Oliver Twist

Personal Virtues and Social Influences: The Presentation of Identity in Oliver Twist College

Oliver Twist is a novel that evades easy categorisation; what begins as a political satire of the 1834 Poor Law morphs into a detective novel which in turn becomes a melodramatic thriller with a surprisingly tidy ending. While Dickens juggles contrasting tones in many of his novels, as one of his earlier works Oliver Twist has been particularly noted for consisting of “a patchwork of genres” (Wood, 2014). Therefore, it is no surprise that for a novel which itself undergoes a series of identity crises, issues to do with identity become a reoccurring theme of the narrative. Indeed, our understanding of the social message of the novel rests upon the way in which Dickens frames identity. Strangely, for a novel which seems concerned with promoting the social message that the poor are not inherently morally inferior, Dickens presents an ambivalent picture of the nature of identity. This essay will address how Dickens presents elements of socially constructed and crowd identity while also reconciling this with ideas of innate goodness and morality.

Perhaps the most well-known cultural staple from Oliver Twist is the eponymous hero, who has become almost synonymous with our idea of the orphan. Yet ironically it is this projection of an...

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