“Oliver Twist” a Book by Charles Dickens Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Sep 7th, 2020

The first volume of Oliver Twist features one of the most famous Cruikshank’s plates. It depicts a scene from chapter two when Oliver asks for more food. Cruikshank portrays this scene vividly, in a manner that highlights the rebellious nature of Oliver’s action. Oliver is at the center of the picture, skinny and with a plate in his hand, whereas the master looks down at him with a mixture of anger and disbelief. In the background, we see the astonishment on the rest of the boys’ faces and the turmoil caused by Oliver’s plea.

The primary difference between the pictorial and the textual world here is that Dickens provides a somewhat humorous portrayal of the events, something we do not expect after seeing the picture. The author describes Oliver’s action as so bizarre that it attracts the attention of every person in the orphanage. Cruikshank, on the other hand, focuses on Oliver’s misery; he reflects the power that the master has over Oliver by emphasizing their size difference. Thus, Cruikshank represents the reality behind Dickens’ story, removing the humor and irony that are central to Dickens’ narrative.

A similar trend can be observed in chapter twenty-eight when a wounded Oliver is found at the front door of Mrs. Maylie’s house. Cruikshank’s picture depicts Giles, Brittles, and the rest of the servants opening the front door and seeing weak Oliver sitting on the porch. In the pictorial world, their figures look large and threatening compared to Oliver, who is skinny and small, so we expect to see a similar portrayal of characters in the text. Dickens, however, reveals the irony behind their aggressive appearance: “By the advice of Mr. Giles, they all talked very loud, to warn any evil-disposed person outside that they were strong in numbers […] the dogs’ tails were well pinched in the hall to make them bark savagely”. Dickens, therefore, provides us with an objective portrayal of the event, whereas Cruikshank concentrates on Oliver’s point of view to emphasize the threat.

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