Negative characteristics of the victorian era reflected by the setting in Charles Dickens` Oliver Twist - USD Repository
NEGATIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE VICTORIAN ERA
REFLECTED BY THE SETTING IN CHARLES DICKENS’
AN UNDERGRADUATE THESIS
Presented as Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Sarjana Sastra in English Letters
Student Number: 044214064
ENGLISH LETTERS STUDY PROGRAMME
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LETTERS
FACULTY OF LETTERS
SANATA DHARMA UNIVERSITY
Gr aduat i on af t er 14
s emes t er s wer e del ay ed
s uc c es s
TH I S TH ESI S I S D ED I CATED
TO M Y BELOV ED PAREN TS
First of all the writer would like to thank to Jesus Christ, for giving me such a wonderful life, and for blessing me in everything the writer does. This thesis is dedicated to my beloved father in heaven: Lukas Roby Sardjana Tanto; my lovely mom: Inge Dewi; my beloved fiancé: Rendy Yoewono, thanks for directing, supporting and giving me inspirations; also my brother: Abednego Yanuar.
My deepest gratitude goes to Ni Luh Putu Rosiandani S.S., M.Hum., my advisor for pointing my mistakes on writing this thesis, and showing the right way. Thank you for the patient in guiding me from beginning until the writer completed this thesis. My deepest gratitude also goes to my Co-advisor Linda Valentina Budiman S.S., M.Hum. who has read my thesis before the presentation day expressly, so that the writer’s presentation day right on time.
Other deepest gratitude goes to Laurentia Christina Meme, my best sister who always supporting me in everything positive way. Finally yet importantly, my deepest gratitude goes to Bernad Setiadji, my best friend who always correcting my thesis and supporting me from the beginning of learning Literature until the end at Sanata Dharma Universty.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
APPROVAL PAGE ................................................................................................. i ACCEPTANCE PAGE ........................................................................................... ii DEDICATION PAGE ............................................................................................ iii MOTTO PAGE ...................................................................................................... iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................................................................... v STATEMENT PAGE ............................................................................................vi TABLE OF CONTENTS ...................................................................................... vii ABSTRACT ......................................................................................................... viii ABSTRAK ............................................................................................................. ix
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION ............................................................................1 A. Background of the Study ..........................................................................1 B. Problem Formulation ................................................................................4 C. Objectives of the Study .............................................................................4 D. Definition of Terms ..................................................................................5 CHAPTER II THEORETICAL REVIEW ............................................................ 7 A. Review of Related Studies ........................................................................7 B. Review of Related Theories ....................................................................13
1. Settings in Literature ................................................................13
2. The Victorian Era England ...............................................................15
a. Positive Characteristics ................................................................16
b. Negative Characteristics ..............................................................21
C. Theoretical Framework ...........................................................................25
CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY ......................................................................27 A. Object of the Study .................................................................................27 B. Approach of the Study ............................................................................29 C. Method of the Study ...............................................................................30 CHAPTER IV ANALYSIS ................................................................................ 32 A. The Victorian Era Settings Depicted in Oliver Twist .............................32 B. Negative Characteristics of the Victorian Era Reflected through the Settings in Oliver Twist .....................................................................59
CHAPTER V CONCLUSION ............................................................................ 64 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................ 66 APPENDIX ...........................................................................................................68
AZALIA NOVELA (2011). Negative Characteristics of the Victorian Era
Reflected by the Setting in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Yogyakarta:Department of English Letters, Faculty of Letters, Sanata Dharma University.
This study aims to analyze the negative characteristics of the Victorian Era which are reflected by the element of setting in Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver
Twist . The topic is formulated into two problems, namely how the Victorian era
settings are depicted in Oliver Twist and what negative characteristics of the Victorian era are reflected through the settings of the novel.
This study uses theories of settings in literature by Abrams, Stanton, Holman and Harmon, Rohrberger and Woods as well as resources related to the condition of England in the Victorian era by Brown, Seaman and Pool.
The results of the study can be divided into two parts to answer each formulated problem. Firstly, the elements of setting found in Oliver Twist can be divided into three types, namely the place setting, the time setting, and the social setting. The place setting of the novel is England, specifically London and other cities and towns in England. The scenes take place in various places, from the workhouse, the streets, the prison, to the residences or houses of many characters. The time setting of the novel is early 1830’s. The scenes take place during the whole year, including all the four seasons of winter, autumn, spring and summer, from mornings until nights. The social setting includes aspects of the workhouse and welfare system, the law and police system, the education system, as well as the lifestyle of various characters such as beadle, workhouse staff, police officers, law officers, businessmen or tradespeople, aristocrats, manual laborers, and last but not least, unemployed people.
Secondly, the settings above demonstrate two main negative characteristics of the Victorian era. As the first negative trait, there was a sharp gap between the upper- as well as middle- classes and the lower classes in the Victorian era. This gap is reflected in the place setting and social setting of the upper- and middle- class characters described in the novel, compared to the place setting and social setting of the lower class characters. Finally, as the second negative trait, the lower class people in Victorian experience life with very low standards, which are even below the basic human rights. This condition is reflected in the place and social setting, namely the lifestyle, environment and general surroundings of the lower class characters in the novel.
AZALIA NOVELA (2011). Negative Characteristics of the Victorian Era
Reflected by the Setting in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Yogyakarta: JurusanSastra Inggris, Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Sanata Dharma.
Studi ini bertujuan meninjau sifat-sifat negatif dari jaman Victoria yang ditampilkan melalui unsur setting dalam novel karya Charles Dickens, Oliver
Twist . Topik ini diformulasikan menjadi dua rumusan masalah, yaitu bagaimana
setting jaman Victoria ditampilkan dalam novel Oliver Twist dan sifat-sifat negatif apa saja yang ditampilkan melalui setting novel tersebut.
Studi ini menggunakan teori setting dalam sastra oleh Abrams, Stanton, Holman dan Harmon, Rohrberger dan Woods serta sumber-sumber berkaitan dengan keadaan Inggris pada jaman Victoria oleh Brown, Seaman, dan Pool.
Hasil studi ini dapat dibagi menjadi dua bagian yang menjawab masing- masing rumusan masalah. Pertama, unsur setting dalam novel Oliver Twist dapat dibagi ke dalam tiga macam, yakni setting tempat, setting waktu, dan setting sosial. Setting tempat pada novel tersebut ialah Inggris, khususnya London dan sejumlah kota lain di Inggris. Adegan-adegan dalam novel berlangsung di berbagai tempat, dari workhouse, jalan, penjara, sampai pada tempat tinggal beberapa tokoh. Setting waktu dalam novel tersebut ialah 1830an awal. Adegan- adegan dalam novel berlangsung sepanjang hari dan tahun, mencakup keempat musim (musim dingin, musim gugur, musim semi dan musim panas), dari pagi hingga malam. Setting sosial dalam novel tersebut mencakup aspek-aspek sistem
workhouse dan kesejahteraan masyarakat, sistem hukum dan polisi, sistem
pendidikan, serta gaya hidup tokoh-tokoh seperti beadle, staf workhouse, petugas polisi dan hukum, pengusaha atau pedagang, aristokrat, pekerja kasar, dan juga pengangguran.
Kedua, setting di atas menunjukkan dua sifat negatif yang utama dari jaman Victoria. Sifat negatif pertama ialah adanya kesenjangan yang besar antara masyarakat kelas atas dan menengah dengan masyarakat kelas bawah. Kesenjangan ini ditampilkan melalui setting tempat dan sosial dari tokoh-tokoh kelas atas dan menengah dalam novel, yang dibandingkan dengan setting tempat dan sosial dari tokoh-tokoh kelas bawah. Sedangkan sifat negatif kedua ialah rendahnya standar hidup masyarakat kelas bawah di jaman Victoria, yang bahkan berada jauh di bawah hak-hak asasi manusia. Keadaan ini ditampilkan melalui setting tempat dan sosial, yaitu gaya hidup, lingkungan dan keadaan di sekitar tokoh-tokoh kelas bawah dalam novel secara umum.
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION A. Background of the Study There have been numerous ideas that relate literature to the reality. Some examples are the ideas by Roger Webster, Rene Wellek and Austin Warren. Webster in Studying Literary Theory: An Introduction states that “Literature is as
much a part and product of the world as any other signifying process and is as much a part of reality as a reflection on it” (1996: 55). As Webster regards literature as both a part of reality and a reflection of reality, Wellek and Warren in
Theory of Literature regard literature as the representation of human life,including the human feelings and experience, as shown in the following quotation.
Literature is the reflection of human feeling toward his life. It is closely related to human experience through which we can learn the image of human beings that is expressed in the written way. It can also be defined as the work of arts which represents human life (1956: 94).
These ideas do not only come from the author of books about literature, but also from the authors of literary works themselves. Charles Dickens was one of the authors who was really aware of the connection between his literary works and the reality around him. Brown in A Reader's Guide to the Nineteenth Century
English Novel explains how Dickens was greatly and directly inspired by London,
the city where he lived and also the city where many of his novels are based. Not only was he inspired by the reality around him, but he was also willing to research the reality around him thoroughly.
Charles Dickens and George Eliot researched in depth the events and institutions of their day before writing. Dickens even confessed himself unable to work for long periods without the inspiration of the sights and sounds that the streets of London gave him on his long walks (Brown, 1985: xix). As shown in the quotation above, it is obvious that Dickens’ attitude in writing literary works is in line with Webster, Wellek and Warren’s ideas about literature. One of Dickens’ famous works is a novel by the title of Oliver Twist. It was originally published in the serial format, which was popular at that time, consisting of monthly installments from February 1837 to April 1839 (Brown, 1985: 110). Up until now, it has been adapted to various versions, from plays, films, to television shows (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Twist).
The story is about an orphan boy named Oliver Twist, who grew up in poverty and extremely inhumane condition under the government’s custody. At the age of nine, he was sold from the workhouse to an undertaker to be an apprentice. He ran away to London due to ill treatment and was involved with a gang of criminals. He eventually discovered his upper-class parentage, got his inheritance, and was adopted by a sympathetic gentleman. This novel, which was set in 1830s England, is naturally inseparable from the reality or the real condition that surrounded both the novel and the author. In this case, since Dickens lived in an era known as the Victorian era and the novel is also set in the same era, this novel is inseparable from the condition in the Victorian era.
As discussed by Seaman in Victorian England, the term Victorian literally refers to the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901 in Britain, although in fact the Victorian era cannot be separated from the decades before and after Queen Victoria’s rule, from the 1780s until the first half of the twentieth century (1973: 5). This era is often regarded as a significant period because the British society experienced many significant developments in this era. As discussed in A Reader's Guide to the Nineteenth Century English Novel, the early and mid-nineteenth century was considered “the heyday of liberal, evangelical, industrial society,” in which there were great shifts “from agriculture to industry, from country to city, and from parish to central government” (Brown, 1985: xx).
