Great Expectations and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens Term Paper

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people of different social classes are viewed in each novel, how they treat one another, what assumptions they make about their worth, how they view themselves, and how Dickens's view changed between one novel and the other

Both stories, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, are one of escape for their characters. For Oliver, it is escape form his starvation and bondage. For Pip is it escape from his poverty and illiteracy. Both escape into another world. The world of an 'upper class'. Each has a huge number of similitudes as they have dissimilarity. Their greatest similarity is that both describe the miseries of the abused orphaned penniless waif growing up in poor surrounding, Oliver more than Pip. The distinction between both is that whilst Oliver is a description and rendering o poverty and the abuse of societal class discrimination at its worst, Great Expectations journeys beyond that and has the mature character reflect on his experiences and discover that perhaps the poor man is no worse off -- and often indeed better than the wealthy. In great Expectations it is Pip and the convict who turn out to be the heroes, whilst the upper class gentlemen are parodied. Great Expectation is, therefore, a parody on genteel British society.

Both books decry the abuse and injustice of a 'civilized' class system, particularly the injustice that is doled to the most vulnerable members of society. Great Expectations, however, goes beyond in questioning whether the wealthy are indeed better characters than the poor, simple and illiterate and it concludes with a determined 'no.'

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist, also known as The Parish Boy's Progress, is the second novel by English author Charles Dickens, published by Richard Bentley in 183. It is the story of a waif in Victorian England whose mother died in the poor house leaving her son at the mercy of the British social system. The British social system in the 18th century was no friend of the poor and vulnerable and its working house where the poor were sheltered and orphans as well as the downcast of society were kept gave as least as possible to their inhabitants whilst making their lives as miserable as possible.

Twist gradually gets to met other outcasts of society, hooligans and ragamuffins like him who have to resort to burglary and petty theft as ways of surviving.

During one of these rampages, Twist falls in with Fagin and his crew who are professional thieves. At the same time, Twist becomes acquainted, through a serendipitous series of events with a wealthy gentleman who adopts twist.

Unfortunately, Fagin tracks him down and kidnaps Twist. The gentleman tracks him, discovers th haunt, Fagin commits suicide, and Twist and his friends are liberated in a hair-raising string of events.

Oliver Twist has deservedly become one of the classics of British literature. It may be that this is so due to its psychological insight, beautiful vocabulary and style, historical value, as well as to a great extent tis social work contribution to social change. Oliver Twist, in no small way, contributed to radical reform of Britain's poor welfare system in general and of care of poor children in particular.

Twist is a sad but liberating story with a poignancy that caused it to translate in subsequent movies and plots.

A story, similar in turns, although different too and arguably almost as popular is another Dickensian classic called 'great Expectations'.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations written in 1860-1861 is the story of another orphan Pip, who was brought up by his adoring but simple uncle Joe Gargery and a cruel aunt. Both are comparatively poor and illiterate people who live in the country. Pip saves the life of an escaped convict. Almost at the same time, he is 'adopted' as playmate for a beautiful girl who lives by a wealthy morose woman who, embittered, by being jilted on her wedding day, remains fixated in her wedding finery and environment. What Pip does not know and is only to discover much later is that Mrs. Havisham's intention and revenge on men folk is to have Pip fall in love with Esther so that she can then break his heart.

Pip does fall in love with Esther and is heartbroken when Esther persistently and callously rejects him.

As a strange piece of fortune, Pip finds a huge fortune falling him where he is given money to go to London enroll in law school and become wealthy. Believing this money to be from Mrs. Havisham, he gratuitously seeks to affiliate himself as closely as possible with wealthy and snobbish upper class whilst disassociating himself as far as possible form his lowly background and relative, specially Joe.

In London, he becomes re-acquainted with Magwitch, the convict, who informs him that the fortune was his hard-earned money. A repentant remorseful Pip attempts to solace the remaining days of the convict and the finale of the book ends off an incomplete way with his meeting Estelle in the cemetery and with Estelle informing him of her unhappy marriage to a wealthy man.

Similarities both books deal with poor orphans who have been abandoned by their parents and by society and who are used as pawns in the wiles of others. Both books, too, show their characters battle against great odds and, in utter contradistinction to reality, emerge victorious. Both also find themselves merged with great wealth at the end of the book and both find this great wealth coming to them in an unexpected manner.

Both books are sympathetic to the waif, although Dickens seems to be more sympathetic to Oliver than he is to Pip.

Both books also detail the abuse that their characters suffered. Pip, for instance, suffered tremendous abuse form his aunt and form people such as Miss Havisham who saw him as a pawn to be used and, evaluating him based on his external characteristics and merits, devalued him as a penniless waif, hence unworthy of respect.

Observes Pip:

"I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face ignominiously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient length." (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, p.69)

Olivier, too, suffered because of his deprivation. He too was abused and also because he was born without the means to make his way in the world. In both instances, the world evaluated the child according to his material positions. Finding in both cases that they had none, they ridiculed and disparaged the child abusing him.

Oliver experienced abuse from situation to situation right from his birth until the moment he was rescued. Suffering grueling malnutrition and starvation in the orphanage, for instance, the boys choose Twist to request more gruel. He does so and as a result:

"the master (at the orphanage) aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle." (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

, 16-17)

Both books also deal with depressing atmospheres. And both these atmospheres are readily displayed in both Twist and Great expectations. Oliver's saga occurs against the backdrop of the slums in a gloomy city The bars, the hideout of the pickpockets, the lairs are all delineated as dark, gloomy, ominous, and bland. Miss Havisham's house, too, in Great Expectations is often made to sound depressing, old, and lonely. As is London itself.

Against this backdrop, in both books, of thieves and connivers, and a callous wider society that is made of distinct classes with the wealthier scorning (in Great Expectations} and misusing (in Twist) the poorer, both boys, Pip and Oliver, are both portrayed as honest, sincere, and well-intentioned lads who are misused and manipulated by the society around them.

Pip only wants to please his aunt and Miss Havisham as well as to make his way into the world so that he can support his uncle. Twist, meanwhile, is the epitome of innocence and childlikeness.

It is astonishing that both boys could maintain their innocence and childish naivety and strength of character despite the sordid background that they grew up in. Yet they did, serving, as Dickens may have intended it, as magnification to the contrivances and wiles that swirled around them.

Finally, both books show their characters associating with thieves and convicts: Oliver with Fagin and other pickpockets of London's underworld; Great Expectations with Pip helping Magwitch out

Both essays are one of escape for their characters. For Oliver, it is escape from his starvation and bondage. For Pip it is escape from his poverty and illiteracy. Both escape into another world. The world of an 'upper class'.


Great expectations is actually a more complex book with perhaps more intricate morals than Oliver Twist is. Pip starts off as a naive boy. He is shown that wealth does not necessarily make good nor that it is the harbinger of happiness in the world. The book lampoons…

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