Death As a Theme in Term Paper

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Oliver and the other boys at the workhouse are also very nearly 'worked to death'.

Oliver is (again figuratively) 'scared to death', at that key moment in the novel that that turns out also to define his fate (the extra gruel request scene) when he is selected by the other boys at the workhouse for that most terrifying, unpleasant task. Then, moments after he asks, Oliver becomes equally scared that his still not-quite-to-be-believed question has now caused (so-to-speak) 'all hell to break loose' inside the workhouse, among the comfortably well-off, incredulous, poorhouse administrators. These well-fed individuals in fact cannot fathom, at all, how any boy so "lucky" as to be boarded and fed at their workhouse could possibly be so ungrateful as to request more than his daily starvation-level ration of gruel.

When one day the boys draw lots to see who among them would be designated to ask for the unthinkable (more food), Oliver, the unfortunate "winner" of that contest becomes frightened nearly 'to death' to have to later be the one to say to the workhouse administrator, his empty gruel bowl in hand, "Please, sir, I want some more" (Dickens, Oliver Twist). Then, in the awful minutes immediately subsequent to Oliver's terrified, but no less astounding request, Oliver's death is confidently predicted by one who might well seem to know the penalty for such a rare infraction (a prediction, moreover, with which no one disagrees):

For MORE!' said Mr. Limbkins. 'Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?'

He did, sir,' replied Bumble.

That boy will be hung,' said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. 'I know that boy will be hung.' (Dickens, Oliver Twist)

While that dire prediction turns out to be incorrect, that event does lead to the "death" (abruptly, but none too soon) of Oliver's six-month workhouse career of picking oakum. Oliver's next master, though, Mr. Sowerberry, is an undertaker: a man whose very livelihood is death. By now Oliver's face bears such a mournful look that Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker soon realizes that his new charge makes a perfect "mute" or stand-in mourner at the funerals of children in particular.

Throughout Charles Dickens's second novel Oliver Twist, then, beginning from very early on with the death of Oliver's mother after giving birth to him, the title character experiences, as Dickens depicts and describes them, repeated incidents (both literally and figuratively-speaking) of death and near-death experiences - including his own near-death experiences at the hands of London's supposedly charitable institutions and individuals (Wolff, 1996).

Dickens's Oliver Twist begins with both a death (Oliver's mother's) and a life (Oliver's) occurring very close to one another. Oliver's father's whereabouts are never mentioned by Dickens; therefore we know only that from birth onward (until he finds his previously unknown family) Oliver is essentially alone (Miller, 1987; Dunne, 1999). Within this story an orphaned child experiences many extreme trials and misfortunes, including a gruesome murder; a manhunt; and a hanging among others; therefore, causing death to become a recurring theme in the novel. However, Dickens's title character Oliver Twist survives the misery of each of those successive situations, while also providing insight into the real lives of the London poor of the 1830s.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Gutenberg.org [online text]. Retrieved February

7, 2007, from: www.gutenberg.org/etext/730.html

Donovan, Frank. The Children of Charles Dickens. London: Frewin, 1968. 61-

Dunn, Richard J.. Oliver Twist: Whole Heart and Soul. Twayne's Masterwork

Series. No. 118. New York: Macmillan. 1999. 37; 39; 42.

Oliver Twist." David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page. 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2007 at http://www.fidnet.com/~dap1955/dickens/twist.html.

Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Paul Schlicke (Ed.). London: Oxford

UP, 1999. 141.

A http: In Charles Dickens (Harold

Bloom (Ed.). New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 35.

Walder, Dennis. "Oliver Twist and Charity."

In Oliver Twist: a Norton Critical

Edition. Fred Kaplan (Ed.). New York: "http: Norton, 1993. 515-516.

Wolff, Larry "The Boys are Pickpockets, and the Girl is a Prostitute": Gender and Juvenile Criminality in Early Victorian England from Oliver Twist to London

Labour"…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Gutenberg.org [online text]. Retrieved February

7, 2007, from: www.gutenberg.org/etext/730.html

Donovan, Frank. The Children of Charles Dickens. London: Frewin, 1968. 61-

Dunn, Richard J.. Oliver Twist: Whole Heart and Soul. Twayne's Masterwork

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