However, those developments also had some consequences. Behind the positive characteristics such as industrialization, modernism, and enlightenment, there were also negative characteristics such as overpopulation, poverty, and other problems. As discussed in the book Victorian England, people often associate the Victorian era with “the horrors of the factory system and the inadequacies of public health and hygiene”, “the exploitation of the working class and the evils of Imperialism”, and even “religious hypocrisy and cruelty to children” (Seaman, 1973: 1). Those are the things that Dickens expressed through the media of his novels, including Oliver Twist. It goes to show that literature does not only show the imaginary, beautiful, and impractical side of human life, but also the realistic side of human life, eventhough it might be negative or unfavourable.
In this study, the writer analyzes Dickens’ Oliver Twist in order to discover how the settings of the novel reflect the negative characteristics of the Victorian era. The writer is interested in choosing this novel because eventhough the novel is actually a work of fiction, it also demonstrates Dickens’ efforts to the Victorian England. Negative characteristics are chosen as the topic because, as already discussed above, the Victorian era is often identified with positive characteristics such as industrialization, modernism, and enlightenment, but actually there are also negative characteristics behind those positive characteristics. It goes to show that development has its consequences, which are important to be considered. Furthermore, the writer chooses this topic to discover how an intrinsic element of a literary work, namely the settings, can reveal a real- life phenomenon, namely the negative characteristics of the Victorian era.
B. Problem Formulation
In order to guide and limit the discussion, the topic has been formulated into two questions below.
1. How are the Victorian era setting depicted in Charles Dickens’ Oliver
2. What are the negative characteristics of the Victorian era reflected through the settings of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist?
C. Objectives of the Study
This study aims to answer the questions in the problem formulation. The first objective of the study is to discover how the Victorian era settings are depicted in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. While the second objective of the study is to discover the negative characteristics of the Victorian era reflected through the settings of the novel.
D. Definition of Terms
Quinn in A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms defines the setting as “the time and place of a narrative and drama and, by extension, the social and political context of the action” (2006: 384). While Abrams in A Glossary of
Literary Terms classifies setting into two, namely overall setting and single scene
setting. He defines the overall setting of a literary work as “the general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which its action occurs,” and he defines the single scene setting within a literary work as “the particular physical location in which it takes place” (1999: 284-285).
2. The Victorian era
Literally, the Victorian era can be defined as the era of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901 in Britain, but the characteristics of the Victorian era are strongly related to developments since 1780 and could be seen until the first half of the twentieth century (Seaman, 1973: 5). On the other hand, Brown in A
Reader's Guide to the Nineteenth Century English Novel further defines the
Victorian era as an era that “extends over a period of about one hundred years and is bounded by two great wars: the French wars that ended in 1815 and the First World War of 1914” (1985: xix-xx).
3. Positive and negative characteristics
The word positive is defined as “having a helpful and constructive attitude” or “showing a pleasing increase or improvement” (Hornby, 1995: 899),
“harmful” (1995: 778). The word characteristic is defined as “a typical feature or quality” (Hornby, 1995: 186). Therefore, the meaning of “positive characteristics” of a particular era is the helpful and constructive features or qualities found in that era, while the meaning of “negative characteristics” of a particular era is the unhelpful and harmful features or qualities found in that era.
CHAPTER II THEORETICAL REVIEW A. Review of Related Studies As one of the classic novels in English literature, many studies about Oliver Twist have been conducted and published, whether in the form of thesis,
journals, or even as part of books. This section reviews some of the related studies about Oliver Twist. Those studies were taken from a section in Reading the
Victorian Novel: Detail into Form by Gregor, The Victorian Novel by Bloom, A
Companion to the Victorian Novel by Brantlinger and Thesing, and What Jane
Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts ofDaily Life in Nineteenth-Century England by Pool.
It is interesting that the studies above discuss two similar points about
Oliver Twist , namely the illogical characterization in Oliver Twist and the novel as
Dickens’ statement about the failure of the Poor Law. Because of that, the review of related studies here is grouped by topic instead of by study as usual.
Firstly, Gregor, Bloom, Brantlinger and Thesing’s studies all mentioned about the illogical characterization in Oliver Twist. According to Gregor, besides a fictional work, Oliver Twist also serves a purpose as social criticism, namely “to dramatise the doings of the uneducated, the crushed, the taciturn, the physically unattractive” (Gregor, 1980: 21). This idea is supported by Bloom’s idea in The
Victorian Novel , “As a crusader for the oppressed, Dickens first attacked the stony purpose, the characterization process and consequently the characters of Oliver
Twist tend to be stereotypical, dramatized, and even illogical. For instance, the
character Oliver Twist is described as an orphan. Since he was born, he was raised in extreme poverty with other children in a workhouse. He never got enough attention or education. He started working at very early age, surrounded by badly behaved people who did not care about him. Then he ran away and made friends with London criminals. In brief, Oliver never had any positive role model or received positive teachings in his life. With such background, it is absurd that Oliver behaved and spoke perfectly like a child with strict upper-class upbringing would do, as shown in the quotations below.
Oliver Twist addresses Sikes with an eloquence and religious fervour which would seem to constitute an unlikely tribute to his own upbringing: ‘Oh! pray have mercy on me, and do not make me steal. For the love of all the bright Angels that rest in Heaven, have mercy upon me!’ (Gregor, 1980: 21). The child-pilgrim Oliver, although born in a workhouse, speaks improbably in an upper-class English accent (Brantlinger and Thesing, 2002: 94). Another example is found in the four antagonist characters. Dickens tried to use these characters to direct the readers’ sympathy toward Oliver, but even the antagonist characters are presented through stereotypical characterization process. The character of Fagin is described as extremely evil and despicable, with negative stereotypes of a Jew which Brantlinger and Thesing describe as “a controversial portrait of the quintessential stereotype in Victorian fiction: the Jew” (2002: 94).
In Oliver Twist, to be sure, one finds a regular array of stereotypical haired devil Fagin, whom Dickens characterizes as ‘a crafty old Jew, a receiver of stolen goods.’ ... As Steven Marcus observes, he ‘flourishes in darkness and dissimulation” (1965: 75); gliding, creeping, and crawling, he is the devil, the serpent, the dirty Jew’ (Brantlinger and Thesing, 2002: 94). On the other hand, the middle-class beadle, Mr. Bumble, is only described as a foolish character. In fact Bumble is more responsible for Oliver’s and other poor people’s hardships, but he was presented as less antagonistic than Fagin, who is actually also a victim of social injustice, the phenomenon that Dickens wanted to criticize through this novel. Therefore, the novel has failed to express this social criticism, as shown in the quotation below.
Oliver Twist is a more comprehensive failure of this kind. The violent
indignation that Dickens arouses on Oliver's behalf, and on behalf of poor children generally, demands a target, someone the reader can blame. Dickens offers not one villain but four: Bumble, Fagin, Sikes and Monks. Of these Bumble bears by far the greatest responsibility for the wretchedness of Oliver's childhood—but he is allowed to decline into a figure of comedy. The reader is encouraged to direct his resentment against Fagin and Sikes despite the fact that on Dickens's own showing they must themselves have been victims of social injustice (Gregor, 1980: 27).
Gregor’s study concludes that the stereotypes and lack of logic in the characterization make the novel Oliver Twist less successful in delivering its message, namely as a social criticism. As Gregor states, “The novel that began with bitter social criticism ends with random sensationalism” (1980: 28).
Secondly, Bloom and Pool’s studies both mentioned about Oliver Twist as the Dickens’ way to make a statement about the Poor Law. The Poor Law was an actual regulation issued in England in 1834. This novel has often been described as a protest against the Poor Law of 1834, which is supported by
As a crusader for the oppressed, Dickens first attacked the stony heartedness of organized charity. In Oliver Twist (1838) he showed that the Poor Law Reform Act had only strengthened institutionalism by giving authority to unkindness (Bloom, 2004: 179).
The Poor Law regulated the government support on the poor people. Based on the law, all public charity was channeled through an institution under the responsibility of every local government, which was called the workhouse.
People who do not have a job or cannot work because they are sick, too old or too young to work will be put in the workhouse. The workhouse occupants are given the minimum amount of food and shelter and must work there. The occupants also include babies and children who are orphaned or abandoned by their parents just like Oliver (http://www.sparknotes.com). In real life, there were indeed many orphans because of the poor quality of life among the lower class at that era.
In 1870 the rate of death in childbirth was 1 in 204. Given the Victorian penchant for large families, the chance of a mother dying in childbirth sooner or later was therefore fairly good. Fathers could be carried off at an early age, too, given the rather poor state of medicine and sanitation. In 1839 the average age at death was twenty-six and a half years in rural counties like Rutland, and in cities like Leeds or Manchester or Liverpool it was only nineteen. ... Once you became an orphan there was no official apparatus to take care of you except the workhouse (Pool, 1993: 234- 235). The novel Oliver Twist shows that the Poor Law actually harms the poor people the most. Pool in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From
Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England
explains how the Poor Law enables the stronger people to repress the weaker people through another example. The government officials can give away the workhouse children to any people to be apprenticed although actually they are still the workhouse children, so the children no longer become the workhouse’s burden. It means the children can be taken away by anyone, including people who treat or exploit them cruelly.
For the very poor, things were grimmer. If you were a pauper like Oliver Twist, the overseers of the poor could apprentice you— without your consent—once you turned nine until such time as you turned twenty-one.
This is what happens to Oliver when he makes his famous request for “more” ... By not having to meet the requirement that the child consent, parishes could more easily sneak him into the hands of a thug like the brutal chimney sweep Gamfield. As Dickens suggests, if the master lived in a parish other than the pauper's, there was a financial incentive for the pauper's parish authorities to place him with the master, for after the child spent forty days in another parish, he was no longer the financial responsibility of the parish that had bound him out (Pool, 1993: 241).
This phenomenon is related to the division of social classes in England. The upper-class consists of aristocratic or high-ranked people who are very rich, so they do not have to work (Bloom, 2004: 73). Meanwhile, the middle-class consists of people who have money to fulfill all their needs, but they still have to work to earn money. Although some of them are educated and rich, they are still regarded inferior by the upper-class because they still have to work. To keep their prestige, the middle-class people promote the value that stresses the importance of work in order to get wealth and position. They accuse the lower-class people, who are jobless or only have low-paying jobs, as lazy people. As the proof, the lower- class people cannot make themselves rich. The ideas above are supported by Bloom’s idea that the Poor Law and the workhouse as government’s institution victimize the poor people while the people who have the position as authority figures are dominated by unkindness.
