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Free Study Guide-Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens-Online Book Notes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel is set in London and its surrounding districts. The initial years of Oliver's childhood are spent in a certain town, the name of which is not mentioned by the author. When Oliver runs away from the undertaker's shop and walks towards London, it is mentioned that the farm workhouse is seventy- five to eighty miles to the north of London. The boy meets the Artful Dodger at Barnet, a little Heartfordshire town where every house was a tavern, large or small.

Reaching London, Dodger, takes Oliver to a house near Field Lane, a little away from Saffron Hill. "The Three Cripples," a shady public house frequented by Fagin and Sikes, cannot be identified, though it appears to be in the vicinity of Islington.


Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver with him to his house in Pentonville. Later, after the boy is kidnapped, he leaves for the West Indies. Chertsey is another town which figures in the settings of "Oliver Twist." The attempted robbery takes place in the house of Mrs. Maylie at Chertsy. Oliver spends a few blissful months in the countryside, in the company of Rose and Mrs. Maylie and finally, all of them including Mr. Brownlow and Dr. Losborne settle down in a village called by Harry "England's richest country."

The social setting of the novel is depicted at three different levels. First, the parochial world is revealed. The inhabitants of this world, belonging to the lower-middle-class strata of society, are calculating and insensible to the feelings of the poor. The Bumbles and Sowerberrys belong to this class.

Second, the criminal world is exposed. Pickpockets, house- breaker and murderers belong to this world. Poverty drives them to crime and the weapon they use to achieve their end is violence. They live with fear and guilt and die a miserable death. Fagin, Bill Sikes, Artful Dodger and Noah Claypole are a part of this society.

Finally, the world of the Victorian middle-class is unfurled. In this world live respectable people who show a regard for moral values and believe in the principle of human dignity. Mr. Brownlow, Dr. Losborne, and the Maylies are its members and they welcome Oliver into its fold.

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