The Social and Historical context of ‘Oliver Twist’ Essay
Charles Dickens, born in England, 1812 – 1870. His father became bankrupt and his family was sent to prison. He worked in a blacking factory where he wrapped up shoe polish. He experienced appalling conditions in the factory so he went on to be a journalist and wrote Oliver Twist that was influenced by his experiences.
The Poor laws were introduced to ‘manage’ the poor. These laws stopped people begging on the streets, they would only be helped if they started to work in the workhouses.
In the Orphanage, the children are treated with no care what so ever. The elderly female made them roll about the floor all day without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing. The woman had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself as she was getting paid sevenpence – half penny per small head per week. The children received “the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food”. 85% of children died of hunger and coldness. ‘Eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want and cold.’
The middle class people were too big headed and selfish to be paying for the children’s clothes and to provide them with more food. ‘The members of this board were very sage, deep, philosophical men.’ They contracted to lay on an unlimited supply of water; and with a corn-factor to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal; and issued three meals of thin gruel a day (porridge), with an onion twice a week, and a half a roll of Sundays.’ This shows