In Oliver Twist (1838) he showed that the Poor Law Reform Act had
Mr. Bumble all selfish dispensers of public charity stand condemned, and in Oliver Twist their helpless victims find an eternal symbol (Bloom, 2004: 179). In other words, there was a social disparity between the upper and middle classes against the lower class, and as a product of such middle-class value, the
Poor Law victimized the lower-class people even more and worsened that social disparity.
Concerning the position of this current study, this study develops the previous studies above as well as discovers something new. Just like the studies about Dickens’ characterization, this study is concerned with an intrinsic element. However, this study focuses on the element of setting, which has not been much discussed compared to other elements such as characterization and plot. Just like the studies about Oliver Twist as Dickens’ way to address the failure of the Poor Law, this study is also concerned with that era’s social phenomena. However, while each previous study discusses a specific phenomenon of the time and place depicted in the novel, this study uses a more viewpoint and discusses a set of related phenomena, namely the negative characteristics of the Victorian era. In conclusion, this study develops existing studies by connecting intrinsic and extrinsic elements as the topic, and also discovers something new by exploring a combination of topics which has not been discussed much.
B. Review of Related Theories
1. Setting in Literature There have been a number of definitions of setting in literary works.
Quinn in A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms defines setting as “the time and place of a narrative and drama and, by extension, the social and political context of the action” (2006: 384). Stanton in An Introduction to Fiction defines setting as “the environment of its events, the immediate world in which the occurring part of the setting as the visible background such as river, jungle, the time of the day or year, the climate, the historical period, even the people in the background” (1965: 18).
In relation to Quinn and Stanton’s ideas above, Holman and Harmon in A
Handbook of Literature states that setting in literature consists of three elements,
namely the place setting, the time setting, and the social setting (1986: 465). The first element, the place setting, is the “actual geographical location” (1986: 465) in which the story takes place, which may include the topography, the scenery, and even the physical arrangement of furniture, windows and doors in the indoor location. The second element, the time setting, is the “time or period when the action takes place” (1986: 465), such as the epoch in history, season, or year. The third element, the social setting, is the general environment of the characters through which they move, which may include many things such as the characters' religious background, their mental, moral, social and emotional conditions, their occupations, and their daily manner of living (1986: 465).
It can be observed that Holman and Harmon’s first element, the place setting, corresponds to Quinn’s definition of setting as the “place of a narrative and drama” (2006: 384) and Stanton’s definition of setting as the “the environment of its events, the immediate world in which the occurring part of the setting as the visible background such as river, jungle” (1965: 18). Holman and Harmon’s second element, the time setting, corresponds to Quinn’s “the time ... of a narrative and drama” (2006: 384) and Stanton’s “the time of the day or year, the climate, the historical period” (1965: 18). Holman and Harmon’s third element, the social setting, corresponds to Quinn’s “the social and political context of the action” (2006: 384) and Stanton’s “the people in the background” (1965: 18).
Meanwhile, Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms classifies setting into two types, namely the overall setting and the single scene setting. The overall setting of a literary work is “the general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which its action occurs” (Abrams, 1999: 284-285). For instance, Abrams gave an example that the overall setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is medieval Scotland (1999: 284-285). On the other hand, the single scene setting of a literary work is “the particular physical location in which it takes place” (1999: 285). For instance, the single scene setting of the scene where Macbeth encounters the witches, one of the scenes in Macbeth, is a blasted heath (1999: 285). Thus, a literary work normally has one overall setting, but has many single scene settings.
As one of the elements in literature, setting has an important role just like the other elements. Rohrberger and Woods in Reading and Writing about Further, Stanton also adds that setting may imply the theme (1965: 18), while Abrams states that the overall and individual settings “are important elements in generating the atmosphere” of a literary work (1999: 285). Lastly, Van de Laar and Schoonderwoerd state that the setting should “contribute something towards the reader's knowledge of the plot of the story” (1968: 72). In brief, all the theories above show that setting as an element of literature is not only about the place name or the digits of years, but is also strongly related to the story itself.
2. The Victorian Era England
This part contains relevant information about the actual condition of England in the Victorian era, with both the positive and the negative characteristics, which were taken from several nonfictional sources. This part serves as the foundation to support the discussion in the analysis, proofing that the settings in the novel Oliver Twist discussed there were not only the product of the author’s imagination, but referred and were related to an actual condition at that time instead.
Regarding the definition, the Victorian era cannot be defined strictly. As discussed by Seaman in Victorian England – Aspects of English and Imperial
History 1837-1901 , the literal definition of the Victorian era is the period when
Queen Victoria reigned in Britain from 1837 to 1901 (1973: 5). However, Seaman also states that the characteristics of the Victorian era could not be separated from the developments since 1780 and could be seen up until the first half of the
English Novel further defines the Victorian era as an era that “extends over a
period of about one hundred years and is bounded by two great wars: the French wars that ended in 1815 and the First World War of 1914” (1985: xix-xx). Based on the two explanations, roughly the Victorian era can be said to extend from early nineteenth century to early twentieth century.
During that period of more than one century, many changes had happened and created new ideas, new lifestyles, new conditions, new phenomenon, and so on. Indeed, the Victorian era is well-known as an era which was full of progress or changes. Brown states that “English government was essentially modernized in the nineteenth century” (1985 : 78). Some of the things that had happened in the Victorian era could be considered positive, or in other words, brought improvement for the people in general. However, some other things that had happened in the Victorian era could be considered negative, or in other words, were detrimental for the people in general. Indeed, when discussing the topic of the Victorian era’s positive or negative characteristics, authors cited below did not directly mention the words “positive” or “negative”, but the nature of the characteristics can be seen from their description of the impact on the people in general, as discussed above.
a. Positive Characteristics of the Victorian Era England
The positive characteristics of the Victorian era could be found in the government system, welfare system, political condition, and economic condition.
The first positive characteristic could be found in the government system, namely system in the Victorian era consists of three elements. The first element was the Queen, who only had the rights to "confer peerages, insist on consultation about all issues, and dismiss ministers" (Brown, 1985: 83). The second element, the House of Lords, was comprised of bishops and “peers”, or aristocrats with hereditary titles. They were appointed because of their status instead of elected and they were "the most powerful men in the country in terms of wealth, social position, and political influence" (1985: 83). The third element, the House of Commons, was also comprised of aristocrats and their descendants (1985: 85).
The Great Reform Act of 1832, which was described as “the single most compelling political event in the first half of the century” (Brown, 1985: 78), brought an important change in the government system. Before this act, common people did not have any right to vote. After the act, people with certain income had the right to vote for members in the House of Commons. This act resulted in the decreasing power of the aristocracy and the increasing participation of the middle class in the English government. Additionally, smaller areas would get few or no representatives while larger areas would get more representatives in the House of Commons, as explained in the quotation below.
This act established that the vote would be given to householders in boroughs with premises rated (taxed) at £10 a year, to £-10 copyholders and long leaseholders, and to £50 leaseholders and tenants-at-will (who held land solely at the pleasure of the lessor) in the counties. … The act proposed that boroughs with a population of fewer than 2,000 households would lose both representatives; those with fewer than 4,000 would lose one or two representatives. (Brown, 1985: 87). Not only voting, but people from non-aristocrat background also started to gain access into the government, namely the House of Commons, during the Victorian era. As described by Brown, many businessmen were given titles that gave them equal level of status as the peers and many others gained titled through marriage with aristocrats’ descendants. Therefore, they could be elected to the House of Commons (1985: 17). Brown stated that “in 1865, three-quarters of the seats were taken up by landlords; by 1910, it had dropped to one-seventh” (1985: 17). It means that the six-seventh of the House of Commons was filled by people from non-aristocratic background.
This condition can be considered positive because the government was no longer entirely exclusive, but started to be more inclusive to the general public.
Power was no longer monopolized by the small group of the Royal Family and aristocrats. On the contrary, people outside the aristocracy could also now participate in electing part of the government.
Another positive characteristic of the Victorian era, although very small, was found in the welfare system, namely the issuance of several laws related to welfare system, such as The Factory Act of 1833, which restricted children's working hours and assigned full time inspectors in factories, The Mines Act of 1842, which prohibited women and children from working in mines, Ten Hour Bill in 1847 that reduced children's working hours, and a law in 1870 that enforced the previous rules (Brown, 1985: 89) as well as the Public Health Act of 1848, which permitted local governments to act to improve unhealthy conditions, the law in 1866, which compelled local goverments to improve unhealthy conditions, and the founding of the Local Government Board that manages public applied universally in 1880 and all school fees were abolished in 1891, enabling poor children to receive education (Brantlinger and Thesing, 2002: 33-34).
Indeed, the working class people’s condition remain mostly bad in this era. However, the emergence of these welfare-related laws could be considered positive because they became the foundation of better welfare support in the upcoming eras.
The next positive characteristic of the Victorian era was found in the political condition at that time, namely in the phenomenon of Pax Britannica. Pax Britannica was a period of British Empire supremacy based on its naval power, which started after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 (Seaman, 1973: 5). In that period, England was regarded as "the world’s unchallenged superpower" and London was gradually regarded "as Europe’s, and the world’s, most important city" (Bloom, 2004: 94).
The phenomenon of Pax Britannica was strongly related to British imperialism. Because of its superpower status and its strong navy, Britain was able to get many colonies, and with the money from the colonies, Britain was able to get more and more colonies around the world. As stated by Seaman, “between 1871 and 1900 there were added to the British Colonial Empire around 66 million people and 4¼ million square miles” (1973: 332) and "one of the distinguishing features of Victoria’s reign was the ever-increasing scope of Empire" (1973: 3). As a result, British Empire grew at an impressive rate and enjoyed its prime during the Victorian era, as shown in the following quotations.
English could state proudly that the sun never set on the British Empire. Add to this the dazzling technological progress and enormous wealth achieved during the Victorian period and the almost uninterrupted peace it enjoyed (disturbed by the Crimean War against Russia in 1854–56 and the Boer War in South Africa at the end of the century) and one can see why the idea of progress took hold of the Victorian mind (Bloom, 2004: 94).
Although the act of colonialism itself was not positive from the moral point of view, England’s political condition at this era can be considered positive because not only were the people’s minds inspired with “the idea of progress” (2004: 94), but they were also able to gain much more money, power, resources, and prestige among other countries in the world.
Lastly, another positive characteristic of the Victorian era was found in the economic condition, which was increasing significantly during the Victorian era. This increase was related to the industrialization process in that era, which Brown described as “the heyday of … industrial society” (Brown, 1985: xx). The society also changed “from agriculture to industry, from country to city” (1985: xx). It means that the society, which previously had been dominated by farming activities in the villages, started to adopt industrial activities and moved to the cities, as shown in the quotation below.
