Give the Character Sketch of Oliver in Dickens’ Novel Oliver Twist

Give the Character Sketch of Oliver in Dickens' Novel "Oliver Twist"

Oliver Twist  Character Analysis

In
his preface to the third edition of Oliver Twist, Dickens says “I
wished to show in little Oliver the principle of Good surviving through every
adverse circumstances and triumphing at last.”
As the child hero of a
melodramatic novel of social protest, Oliver Twist is meant to appeal more to
our sentiments than to our literary sensibilities. If we appreciate Oliver, it
is the propensity towards always being good and if we sympathise with him, it
is for his being a deprived and orphan child.
Oliver,
an orphan boy
(son of Edwin Leeford and Agnes Flemming) is the kiddie protagonist
of the novel. A dear, grateful, gentle child who “instead of possessing too little
feeling, possessed rather too much.”
He is also a link among three
different worlds depicted in the novel – the workhouse, the crime world, and
the world of the genteel middle class people. He is therefore more a symbol than
a fully individualised character. In the opening sentence of the novel Dickens
describes him as an “item of morality”. Dickens wanted to make him an instrument of
exposing the inhumanity and the callousness of the workhouse and the underworld
during the Victorian Era. He belongs to the class to which Huckleberry Finn and
Becky Sharp belong. He is a mobile character and the novelist makes him freely
come across the different cross section of the society.
When
Oliver is born, the narrator tells us that he could be anybody—the “the
child of a nobleman or a beggar”
. But then the parish authorities
step in, wrap him in the parish clothes that are like a uniform, and just like
that, he is “badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once—a parish
child—the orphan of a workhouse”
. Oliver’s name is an important
marker of his identity, too: his mother dies before she can name him, and his
father is dead before he’s even born. So again, it’s up to the parish
authorities to name him, and Mr. Bumble chooses the name “Oliver Twist.” Mr. Bumble tells Mrs. Mann that the name
was pretty much arbitrary—he just “made it up” because it was time
for a “T” name. He doesn’t explain what the inspiration was.



From
the very little description of Oliver’s appearance we come to know that he is
delicate and handsome.  ‘Face
is the mirror of mind’ is applicable in Dickens’
characters. He always looks
innocent as he is innocent from inside. Bill Sikes is evil as he looks evil.
The diabolical and sinister nature of Fagin is adequately reflected on his
face, and so is Oliver’s innocence. Mr. Brownlow also does not need a second
thought o convince himself of Oliver’s innocence.
Another
point to be noted about Oliver’s character is that his virtue remains
uncontaminated throughout the novel. Most of his life is spent under the care
of scoundrels like Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Mann, the inconsiderate Mr. Sowerberry, the
sneakish rogue Noah Claypole, the devilish Fagin and the odious Sikes. Anyone
living under the shadow of the wicked characters would have either completely
succumb or turned into a rogue himself.  
“White” or even “Snow White” wouldn’t actually be a bad name for Oliver.
Apart
from his almost incredible piety and irreproachable conduct, his one positive
characteristics that is conspicuously in evidence in the early chapters in his
courage. He is brave enough to approach to the board of Workhouse and makes his
famous demand, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Further evidence of his
courage is seen in Chapter III when he resists being apprenticed to Mr.
Gamfield, the Chimney sweep and in Chapter VI when he gives a sound thrashing
to Noah Claypole. But after he goes to London, he is almost swallowed by the
circumstances and after this “everything seems done to him and for him,
almost nothing is done by him.”
Throughout
the novel, Dickens uses Oliver’s character to challenge the Victorian idea that
paupers and criminals are already evil at birth, arguing instead that a corrupt
environment is the source of vice. At the same time, Oliver’s incorruptibility
undermines some of Dickens’s assertions.
 ~~~~~*~~~~~

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