building of the workhouse, but not the need of constant updates of the characters inside the workhouse.

In chapter one, Dickens begins to lead us forward into Oliver's life. Firstly, the death of Oliver's mother is briefly acknowledged, but in great detail. The surgeon and the nurse treat it as no big thing, and the surgeon goes off to have dinner. The nurse,

"...having once more applied herself to the green bottle, sat down before the fire and proceeded to dress the infant."

In chapter two, Oliver is sent to Mrs. Mann's 'Baby Farm' where she

"...received the culprits at and for the consideration of seven-pence half-penny per small head per week."

At the same time, an experimental philosopher was trying to get his own horse to live on nothing, and got him down to eating one straw a day,

"...and would have unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air."

When Mr. Bumble visits Mrs. Mann, she hastily invites him in and offers him something of the alcoholic kind, being Gin. But Mr. Bumble refuses it,

"...not a drop, not a drop."

The relationship between Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Mann is funny on one level, but serious on another level.

We then find out that Oliver Twist was named so because Mr. Bumble had took it upon himself to do it.

".... The last was a S, - Swubble, I named him. This was a T, - Twist, I named him...."

Mr. Bumble takes Oliver from Mrs. Mann's on his 9th birthday, and back to the workhouse, where Oliver is taken before a table of gentlemen and told what he would be doing. A surly man in a white waistcoat speaks up. "So you'll begin picking oakum tomorrow morning at six o' clock," he says to Oliver.

When Oliver and he other boys sit down for their dinner, Oliver does the unthinkable and asks for more. For this he is punished by being put in solitary confinement.

"....and drawing himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even it's cold hard surface were a protection in the gloom and loneliness which surrounded him."

Dickens' use of descriptive language here is very powerful. The reader is able to 'see' Oliver, and 'feel' the lonliness because Dickens puts so much detailing into his work.The next morning, Mr. Gamfield, the chimney sweep rides down the high street and stops at the workhouse gates and reads the bill, which declares there is a boy for sale, and Ј5.00 will be given to the person who takes him. Said boy, is, of course, Oliver Twist. When Mr. Gamfield inquires about Oliver, he is refused permission to take him, as he wants to use him as an apprentice to clean chimneys, which the board thinks is a nasty trade. When Oliver is brought in, he breaks down in tears. "Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayed that they would order him back to the dark room - that they would starve him - beat him - kill him if they pleased - rather than send him away with that dreadful man." And they do. "Take the boy back to the workhouse and treat him kindly - he seems to want it,"

But then, the parish undertaker, Mr.Sowerberry, buys Oliver for five pounds. He chats to Mr.Bumble about his new button on his coat. "You know - dear me, what a very elegant button this is, Mr. Bumble - I never noticed it before," Mr. Bumble then explains that he was awarded it for being a good Samaritan, when in fact all he did was turn a poor man away from the workhouse because he was too lazy to open the door. He then says he first wore it to the inquest of the man's death. Mr. Sowerberry then takes Oliver to the undertakers, where he shows him to his wife, but she doesn't like him. "Dear me! He's very small." She then physically expresses her distaste of parish children. 'And pushed Oliver down a steep flight of stairs into a stone cell, damp and dark,' where he has his dinner - the dog's dinner! He then goes back upstairs where he is taken to his bed - a shelf under the counter in a roomful of coffins, some empty, some 'occupied'.

People in Charles Dickens' generation would have been curious to know about life in the workhouse because although there would have been rumours, people would have never actually been inside. Middle classes would be quite surprised at the actual conditions in the workhouse, because they would have probably never been connected to anyone who has gone into the workhouse. Dickens gives information to make the readers familiar with the conditions by giving references to things that go on outside the workhouse in the reader's world.

The modern reader doesn't know anything about the workhouse before they read the book, so it's a surprise to them what really goes on there, and what happens to Oliver when he's just been born is also a shock; the way he is treated and handled.

The reader's curiosity is aroused because Dickens never really explains the identity of the mother, and just leaves to the reader to imagine and invent the identity of Oliver's



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