At the end of the eighteenth century, the proportion of agricultural workers in the total labor force was two-fifths; in 1851, it was one-fifth; in 1881, it was one-eighth. Agriculture's share in the gross national product fell from 20% around 1850 to 6% around 1900 (Brown, 1985: 17). With more factories and more industrial activities, the production also increased. This increase was also related to urbanization, which made competition to get employment very harsh, as well as the negative characteristic of welfare system, which forced working-class labourers to accept any working condition in fear of being unemployed. With high production and low labour cost, the general result was an increase in the rich people’s income, as described below.
The upper class was by no means impoverished by this decline, however, since its members long held investments in industry; as noted previously, they owned resources, like coal mines, whose cash value was determined by the new economy. From 1803 to 1867, the total income of the upper class went from £33 to £180 million as a result of investment and infiltration from the rich middle class (Brown, 1985: 17-18).
This increase in economy was also related to the political condition. The British colonial governments were able to gain profit from commercial activities in all the colonies, such as trading, using resources in the colonies for the industry, exporting products from the new factories and importing goods from the colonies. Some colonies, such as India and the United States, became the sources of profit for Britain in the Victorian era. Seaman argued that "throughout the Victorian era it was the Indians who bore the cost of the British occupation and the British, militarily and financially, who benefited most from it" (1973: 348-349). This economic condition be considered positive because people felt that they were achieving so much progress and achievement during this era, as described below.
Add to this the dazzling technological progress and enormous wealth achieved during the Victorian period and the almost uninterrupted peace it enjoyed (disturbed by the Crimean War against Russia in 1854–56 and the Boer War in South Africa at the end of the century) and one can see why the idea of progress took hold of the Victorian mind (Bloom, 2004: 94).
b. Negative Characteristics of the Victorian Era England
Besides the positive characteristics, the Victorian era England also characteristics of the Victorian era could be found in the government system and welfare system. The first negative characteristic could be found in the government system. As already discussed in the previous section, the English government underwent some modernization during the Victorian era, in which the people outside the monarchy or the aristocracy started to gain involvement in election as well as the legislative body. On the other hand, this modernized government system still left a problem. The problem was that the new government system only benefitted people with certain minimum income, as described below.
This act established that the vote would be given to householders in boroughs with premises rated (taxed) at £10 a year, to £-10 copyholders and long leaseholders, and to £50 leaseholders and tenants-at-will (who held land solely at the pleasure of the lessor) in the counties (Brown, 1985: 87). In other words, the lower class were completely excluded from voting, let alone participating in the House of Commons. As clearly stated by Brown, only people from “the rich middle class”, who were mostly comprised of successful businessmen, could be accepted into the upper class and therefore eligible to be voted into the House of Commons (1985: 17). Similarly, gaining access to the upper class by marrying people of aristocratic descent could only be done by the rich, because only the rich were able to socialize with the people of aristocratic descent. Therefore, only “the new industrial and business middle class now had more power in constituting the House of Commons” (Brown, 1985: 87). Furthermore, Brown mentioned that the redistribution of the House of Commons seats, which favored large industrial cities such as Leeds and Manchester, "also benefited the urban middle class" (1985: 87).
In response to this condition, a radical labor movement known as Chartism emerged during the Victorian era. They felt the Reform Bill hardly did anything for the working class and proposed six demands, namely “annual Parliaments, universal manhood suffrage, vote by secret ballot, equal electoral districts, payment of members of Parliament, and abolition of property qualifications for members” (Brown, 1985: 91). However, this movement did not succeed immediately. Their first demand has never been achieved, while the other five were achieved gradually between 1858 and 1918 (1985 : 91).
This condition can be considered negative because based on the explanation above, despite no longer being pure monarchy, actually power was still dominated by exclusive groups and the people of England were not represented democratically. The only difference was before the Victorian era, the exclusive groups were the aristocrats, while in the Victorian era, the exclusive groups were the aristocrats and the new, powerful, rich middle-class. Even worse, before the Victorian era, the common people or the lower-class people were exploited by the upper-class, but in the Victorian era, the lower-class people were exploited by two groups, the upper-class and the rich middle-class.
A major negative characteristic of the Victorian era was found in the welfare system, namely through the introduction of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834. This act, which was described by Brown as "the first important piece of Victorian welfare legislation" and by Steven Marcus as "the most unguarded and extreme" welfare legislation (in Brown, 1985: 81), brought some drastic changes welfare system management, pushed the able-bodied poor people to work hard, and institutionalized the poor people who were unable to work in the workhouse.
The act of 1834 stipulated that outdoor relief, administered by the parish, be discontinued for the able-bodied, and that the workhouse system of indoor relief, already in existence, be increased with special attention given to separating the different populations of poor people: the able- bodied, lunatics, paupers, orphan children, etc (Brown, 1985: 81). Previously, since Queen Elizabeth's reign, the government's welfare system had been done through local parishes. Each local parish was given power to levy taxes, which were used to give support or relief for the poor in that area (1985: 78). After the Poor Law, that task was transferred from local parishes to the central government officials. Outdoor relief was stopped in order to force able- bodied paupers to work harder, while indoor relief in the form of the workhouse was increased to accommodate paupers who were unable to work. The workhouse residents were given minimum shelter, food and clothes, separated from their family, and had to work inside the workhouses in terrible condition. In theory, different groups such as the able-bodied, lunatics, paupers, orphan children should be separated in the workhouse, but in practice, they were all put together (Brown, 1985: 91). According to Brown, the workhouse “was deliberately designed to make the unemployed suffer" (1985: 90).
All types of people were often housed together in the degrading conditions of the workhouse. Deliberately aimed at providing an incentive to work by making unemployment miserable, the workhouse system “made poverty a crime” in the words of Disraeli (Brown, 1985: 81). As described above, people without money, jobs, and home were treated like criminals in the workhouse. In other words, being poor was regarded as a crime. Debt was also regarded as a crime, since "debt over £20 involved prison sentences until 1861, and imprisonment for debt was not formally ended until 1869" (Brown, 1985: 90). As the result of this law, people would endure any job and any housing in order to avoid the workhouse. To get enough income, every family member took any available job, including underaged children. For example, by 1835, children under fourteen made up about 13% of the labor force in cotton. In Liverpool, one in five working-class family lived in a cellar and in Manchester, ten people often lived together in a room (Brown, 1985: 22-23).
This condition can be considered negative because it greatly degraded the quality of life for the working-class people, who comprised “about two-thirds of the total population” (Brown, 1985: 22). Many people were forced to live in such inhumane condition as described above and were denied from their basic rights, such as the rights to live, to feel secure, to get education, and so on. Moreover, with the application of the Poor Law during the Victorian era, the government had been proven to fail to do its responsibilities, namely supporting the poor and the weak, such as orphaned children, elderly people, and so on.
C. Theoretical Framework
There are basically two main kinds of theories used in this study, namely the theories of setting in literature and the theories about the Victorian Era.
Firstly, the theories of setting will be used to answer the first problem about how the Victorian era settings are depicted in Oliver Twist. The theories of setting are
Fiction , Holman and Harmon’s A Handbook of Literature, and Rohrberger andWoods’ Reading and Writing About Literature.
Secondly, the information about the Victorian era will be used as the foundation to discuss the second problem about the negative characteristics of the Victorian era reflected through the settings of Oliver Twist. The information discussed in this chapter, including about the positive and negative characteristics of the Victorian England, is different from the negative characteristics discussed in the analysis, because the information here is taken from actual, nonfictional sources, whereas the analysis is solely based on the settings in the novel Oliver
Twist . The information about the Victorian era is taken from Brown’s A Reader's
Guide to the Nineteenth Century English Novel , Seaman’s Victorian England –
Aspects of English and Imperial History 1837-1901 , and Pool’s What Jane AustenAte and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist .
CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY A. Object of the Study The object of this study is a novel by the title of Oliver Twist, which was
written by British author Charles Dickens. It was originally published in the format of a serial novel, which consisted of monthly installments from February 1837 to April 1839 (Brown, 1985: 110). As explained by Andrew Lang in the Introduction of The Works of Charles Dickens, it was then published in the format of a regular novel, divided into three volumes, in October 1838 (in Dickens, 1898: x). The version used by the writer for this study is found in the third volume of
The Works of Charles Dickens , a publication that consists of all Dickens’ novels.
It was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1898. Altogether, there are 509 pages in the 53 chapters of the novel.
The novel tells a story about a boy named Oliver Twist. His mother died soon after his birth and his father was unknown. Thus he became the custody of the government. He grew up in poverty and in an extremely inhumane condition in a baby “farm” (Dickens, 1898: 5), namely a state-comissioned place where orphan babies were raised, and then in a workhouse. When he was nine years old, the workhouse sold him for five pounds to an undertaker, who made Oliver his apprentice. Unable to endure the abuse and ill treatment, Oliver ran away to London and was involved with a gang of criminals there. He accidentally came discovered that Oliver’s father was a wealthy man who had been unhappy in his marriage and had an affair with his true love, Oliver’s mother. Mr. Brownlow was an old friend of Oliver’s father, who was long deceased. After a long adventure to free him from the criminal gang, Oliver got his inheritance and lived happily as Mr. Brownlow’s adopted son.
The novel faced various responses from the readers. Most readers at that time, who came from the middle and upper classes, were horrified by Dickens’ description of the uselessness of public charity system at that time. The novel had a significant impact on the mostly middle and upper classes reading public, which was proven by the fact that the character Oliver Twist has “become a national byword as the small boy who dared to ask for a second helping” (Bloom, 2004: 179). Meanwhile, some other readers protest the exaggerated descriptions of the very virtuous protagonists and the very evil antagonists, for instance “the child- pilgrim Oliver, who although born in a workhouse speaks improbably in an upper- class English accent, through the fair domestic angel Rose Maylie and the bad- complexioned Monks with evil pitted into his face, to the Semitic red-haired devil Fagin, whom Dickens characterizes as ‘a crafty old Jew, a receiver of stolen goods’” (Brantlinger and Thesing, 2002: 94).
Despite all those viewpoints, Oliver Twist has generally received positive responses and gained popularity among the readers. It is described in A
Companion to the Victorian Novel as “one of the best-known novels of its time”
which “addressed such social problems as the New Poor Law of 1834, crime, and versions as stage plays, films, and television shows, including a famous musical play, a film released in 1968 entitled Oliver!, and a newer film version entitled
Oliver Twist , which was directed by Roman Polanski(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Twist).
B. Approach of the Study
This study applies the historical approach. Guerin in A Handbook of
Critical Approaches to Literature defines the historical-biographical approach as
an approach that “sees a literary work chiefly, if not exclusively, as a reflection of its author's life and times or the life and times of the characters in the work” (2005: 51). This study focuses on the historical rather than the biographical aspect of the approach, so the approach sees the literary work as a reflection of the life and times of the characters in the work rather than the author’s life and times.
