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72 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1838
So they established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they,) of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it.We follow Oliver beginning with his difficult birth that killed his mother and almost cost the young lad his life as well.
[T]here was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration- a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence…From there we journey with the child as he is dumped into a workhouse where his early life goes from bad to horrendously shitty as he’s subjected to a systematic process of neglect, physical brutality and starvation along with the other children residing there.
The parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be ‘farmed,’ or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food, or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week.I love the way Dickens can describe callous starvation and casual murder of children for nothing more than greed in such a way that I was actually chuckling because of his lusciously humorous phrasing.
Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.
Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rapacious 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. Unfortunately for the experimental philosopher of the female to whose care Oliver Twist was delivered over, a similar result usually attended the operation of her system; for at the very moment when a child had contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food, it did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this.
In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils; and, having prepared his mind by solitude and gloom to prefer any society to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary place, was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it and change its hue for ever.On one level, the life of Oliver Twist is one of the harshest, most depressingly sad tales ever put to paper. In lesser hands, the heartache and forlornness of Oliver’s birth and tragic early life could have swallowed up the story and made the book a real chore to get through.
It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.
“It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.”
"Please, sir, I want some more."
"Oliver meets the Artful Dodger."