Message

Through his novel Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens intends to promote a strong message about poverty in English society in the early 19th century. 

One of Dickens’ key aims is to give a realistic depiction of what it is like to be poor in England in the 1830s. Before Oliver Twist, very few novels had tried to show the lives of poor people in an authentic way. Dickens, therefore, helps his readers to understand and to feel sympathy for the lives of people in poverty, encouraging a broader change in attitude towards the poor. 

In particular, Dickens attempts to reveal the horrors of the workhouses and the heartlessness of the authorities running them. He shows that poor people are not helped but pushed further into illness and poverty by the workhouses. Some people’s only alternative is “being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it” (Chapter 2, 73%).

In this way, Dickens also challenges Victorian prejudices against the poor. He shows that the poor receive little help and often fall into poverty through no fault of their own. Similarly, Dickens also shows that poor people are sometimes forced to turn to a life of crime in order to survive, as they have...

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