This approach works by analyzing literary works in the context of the work’s era and life condition, because literary works which are based on historical condition are “likely to be more meaningful when either its milieu or that of its author is understood” (Guerin, 2005: 52). Guerin gives some examples of novels such as James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, which will be better understood by readers familiar with the French and Indian War, Sir Walter Scott's
Ivanhoe , which will be better understood by readers familiar with Britain in the
Anglo-Norman era, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which will be better understood by readers familiar with the antebellum South in the United readers familiar with the American Depression era (2005: 52). By understanding those contexts, we can understand the literary works better. In other words, a study that applies this approach analyzes a literary work in relation to the condition that surrounds the literary work.
This approach does not mean that we are only concerned about the historical setting and are not concerned about the literary or poetic content, but instead, this approach connects the history and the literary or poetic content because, according to Guerin, “Actually, poets have from earliest times been the historians, the interpreters of contemporary culture, and the prophets of their people” (2005: 52-53).
This approach is very suitable to be used in this study. As mentioned above, this approach is concerned with the place, time, and condition in which the work takes place or in which the author writes the work. Therefore, this approach is strongly related to the element of setting in a literary work, while this study discusses the setting in Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Furthermore, Dickens is famous as an author who paid much attention to the condition in his surroundings, so it is sensible to analyze Dickens’ novel as a reflection of his era’s life condition in this study.
C. Method of the Study
This study uses library research as the method. The primary source of this study is Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The secondary sources consist of
A Glossary of Literary Terms , Stanton in An Introduction to Fiction, Holman and
Harmon in A Handbook of Literature, and Rohrberger and Woods in Reading and
Writing About Literature , as well as theories on the condition in the Victorian era
by Brown in A Reader's Guide to the Nineteenth Century English Novel, Seaman in Victorian England – Aspects of English and Imperial History 1837-1901, and Pool in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist .
Three steps are applied in this study. The first step was reading the novel as the primary source, the related studies and related theories as the secondary sources. The next step was applying the theories to analyze the work to answer the first problem about how the Victorian era settings are depicted in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the second problem formulation about the negative characteristics of the Victorian era reflected through the setting of the novel. The last step was drawing a conclusion based on the analysis.
CHAPTER IV ANALYSIS A. The Victorian Era Setting Depicted in Oliver Twist To answer the first problem formulated in the first chapter, the writer
discusses how the Victorian era setting are depicted in Charles Dickens’ Oliver
Twist . Theories of setting by Abrams, Holman and Harmon, Quinn, and Stanton
are used to support the discussion in this part. As stated by Holman and Harmon in A Handbook of Literature, setting in literary works is divided into three types, namely the place setting, the time setting, and the social setting (1986: 465). Therefore, this part is also divided into three parts, namely the place setting, the time setting, and the social setting depicted in Oliver Twist.
1. The Place Setting Depicted in Oliver Twist
The place setting is the geographical location of the story (Holman and Harmon, 1986: 465) or the “place of a narrative and drama” (Quinn, 2006: 384).
Generally, this novel takes place in the country of England. This is shown through the mention of actual English towns and cities such as London (Dickens, 1898: 62), Barnet (1898: 65), Little Saffron Hill (1898: 69), Mutton Hill (1898: 85), Pentonville (1898: 95), Smithfield (1898: 136), Whitechapel (1898: 167), Kensington, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Kew Bridge, Brentford (1898: 189), Halliford, Shepperton (1898: 191), as well as famous places in England such as Hyde Park (1898: 189) and Newgate Prison (1898: 500).
England as the place setting of the novel is also emphasized with some of the narrator’s statements, such as “What a noble illustration of the tender laws of England! They let the paupers go to sleep!” (1898: 13). The narrator’s statement reminds the readers and reinforces the fact that the story is set in England.
Therefore, the characters in the story, including the paupers, are subject to the laws and regulations that were valid in England at that era.
However, the place setting does not only refer to the country or cities. It can also refer to specific setting or “the particular physical location in which it takes place” (Abrams, 1999: 285). This specific setting can include “the topography, the scenery, and even the physical arrangement of furniture, windows and doors in the indoor location” (Holman and Harmon, 1986: 465), or “the immediate world in which the occurring part of the setting as the visible background such as river, jungle” (Stanton, 1965: 18). Since this novel is relatively long, with 509 pages in 53 chapters, it contains so many descriptions of such specific setting. In this analysis, the writer only discusses some specific place setting, namely Mr. Brownlow’s house, Mr. Sowerberry’s house, Fagin’s two houses, the unnamed poor family’s house, the workhouse, the police station, the city of London, and an unnamed town. These places are chosen because they are dominant and significant in the novel.
The first specific place setting is Mr. Brownlow’s house. The house is located at an area named Angel at Islington (Dickens, 1898: 95). The house is described as “a neat house, in a quiet shady street near Pentonville” (1898: 95). one servant (1898: 134). Oliver describes the situation in the house as very quiet and pleasant, as shown in the quotation below.
Everything was so quiet, and neat, and orderly; everybody was kind and gentle ; that after the noise and turbulence in the midst of which he had always lived, it seemed like Heaven itself (1898: 116). The rooms in Mr. Brownlow’s house described in the novel are bedrooms, housekeeper’s room, dining room, and study. One of the bedrooms was used for Oliver when he stayed there. The bedroom is described as containing a bed, pillows, and an easy-chair (1898: 98), and the bedroom is also comfortable for Oliver, as shown in this quotation: “Here, a bed was prepared, without loss of time, in which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge carefully and comfortably deposited” (1898: 95). Mrs. Bedwin, the housekeeper, gets her own room, which is called the “housekeeper’s room” (1898: 98). The study, which is used by Mr.
Brownlow, is described as “a little back room, quite full of books, with a window, looking into some pleasant little gardens” (1898: 117).
The second specific place setting is Mr. Sowerberry’s house. The house is located outside the town, near a hill and a footpath across the fields that led to the nearest road, as recalled by Oliver (1898: 60). Mr. Sowerberry is a coffin maker and undertaker, and his house also functioned as his workshop. The house consisted of three storeys and had several rooms. The rooms described in the novel are a “little back-parlour” where Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry ate when the shop was closed (1898: 39), a little room behind the shop where Mrs. Sowerberry often stayed (1898: 33), a coal-cellar and denominated kitchen in the basement
(1898: 34), and coffin production workshop in the upstairs, as described in the Mrs. Sowerberry’s speech to Oliver below.
“Then come with me,” said Mrs. Sowerberry, taking up a dim and dirty lamp, and leading the way up stairs, “Your bed's under the counter. You don't mind sleeping among the coffins, I suppose? But it doesn't much matter whether you do or don’t, for you can't sleep anywhere else” (1898: 34). The house used candle for lighting (1898: 33) and employed a
“slatternly” servant girl (1898: 34). The atmosphere of some parts of the house is dark and scary. The stone cell in the basement was described by the narrator as “damp and dark” (1898: 34), while the coffin workshop was “close and hot” with the atmosphere that “seemed tainted with the smell of coffins” (1898: 35). The coffin workshop is also scary, as shown in the quotations below.
An unfinished coffin on black tressels, which stood in the middle of the shop, looked so gloomy and death-like that a cold tremble came over him. Against the wall were ranged, in regular array, a long row of elm boards cut into the same shape : looking in the dim light, like high- shouldered ghosts with their hands in their breeches-pockets. Coffin- plates, elm-chips, bright-headed nails, and shreds of black cloth, lay scattered on the floor; and the wall behind the counter was ornamented with a lively representation of two mutes in very stiff neckcloths, on duty at a large private door, with a hearse drawn by four black steeds, approaching in the distance (1898: 35).
The third specific place setting is the house of the poor family that Oliver visited when he was working for Mr. Sowerberry. It is implied in the novel that the house is not the family’s property, but that they just used the house because they did not have any other place to live, as shown in this quotation.
Many of the rough boards which supplied the place of door and window, were wrenched from their positions, to afford an aperture wide enough for the passage of a human body (1898: 42-43).
The house, just like other similar houses in that area, was described as “high and large, but very old, and tenanted by people of the poorest class” (1898: 42). Also, the house was “prevented from falling into the street, by huge beams of wood reared against the walls” and only the upper rooms were inhabited because the lower storey was “mouldering away” (1898: 42). The house did not have any knocker or bell-handle, as shown in the quotation “neither knocker nor bell-handle at the open floor where Oliver and his master stopped” (1898: 43). The house also did not have any light, both in the passage and in the room, because even the stove was empty and the hearth was cold. The family also did not have any furniture or other rooms, because they put the dead body of a family member on the ground in the same room as their children, as shown in the quotation below.
There was no fire in the room; but a man was crouching, mechanically, over the empty stove. An old woman, too, had drawn a low stool to the cold hearth, and was sitting beside him. There were some ragged children in another corner; and in a small recess, opposite the door, there lay upon the ground, something covered with an old blanket (1898: 43). The fourth specific place setting is Fagin’s house. In this house, Fagin lived with child criminals that work for him. It is implied in the novel that this house may not be Fagin’s actual property, but it was just an abandoned building that Fagin used. The house was located “near Field Lane” at “the bottom of the hill” (1898: 68). When the character Jack Dawkins first brought Oliver there, Fagin did not peep from a regular window or door, but he “peeped out, from where a balustrade of the old kitchen staircase had been broken away” (1898: 69).
When Fagin permitted the boys to enter the house, they did not walk through a have the other firmly grasped by his companion, and ascend with much difficulty the dark and broken stairs” (1898: 70). Those features demonstrated that the house was a secret place.
Inside the house, the walls and ceiling were described as “perfectly black with age and dirt” (1898: 70). The furniture consisted of chairs, a table, and “several rough beds made of old sacks” huddled on the floor (1898: 70). Unlike the child criminals who lived with him, Fagin had his own room. His room had extra security features such as double lock, as shown in the quotation below.
With these words, he pushed them from the room: and carefully double- locking and barring the door behind them, drew from its place of concealment the box which he had unintentionally disclosed to Oliver (1898: 114).
The fifth specific place setting is another house that Fagin used as a basecamp to hide Oliver after Fagin kidnapped him. Just like the previous place, it is implied that this house was not Fagin’s actual property, either. The house was located “in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel” (1898: 167), among “little- frequented and dirty ways” on a “very filthy narrow street” (1898: 137). As stated by the narrator, “the house was in a ruinous condition, and on the door was nailed a board, intimating that it was to let: which looked as if it had hung there for many years” (1898: 137).
