The Relationship between Oliver Twist and the Industrial Revolution

Essay by NightWolf_27College, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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Ernst Fischer, a renowned Austrian artist of the 19th century once said that, "In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it for the better." Over the many years since the publishing of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist in 1838, many have come to know it as not only art but also as an account of the social and economic problems of the industrial revolution. Along with his other works, he would eventually inspire others to put an end to child labour, one the most horrific examples of human exploitation that went on in the industrial revolution. Oliver Twist addresses three major themes of the 19th century, the failure of charity, harsh realities of urban life, and the problems of capitalism in London.

"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.

With this view, they contracted with the waterworks 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, with an onion twice a week and half a roll on Sundays. They made a great many other wise and humane regulations . . . kindly undertook to divorce poor married people . . . instead of compelling a man to support his family, took his family away from him, and made him a bachelor! There is no saying how many applicants for relief, under these last two heads, might have started up in all classes of...