Realism and social commentary

Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist blends genres including realism and satire to create a depiction of early 19th century England and its social systems. Dickens was determined to show poverty in England in a realistic and authentic way, giving readers an insight into the lives of poor people in a way that had rarely been seen in popular literature before. 

Dickens partly does this through setting the novel in a believable context, accurately describing the experience of living in a workhouse and also giving precise descriptions of Fagin’s London, naming specific streets as well as giving atmospheric details to show the poverty of many areas. A similar effect can be found in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Stevenson paints a similarly grim picture of Victorian London, showing how the very rich lived alongside the very poor and demonstrating how crime – from stealing to murder to prostitution – was widespread. 

However, Dickens also uses satire and comedy to criticize the workhouse system and to draw attention to the heartlessness and cruelty of the authorities who ran t...

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