The inside of the house was very dirty and old. The house was described as “a very dirty place”, while the rooms were described as “black with neglect and dust” (1898: 158). The kitchen was used as the bedroom, with two or three beds put on the floor (1898: 1898: 145). The house was also very dark because there
In all the rooms, the mouldering shutters were fast closed: the bars which held them were screwed tight into the wood ; the only light which was admitted, stealing its way through round holes at the top : which made the rooms more gloomy, and filled them with strange shadows. There was a back-garret window with rusty bars outside, which had no shutter (1898: 159).
The sixth specific place setting is the workhouse. In the first paragraph of the novel, the workhouse was described as a “public building” which was “anciently common to most towns” (1898: 1). To be precise, it is a public building to put orphans like Oliver Twist as well as other poor people who could not make a living, either because they were physically unable to work or because they did not have a job. Infants and young children were put in a branch-workhouse. The branch-workhouse described in this novel was located “some three miles off” the workhouse itself (1898: 5). The branch-workhouse contained twenty or thirty infants and young children supervised by one elderly female (1898: 5). The branch-workhouse did not have beds or cots because the narrator described it as the place “where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws rolled about the floor all day” (1898: 5).
After his ninth birthday, Oliver was transferred from the branch- workhouse to the workhouse. There was no complete description of the bedroom of the residents, except that it contained “rough, hard bed” (1898: 13). Meanwhile, the dining room was described as “a large stone hall, with a copper at one end : out of which the master dressed in an apron for the purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel at meal-times” (1898: 14). Another room of the workhouse is the coal cellar. The coal-cellar was the place where misbehaving solitary room” (1898: 17). The room was completely dark and completely empty, so residents who were locked there could not do anything and could not even sleep on a bed, as shown in the quotation about Oliver when he was locked in the coal-cellar
He only cried bitterly all day; and, when the long, dismal night came on, spread his little hands before his eyes to shut out the darkness, and crouching in the corner, tried to sleep : ever and anon waking with a start and tremble, and drawing himself closer and closer to the wall, as if to feel even its cold hard surface were a protection in the gloom and loneliness which surrounded him (1898: 17).
The seventh specific place setting is the police station where Oliver was brought after he was accused of theft. The police station is located in the London area, and it is described as “a very notorious metropolitan police office” (1898: 86). To reach this police station, the crowd brought Oliver through “two or three streets, and down a place called Mutton Hill, when he was led beneath a low archway, and up a dirty court, into this dispensary of summary justice, by the backway” (1898: 86). Therefore, it can be concluded that the police station is located beside a court, which is in dirty condition. Not only the nearby court, but the cell in the police station is also very dirty and small, as shown in the quotation below.
This cell was in shape and size something like an area cellar, only not so light. It was most intolerably dirty; for it was Monday morning; and it had been tenanted by six drunken people, who had been locked up, elsewhere, since Saturday night. But this is little. In our station-houses, men and women are every night confined on the most trivial charges (1898: 87).
The eighth place setting is London, the capital of England. According to Stanton’s theory, place setting includes “visible background” of the story (1965:
18), while according to Holman and Harmon’s theory, it also includes the “physical arrangement or scenery” (1986: 465) in the novel. Related to those theories, the physical arrangement or scenery which becomes the visible background of this novel depicts London as a big and crowded city. London was described as a “vast city” by old men in the workhouse where Oliver stayed (1898: 62). As a big and crowded city, London was full of people, streets, and buildings. When Oliver was accused of theft in the marketplace, all people there joined to shout “Stop thief!”, and as a result, “streets, squares, and courts, re-echo with the sound” (1898: 82). It shows that there were so many people in the marketplace, and that the place was also near the streets, squares, and courts.
Every morning, the London streets became crowded with so much traffic and the noise that came from the traffic, which would occur throughout the day until the night, as shown in the first two quotations below. However, London at night was described as “dark and foggy” with “heavy mist” that “shrouded the streets and houses in gloom” (1898: 136).
As they approached the City, the noise and traffic gradually increased; when they threaded the streets between Shoreditch and Smithfield, it had swelled into a roar of sound and bustle. It was as light as it was likely to be, till night came on again, and the busy morning of half the London population had begun (1898: 188). Mr. Claypole went on, without halting, until he arrived at the Angel at Islington, where he wisely judged, from the crowd of passengers and number of vehicles, that London began in earnest. Just pausing to observe which appeared the most crowded streets, and consequently the most to be avoided, he crossed into Saint John's Road (1898: 393).
In London, the big and small streets were all connected to each other. Because of that, people who were familiar with London could easily take shortcuts through the streets in order to reach their destination quickly. People could easily go from small streets to large, crowded areas, as shown in this quotation: “The narrow streets and courts, at length, terminated in a large open space; scattered about which, were pens for beasts, and other indications of a cattle-market” (1898: 135). On the contrary, people could also easily go from big, crowded streets to slum areas, which were overpopulated, dark, and dirty. When the characters Dodger and Bates ran away from the theft scene in the marketplace, they were described as scouring “through a most intricate maze of narrow streets and courts” until they halted “beneath a low and dark archway” (1898: 103). From there, they went back to Fagin’s hiding place. This was also shown in the quotations below.
As John Dawkins objected to their entering London before nightfall, it was nearly eleven o'clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington. Theycrossed from the Angel into St. John's Road; struck down the small street which terminates at Sadler's Wells Theatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice Row; down the little court by the side of the workhouse ; across the classic ground which once bore the name of Hockley-in-the-Hole ; thence into Little Saffron Hill ; and so into Saffron Hill the Great (1898: 68).
He crossed into Saint John's Road, and was soon deep in the obscurity of the intricate and dirty ways, which, lying between Gray's Inn Lane and Smithfield, render that part of the town one of the lowest and worst that improvement has left in the midst of London (1898: 393).
The common features of places in London that function as the visible background of the story were dirty and dark. For example, there are many scenes that take place in the public house. The public house was located “in the filthiest part of Little Saffron Hill” and described as “a dark and gloomy den, where a flaring gas-light burnt all day in the winter-time; and where no ray of sun ever shone in the summer” (1898: 127). As another example, in the market place, the ground “was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire” and full of heavy fog (1898: 188). The slum area was also dirty, dark, and full of crime, as shown in the quotation below.
A dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out at the doors, or screaming from the inside. Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses, where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth ; and from several of the door-ways, great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands (1898: 69). Finally, the last specific place setting is the unnamed town where Mr. Sowerberry lived and worked, near the workhouse where Oliver stayed. When Oliver was sold to Mr. Sowerberry, he stayed briefly in that town. From the definition, a town is generally smaller than a city. However, although this town was smaller than the capital city of London, it was crowded and overpopulated, too. The streets were described as dirty and miserable. The houses were in very bad condition and inhabited by the poor people. The streets were also full of pest, especially rats. These were all depicted in the quotation below.
They walked on, for some time, through the most crowded and densely inhabited part of the town; and then, striking down a narrow street more dirty and miserable than any they had yet passed through, paused to look for the house which was the object of their search. The houses on either side were high and large, but very old, and tenanted by people of the poorest class : as their neglected appearance would have sufficiently denoted, without the concurrent testimony afforded by the squalid looks of the few men and women who, with folded arms and bodies half doubled, occasionally skulked along. A great many of the tenements had shop-fronts; but these were fast closed, and mouldering away; only the from age and decay, were prevented from falling into the street, by huge beams of wood reared against the walls, and firmly planted in the road. The very rats, which here and there lay putrefying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine (1898: 42-43).
2. The Time Setting Depicted in Oliver Twist
Secondly, the time setting, or “historical time” as mentioned by Abrams (1999: 284-285), is the time or period when the action takes place such as the epoch in history, season, or year (Holman and Harmon, 1986: 465) or “the time of the day or year, the climate, the historical period” (Stanton, 1965: 18). This story is set during a period of about ten years, namely since Oliver Twist was born until he was about ten years old. Although the year is not specifically mentioned throughout the story, it can be deduced that the story is set in early 1830s. As explained in the Notes section of the novel, the Poor Laws depicted in the novel in detail were operated in the early 1830’s, while the novel itself was published from 1837 to 1839 (Brown, 1985: 110), as shown in the Notes section of the novel below.
The discussion of the Poor Laws, the appointment of a Parliamentary Commission, and the consequent legislation, were affairs of 1832-34, and therefore recent when Oliver Twist was written (1898: 511).
The climate depicted in the story suits the description of England’s climate, which has four seasons. Since the story takes place over a period of many years, all four seasons are depicted in the story. For example, the quotations below describe Oliver running away from his master’s house in winter, the village during spring and summer, and the condition in autumn.
“A clean shirt," thought Oliver, "is a very comfortable thing; and so are two pairs of darned stockings; and so is a penny; but they are small helps to a sixty-five miles' walk in winter time” (1898: 63). Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came. If the village had been beautiful at first it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness (1898: 295). ... that time which in the autumn of the year, may be truly called the dead of night; when the streets are silent and deserted; when even sounds appear to slumber, and profligacy and riot have staggered home to dream (1898: 437).
However, although all four seasons are described, descriptions of coldness and rain appear more often in the story. Even though it was summer, the weather might still be cold, rainy, or even stormy, as shown in the quotations below. Therefore, this story is set in climate or season dominated by coldness.
The window of the young lady's chamber was opened now; for she loved to feel the rich summer air stream in, and revive her with its freshness as it was summer time, no brighter gleam proceeded, than the reflection of certain sickly rays of the sun, which were sent back from its cold and shining surface (1898: 313). It was a dull, close, overcast summer evening. The clouds, which had been threatening all day, spread out in a dense and sluggish mass of vapour, already yielded large drops of rain, and seemed to presage a violent thunder-storm (1898: 342).
As discussed in the paragraph above, we already know that this story is set around the year 1832 to 1834 and the novel was published from 1837 to 1839, so the story takes place during the reign of either King William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837, or Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901 (Seaman, 1973: 5). There is no clear depiction of historical period in this story, but it can be deduced from various descriptions in the story, such as the workhouse and welfare system, the law and police system, the education system, and so on.
The workhouse as part of the welfare system is described a lot in this novel. In reality, the institution of workhouse did actually exist as part of the welfare system in the Victorian era England. The Poor Law Amendment Act, an actual law which was issued in 1834, among others stated that the government would only provide charity support to people inside the workhouse, namely those who were jobless or unable to work, and the government would completely stop charity support for poor people outside the workhouse, namely those who were still able to work (Brown, 1985: 81). Similarly, the Workhouses.org.uk website states that the workhouse accommodated jobless people, the elderly, the sick or disabled, and the orphaned children with minimum amount of food and shelter and obligatory unpaid work (http://www.workhouses.org.uk/intro). Children in the workhouses were not given access to education, because compulsory education for children was only applied in 1880 with the Education Law (Brantlinger and Thesing, 2002: 33-34). The institution of workhouse gained criticism for its inhumane condition, as discussed below.
