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Analysis of Dickens” use of irony, satire and humour in Oliver Twist

There are a number of examples throughout Oliver Twist of irony, satire and humour. Although a darkish novel, there are heaps of moments of humour and a rare amount of chuckling, guffawing and knee-slapping by characters. Each of the literary techniques of humour, irony and satire, employed by Dickens assist add focus and depth on the various conflicts between the novels outcasts and its established society. It is impossible to cover all avenues inside Oliver Twist that might be thought-about as humorous, satirical or ironic however some of the more obvious and important examples of each will now be discussed.

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There is ambiguous humour in conflicts between the establishment and the person found throughout Dickens’ Oliver Twist. An instance of this coming early within the second chapter when Oliver is informed that “the board has mentioned he has to appear before it forthwith1”, the humour right here comes in Oliver’s ignorance of “not having a really clearly outlined notion of what a live board was” and on getting into the room of “eight to ten fat gentlemen” he’s advised to “bow to the board”, “seeing no board however the desk, he fortuitously bowed to that”.

Oliver’s ignorance right here is both humorous and sad, as it underpins his youthful ignorance and helplessness in the face of his situation which is very much out of his control.

There are many examples the place Dickens juxtaposes humour and mock with aggression and cruelty; one instance being the introduction of Mr. Gamfield in chapter three, who was “alternately cudgelling his brains and his donkey2”, this provides rise to laughter on the a part of the viewers and in addition offers, in my opinion, an impression of Gamfield as ridiculous or as a fool.

Soon after we’re informed that he gave the donkeys jaw “a sharp wrench”, and “another blow on the pinnacle, simply to stun him till he came back again”, this portrayal of him as aggressive and violent is juxtaposed with the idiot implied earlier. The “cudgelling” that was as soon as used humorously is now replaced by its extra aggressive definition, “short, thick stick used as a weapon3” This dichotomy between humour and aggression is used repeatedly by Dickens and for my part forces the viewers to by no means absolutely feel snug in laughing at conditions as we are by no means actually sure if this situation or character will soon show a darker aspect.

Later within the scene between Gamfield and the board, using laughter as a weapon and inextricably linked to aggression and violence is again shown when he tells the board:

“Boys is wery obstinit, and wery lazy gen’lmen, and there’s nothink like a good hot blaze to make ’em come down with a run. It’s humane too, gen’lmen, acause, even when they’re stuck within the chimbley, roasting their toes makes ’em wrestle to hextricate theirselves”2

Our laughter here is one of incredulousness and a few revolt at Gamfields brutal account of his therapy of boys. This places the viewers in the uncomfortable position of the board as a outcome of we’re like the “gentleman within the white waistcoat” who “appeared very much amused by his clarification.” This juxtaposition of humour and brutality puts the audience in the uncomfortable place of having the power to put itself within the position of the more brutal and vicious characters in Oliver Twist while also allowing us to sympathise and empathise with Oliver and dislike these responsible for their maltreatment.

The humour within the famous scene the place Oliver asks for extra may be seen in the masters considerably excessive to a trivial occasion. We are advised he “gazed in stupefied astonishment” and “clung for assist to the copper”. This excessive reaction to such a small request whereas humorous in and of itself serves a greater purpose in displaying the appalling state of affairs and impoverished position this orphan boy, Oliver Twist found himself in. The fact that to ask for “more” then the meagre “supper allotted by the dietary” may trigger such a response from the grasp and trigger the gentleman within the white waistcoat to say, “that boy will be hung…I know that boy will be hung”, although amusing in its extreme reaction, this additionally serves to pointedly make clear the dire state of affairs for these orphaned and in state ‘care’ on the time, who encountered brutality and apathy at every flip.