All types of people were often housed together in the degrading conditions of the workhouse. Deliberately aimed at providing an incentive to work by making unemployment miserable, the workhouse system “made poverty a crime” in the words of Disraeli (Brown, 1985: 81). In the novel, the workhouse is depicted in similar way as in reality. The novel’s “Notes” section describes the workhouse is also described as part of the
Poor Laws, which “were affairs of 1832-1834, and therefore recent when Oliver
Twist was written” (Dickens, 1898: 511). This information shows that the
workhouse and welfare system described in the novel is similar to the workhouse and welfare system in real life. Just like in real life, the institution of workhouse in the novel is also depicted as having bad condition. For instance, infants were not given enough food, clothing, and attention, while adults were not only underfed but were also forced to divorce if they were already married. Oliver Twist was not given education appropriate to his age. Instead, he was sent to work picking oakum when he was only nine years old (Dickens, 1898: 13). The quotations below illustrate how the workhouse welfare system is depicted in the novel.
The parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be "farmed," or, in other words, that he should be despatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing (Dickens, 1898: 5-6).
With this view, they contracted with the water-works 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, having reference to the ladies, which it is not necessary to repeat, kindly undertook to divorce poor married people (Dickens, 1898: 13-14). The condition of workhouse in the novel reflects Brown’s statement about how the workhouse welfare system in reality “deliberately aimed at providing an incentive to work by making unemployment miserable” (1985: 81). This is supported by the narrator’s statement in the novel, “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” (Dickens, 1898: 13). It means that if the poor people received help by staying in the workhouse, they would be starved slowly; if they got out of money. Therefore, people would try as hard as they could to get some work, because otherwise they would definitely suffer.
With regards to the law system, in the period depicted in the novel, public hanging as a form of death punishment execution still took place. Fagin, the antagonist of this story, was given death punishment in the form of public hanging, as shown in the quotation below. This form of punishment was abolished in 1868 abolished (http://www.projectbritain.com/history.html).
A great multitude had already assembled ; the windows were filled with people, smoking and playing cards to beguile the time; the crowd were pushing, quarrelling, joking. Everything told of life and animation, but one dark cluster of objects in the centre of all the black stage, the cross- beam, the rope, and all the hideous apparatus of death (Dickens, 1898: 504).
3. The Social Setting Depicted in Oliver Twist
Thirdly, the social setting, or “social circumstances” as mentioned by Abrams (1999: 284-285), is the characters’ general environment, which includes their religious background, mental, moral, social and emotional conditions, occupations, and daily manner of living (Holman and Harmon, 1986: 465) as well as the social and political context of the action (Quinn, 2006: 384).
If we talk about social setting and its aspects as mentioned above, they are inseparable from the groups that exist in society. In every society, there are groups that share similar conditions, occupations, manner of living, and so on. In this analysis, the writer discusses the social setting of several groups depicted in the novel, namely the gentlemen, the businessmen, the government, the workhouse residents, and the working class. These groups are chosen because of their dominant depiction in this novel. Additionally, the social setting discussed in this analysis focus more on the social context, mental and emotional conditions, occupations, and manner of living because there is only sufficient supporting information about those aspects.
The first social setting depicted in this novel is the social setting of the gentlemen. In this novel, the depiction of gentlemen is represented by the depiction of Mr. Brownlow. As discussed in the theoretical review in the second chapter, the gentlemen are part of the upper class, who do not have to work since they are already rich. Accordingly, Mr. Brownlow in this novel is never depicted working. He is depicted as having no occupation. This is supported by Bloom’s analysis in The Victorian Novel, as shown in the quotation below.
From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, it has become common to identify three classes: upper, middle, and lower; or ruling class, bourgeoisie, and working class. This distinction is most consistent with the view of class in the Victorian novel in which the major cleavages in the social system are between those who do not have to work for a living and those who do (2004: 72-73).
Regarding his daily manner of living or daily lifestyle, Mr. Brownlow has much time to spend for leisure because he does not have to work. He spends his time visiting or being visited by his friends and doing his hobby, in this case reading, both in and outside his house. In his house, Mr. Brownlow has a study, which is a special room dedicated to his reading activities. The room has many books, a good view, and is arranged in such a way that makes it comfortable for Mr. Brownlow to read there for a long time. While outside the house, Mr. Brownlow spends a lot of time reading at the bookstall. The first quotation below shows Oliver’s comment about Mr. Brownlow’s study, while the second quotation shows Mr. Brownlow spending his time at the bookstall.
On Mr. Brownlow calling to him to come in, he found himself in a little back room, quite full of books, with a window, looking into some pleasant little gardens. There was a table drawn up before the window, at which Mr. Brownlow was seated reading (1898: 117).
He had taken up a book from the stall, and there he stood, reading away, as hard as if he were in his elbow-chair, in his own study. It is very possible that he fancied himself there, indeed; for it was plain, from his abstraction, that he saw not the book-stall, nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short, anything but the book itself (1898: 82). Still related to the gentlemen’s daily lifestyle, Mr. Brownlow has all his necessities fulfilled, such as food, hygiene, health, and other needs. He has servants to cook for him and serve him in the house. For example, when Mr. Brownlow complained that he was rather hoarse and he might have caught cold, his head servant, Mrs. Bedwin, said “Everything you have had, has been well aired, sir” (1898: 101). Should he actually get sick, he could afford to call a doctor to his house, like he did when he brought Oliver to his home after Oliver fainted, as shown in the quotation below.
The doctor, after tasting the cool stuff, and expressing a qualified approval of it, hurried away: his boots creaking; in a very important and wealthy manner as he went down stairs (1898: 97). Whenever there is a guest, the servant is always ready to open the door and announce the guest to Mr. Brownlow, as shown in this quotation: “a peculiarly impatient little double-knock was heard at the street-door: and the servant, running up stairs, announced Mr. Grimwig” (1898: 120). Those examples show that a gentleman like Mr. Brownlow has a comfortable daily lifestyle with
Finally, the gentlemen pay much attention to appearance, clothes and accessories. This is examplified by Mr. Brownlow, his friend Mr. Grimwig, and the head servant’s treatment to Oliver when Oliver was about to meet Mr. Brownlow. For instance, Mr. Brownlow is described as “a very respectable- looking personage, with a powdered head and gold spectacles”, who “was dressed in a bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar ; wore white trousers; and carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm” (1898: 82). Meanwhile, Mr. Grimwig is described as “dressed in a blue coat, striped waistcoat, nankeen breeches and gaiters, and a broad-brimmed white hat, with the sides turned up with green. A very small- plaited shirt frill stuck out from his waistcoat ; and a very long steel watch-chain, with nothing but a key at the end,dangled loosely below it” (1898: 120). When Oliver was about to meet Mr. Brownlow for the first time after his illness, the head servant said “Wash your hands, and let me part your hair nicely for you, child” and “Dear heart alive! If we had known he would have asked for you, we would have put you a clean collar on, and made you as smart as sixpence!” (1898: 117). These examples show that neat appearance, good clothes and accessories are considered important by the gentlemen.
The second social setting depicted in this novel is the social setting of the businessmen. In this novel, the depiction of businessmen is represented by the depiction of Mr. Sowerberry. Businessmen are part of the middle class, which is supported by Bloom’s statement that “The middle ranks were distinguished at the top from the gentry not so much by lower incomes … as by the necessity of
Regarding Mr. Sowerberry’s occupation, he is a “parochial undertaker” (1898: 27) who managed funeral arrangements and also produced coffins for the funerals that he managed. Everyday he conducted his business, received orders, produced and stored the coffins in his shop, which was located at the upstairs of his own house. When he received an order, he went to measure the body’s length, produced the coffin, and put the body in the coffin, and went to the graveyard, and buried the coffin.
Regarding daily manner of living, Mr. Sowerberry lived with his wife. When Mr. Sowerberry was not working at the shop upstairs, they spend their free time eating or chatting in their “little back-parlour” (1898: 39). They had two boy employees to help in the undertaker business and one girl servant for their domestic necessities. The servant was called Charlotte and described as “a slatternly girl, in shoes down at heel, and blue worsted stockings very much out of repair” (1898: 34). Mrs. Sowerberry was in charge of giving orders to the servant.
Mr. Sowerberry’s employees for the undertaker business were Noah Claypole and Oliver Twist. Noah was a charity boy, or a boy who had a complete family but his family could not support him. Meanwhile, Mr. Sowerberry bought Oliver from the workhouse to work for him, with the process shown in the quotation below.
Mr. Sowerberry was closeted with the board for five minutes; and it was arranged that Oliver should go to him that evening "upon liking" a phrase which means, in the case of a parish apprentice, that if the master find, upon a short trial, that he can get enough work out of a boy without putting too much food into him, he shall have him for a term of years, to do what he likes with (1898: 31).
The description of Mr. Sowerberry above is supported by Bloom’s laboring poor”, namely “that the middle-class person owned some property, however small” (2004: 82). In this novel, even though Mr. Sowerberry was not as rich as the gentlemen and his home was not as big or luxurious as Mr. Brownlow’s, for instance, he still had his own business and property, where he can conduct his daily activities. Another characteristic of the middle class is that “the average middle-class home employed servants, if only a cook and housemaids” (Bloom, 2004: 82). In this novel, although Mr. Sowerberry could only afford to employ unskilled, under-aged servant and staff, he was still able to employ three people.
Mr. Sowerberry’s clothing and accessories were not as complex or as good as the gentlemen’s, but he still paid special attention to his clothes. This can be seen in his description as “a tall, gaunt, large-jointed man, attired in a suit of threadbare black, with darned cotton stockings of the same colour, and shoes to answer” (1898: 28). Although his suit was threadbare and his stockings were darned, he still managed to wear a suit, and he chose the same color for his suit, stockings, and shoes. It shows that he cared about his appearance.
Additionally, from the mental point of view, Mr. Sowerberry was completely profit-oriented. As a parochial undertaker, he also managed the funerals of the workhouse residents and homeless people. However, he only thought about profits and showed no sense of humanity or sensitivity when talking about deaths of starvation, as shown in the quotation below.
"Well, well, Mr. Bumble, he said at length, "there's no denying that, since the new system of feeding has come in, the coffins are something profit, Mr. Bumble. Well-seasoned timber is an expensive article, sir; and all the iron handles come, by canal, from Birmingham." "Well, well," said Mr. Bumble, "every trade has its drawbacks. A fair profit is, of course, allowable." "Of course, of course," replied the undertaker ; " and if I don't get a profit upon this or that particular article, whv, I make it up in the long-run, you see he ! he ! he ! " (1898: 48) The third social setting depicted in this novel is the social setting of the government. In this novel, the depiction of the government is represented by government staff from various levels, namely Mr. Bumble the beadle, the police, and the magistrate. Beadles are described by Pool as “very minor parish officials” (1993: 167). According to Brown in A Reader's Guide to the Nineteenth Century
English Novel , the parish is actually the smallest geographical unit of Church of
England hierarchy, but it “remained an important unit of civil government well into the nineteenth century” (1998: 35). Therefore, a beadle could be regarded as part of the government system in that era.