Another instance of laughter in Oliver Twist is in the naming of the characters; ‘Master Charles Bates’, often referred to as ‘Master Bates’ is a very clear pun that’s most definitely not misplaced on the viewers. The mere point out of his name evokes a smirk and laughter from the viewers. The naming of the character of the Beadle as ‘Mr. Bumble’ can additionally be for comic effect in my opinion. The Oxford English Dictionary defines bumble as to ‘move or act in an awkward or confused manner; speak in a confused or indistinct method.’ Like that of Master. Bates, the picture evoked by the name “Bumble” is one of ridicule, a fool or idiot however Mr. Bumbles behaviour all through the guide does not make him a sympathetic silly character, as an alternative his consistent brutality, viciousness and violent nature lends him to turn into one of the villains of the story. However his naming by Dickens isn’t only a source of humour but additionally of irony. It is ironic that Mr. Bumble is incapable of seeing Oliver’s situation appropriately and is easily fooled by those he believes are inferior.

Dickens’ Oliver Twist is laden with irony. The opening chapters exemplify this when Oliver cries himself to sleep and Dickens sarcastically exclaims, “What a novel illustration of the tender legal guidelines of England! They let the paupers go to sleep!1” This irony is efficient in showing the discontinuity between the varied lessons in Victorian London, better than simply stating the conditions current at the time.

The scene where Oliver asks for more gruel can additionally be ironic in that the helpless ravenous orphan, only attempting to enhance his state of affairs in life, is handled incredulously and punished by the healthy and well-feed board members who in reality should be those who are punished for his or her treatment of the poor.

Another form of irony Dickens uses is in displaying the duplicitous nature of the society in Victorian London at the time. The higher class found on the board, consider Mrs. Mann to be a great caretaker of the orphans, nonetheless when seen from the place of the decrease class perspective of the orphans themselves, she is greedy and abusive.

Again this duplicity and irony may be seen when Oliver is introduced to the Board and begins to cry, a reaction that should be comprehensible to anybody, as a end result of he’s a scared, 9 yr old boy, alone, in a room full of daunting adults, not knowing what to anticipate, nevertheless the board cannot understand this and one questions, “What are you crying for?…And to be sure it was very extraordinary. What may the boy be crying for?”1 The members of the board really haven’t any understanding of why Oliver could be crying, believing they have offered him with everything he may need and a luxurious residence in the workhouse. They haven’t any understanding or sympathy for the situation of the poor folks of London as shown when Dickens states that:

“When they [the board members] turn their consideration to the workhouse, they found out at once, what ordinary of us would by no means have discovered – the poor people liked it! It was a regular place of public entertainment for the poorer lessons; a tavern where there was nothing to pay”1

There are a number of examples of social and political satire all through Oliver Twist. It is a satirical attack of the finest way during which predestined social class and poverty impacts the outcomes of a person’s life and a protest by Dickens towards the Poor Law and the Workhouse system of the time. The missed method in which Oliver’s birth is described provokes compassion in the viewers. He “breathed, sneezed, and proceeded to advertise to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a model new burden having being imposed upon the parish”. It is dark and ironic; Oliver is depicted as a difficult burden upon the parish and society. From the outset his entrance into the world is despised, the antithesis of what a child’s birth ought to elicit. His life is condemned from the beginning by the ugliness of the world he has been born into and his social standing is imprinted upon him, he’s a “humble, half-starved drudge – to be cuffed and buffeted via the world – despised by all, and pitied by none”3 and reaffirmed in the second chapter when the gentleman in the white waistcoat exclaims “that boy shall be hung”

Oliver is the car employed by Dickens to show the inadequacies inside society. He highlights society’s various injustices. Through the use of Oliver, the vulnerable of society are given a voice. The characters that Oliver encounters each characterize a different corrupted socio-political side prevalent in the society of the time. Mrs Mann and Mr Bumble each spotlight the hypocrisy and perversion of the Poor Law and the Workhouse system, whereas Fagin is created as a representation of greed and materialism.

It is evident that Dickens employs irony, satire and humour to great effect in Oliver Twist, and does so in a manner that’s not as straightforward as may originally seem. His use of irony and humour as a weapon shows clearly the maltreatment of the poor at the hands of the upper lessons and serves to each amuse the viewers and make it uncomfortable in laughing together with the unfair and improper situations which would possibly be being portrayed. The satire utilized by Dickens, though an exaggeration, exposes the ridiculousness and impropriety of the society being described and can also act as a real illustration of the consequences of the Poor Law and the workhouse system of the time.

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