Regarding his occupation, Mr. Bumble’s job consists of overseeing the local workhouse and other parochial affairs, such as funerals. Although only a minor official, the beadle’s position was strongly associated with pride and demand for respect. The novel’s omniscient narrator described how “the beadle carried his head very erect, as a beadle always should” (1898: 32). Mr. Bumble showed his demand for respect when he scolded Mrs. Mann, the baby farm caretaker, just because he had to wait for her unlocking the gate: “Do you think this respectful or proper conduct, Mrs. Mann, to keep the parish officers a waiting at your garden-gate, when they come here upon porochial business connected with the porochial orphans?” (1898: 8). On another occassion, Mr. Bumble was depicted “thrashing a boy or two to keep up appearance” (1898: 46) although he did not really need to. His pride and demand for respect as a beadle can also be seen in the quotation below.
He was in the full bloom and pride of beadlehood; his cocked hat and coat were dazzling in the morning sun; he clutched his cane with the vigorous tenacity of health and power. Mr. Bumble always carried his head high; but this morning it was higher than usual. ... Mr. Bumble stopped not to converse with the small shop-keepers and others who spoke to him, deferentially, as he passed along. He merely returned their salutations with a wave of his hand (1898: 147). Mr. Bumble was also very money-oriented when doing his job, just like the businessmen. For instance, after Oliver asked for more food, Mr. Bumble and the local board had a discussion and decided to apprentice Oliver to the public. Mr. Bumble offered Oliver to Mr. Sowerberry, as a potential apprenticer, at the price of five pounds which he called “liberal terms” (1898: 29), as if he were selling a product. He later blamed Mrs. Sowerberry’s act of giving Oliver leftover meat by saying “You’ve over-fed him, ma’am” and “If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma'am, this would never have happened” (1898: 57). When two children in his workhouse were seriously ill, Mr. Bumble was not concerned about curing them, but concerned about the burying cost instead. Thus, moved them to another parish to reduce the cost of burying them, as shown in the quotation below.
"They are both in a very low state, and we find it would come two pound cheaper to move 'em than to bury 'em that is, if we can throw 'em upon another parish, which I think we shall be able to do, if they don't die upon the road to spite us. Ha! ha! ha!" (1898: 149) Regarding Mr. Bumble’s daily manner of living, he was described as
“very corpulent” (1898: 40) or fat, so it could be deduced that he had his food and accessories, just like the gentlemen. Mr. Bumble was depicted as wearing a “large brass button” embellishing his coat, which he called “rather pretty” and Mr.
Sowerberry called “very elegant” (1898: 29). He also went everywhere wearing his cocked hat.
Meanwhile, the occupation of magistrates is described by Pool as the justices or legal officers, who “were picked from among the gentry and were often squires or clergymen; by law, the post could go only to a man with an income of at least £100 or more a year” (1993: 168-169). Pool further described that “The local magistrate dispensed justice on his own when necessary, sometimes with another justice in the county at the petty sessions” (1993: 169). In this novel, the magistrates are depicted managing various cases, from deciding what to do with workhouse residents to sentencing serious criminals.
From the mental or emotional point of view, the magistrates are depicted as immature and temperamental in this novel. For instance, a magistrate was described as being “out of temper” and looking up at Mr. Brownlow “with an angry scowl” although Mr. Brownlow had “bowed respectfully” to him and showed his name and address (1898: 89). When Mr. Brownlow asked the magistrate's name, the magistrate said "Hold your tongue this instant, or I'll have you turned out of the office!" and "You're an insolent, impertinent fellow. How dare you bully a magistrate!" (1898: 89). Based on that description, we can see that the negative reaction came without provocation or reason at all. In another case, another magistrate was also depicted as immature in making his judgment. The novel’s narrator explained that “the magistrate was half blind and half childish, so he couldn't reasonably be expected to discern what other people did” (1898: 24). Therefore, those magistrates can be described as emotionally immature and temperamental.
With regards to the police system, the novel depicts the then-new Metropolitan Police Force, which was founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, as also discussed in the Notes section of the novel: “Peel's Commission on Police was formed in 1828, and in 1829 the New Police, or ‘Peelers,’ in face of much opposition, were established in London” (Dickens, 1898: 511). In the novel, after Oliver was shot after being involved in Sikes’ burglary, the doctor asked a police officer with the rank of Constable, which was the lowest rank in the Metropolitan Police Force (http://www.met.police.uk/about/organisation.htm), to identify him.
"I ask you again," thundered the doctor, "are you, on your solemn oaths, able to identify that boy?” Brittles looked doubtfully at Mr. Giles; Mr. Giles looked doubtfully at Brittles; the constable put his hand behind his ear, to catch the reply ; the two women and the tinker leaned forward to listen ; the doctor glanced keenly round ; when a ring was heard at the gate, and at the same moment, the sound of wheels (Dickens, 1898: 270).
However, this new police force did not operate effectively yet in their role. This lack of professionalism is also shown in the novel. For example, the police officers could not answer the doctor’s question above clearly, as shown in this quotation: “’That's what it is, sir,’ replied the constable, coughing with great violence; for he had finished his ale in a hurry, and some of it had gone the wrong way” (Dickens, 1898: 270) and also shown in the police’s inhumane act of sentencing Oliver before even hearing any testimonial, as shown in the quotation below.
At this point of the inquiry, Oliver raised his head; and, looking round with imploring eyes, murmured a feeble prayer for a draught of water. "Stuff and nonsense!" said Mr. Fang : "don't try to make a fool of me." ... "How do you propose to deal with the case, sir?" inquired the clerk in a low voice. "Summarily," replied Mr. Fang. "He stands committed for three months hard labour of course. Clear the office" (Dickens, 1898: 92-93).
The fourth social setting depicted in this novel is the social setting in the workhouse. As discussed in the previous chapters, the workhouse was a system of relief given to poor people introduced by the new Poor Law (Brown, 1985: 78). The workhouse system was actually aimed for any person who was unable to support themselves, such as orphans, children, the elderly, disabled people, or jobless people with no relatives, but according to Brown, the workhouse system “was deliberately designed to make the unemployed suffer” (1985: 90). Therefore, people would not be willing to live in the workhouse unles they really had to.
The example of workhouse staff depicted in the novel is Mrs. Mann, a superintendent of a workhouse for small children, from toddler to nine years old.
Her job was to raise, feed, and take care of the children with fee from the government, but she did corruption and used most of the fee for herself. She also neglected and endangered the children under her care.
... an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. … She appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them (Dickens, 1898: 5-6).
At the very moment when a child had contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food, it did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident (1898: 6). The fifth social setting depicted in this novel is the social setting of the working class or the lower class. In this case, the term working class is used to cover the manual laborers with a steady job, people who do odd jobs, and even unemployed people. This is supported by Bloom’s definition of lower class, namely a “massive” class which was “made up of artisans or skilled workers, the growing population of industrial workers, the decreasing population of agricultural workers,domestic servants, the “surplus labor” population of the unemployed poor and destitute, and finally, lunatics, paupers, vagrants, and criminals” (2004: 84).
The example of manual laborer depicted in the novel is Mr. Gamfield, a chimney-sweep. His job was to clean people’s chimneys for a fee. Because at that time, everyone still used coal fire, chimneys were very dirty and needed regular cleaning. Chimney sweeps like Mr. Gamfield had small boys as his assistant, who would climb to the roof and clean the chimney. Usually the chimney sweeps just apprenticed or trained the boys and did not hire or pay them, just like Mr.
Gamfield who bought Oliver from the workhouse. Mr Gamfield did not have any regard for the boys’ safety, as shown in the quotation below.
"Its a nasty trade," said Mr. Limbkins, when Gamfield had again stated his wish.” "Young boys have been smothered in chimneys before now," said another gentleman. “Boys is wery obstinit, and wery lazy, gen'lmen, and there's nothink like genlmen, acause, even if they've stuck in the chimbley, roasting their feet makes 'em struggle to hextricate theirselves" (Dickens, 1898: 20). There are several examples of unemployed people in the novel. In an unemployed pauper family, the wife got sick and died of starvation while the man was arrested for begging in the street to save his wife. They were unable to afford food or even light.
I say she was starved to death. I never knew how bad she was, till the fever came upon her; and then her bones were starting through the skin. There was neither fire nor candle; she died in the dark in the dark! She couldn't even see her children's faces, though we heard her gasping out their names. I begged for her in the streets: and they sent me to prison (Dickens, 1898: 44).
Unemployed people who begged for money were arrested. However, unemployed people who tried to earn money, such as by busking or selling things, were also arrested, as shown in the quotation below.
There was nobody inside but a miserable shoeless criminal, who had been taken up for playing the flute, and who, the offence against society having been clearly proved, had been very properly committed by Mr. Fang to the House of Correction for one month. ... This was a vagrant of sixty-five, who was going to prison for not playing the flute ; or, in other words, for begging in the streets, and doing nothing for his livelihood. In the next cell, was another man, who was going to the same prison for hawking tin saucepans without a license; thereby doing something for his living, in defiance of the Stamp-office (Dickens, 1898: 112-113).
In other words, it was very hard for poor people to work. Without work, many of them ended up either dead or becoming criminals.
B. Negative Characteristics of the Victorian Era Reflected through theSetting in Oliver Twist
To answer the second problem formulated in the second chapter, the reflected through the setting in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Based on the discussion on setting in Oliver Twist above, the writer will then relate the setting in Oliver Twist to the characteristics of the Victorian era based on the theories discussed in the second chapter, supported by the sources from Brown’s A
Reader's Guide to the Nineteenth Century English Novel , Seaman’s Victorian
England – Aspects of English and Imperial History 1837-1901 , and Pool’s What
Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist .
Through the discussion in this part, the writer will show how the negative characteristics in the Victorian era are reflected through the setting in the novel
Oliver Twist .
Based on the setting above, there are two main negative characteristics of the Victorian era, namely a sharp gap between the classes and human rights violations among the lower-class people. As the first negative trait, there was a sharp gap between the upper- as well as middle- classes and the lower classes in the Victorian era depicted in the novel Oliver Twist. This gap is reflected in the place setting and social setting of the novel.
For instance, in the place setting, the upper- and middle- class characters are shown to have decent residences. Mr Brownlow’s residence is described as “a neat house, in a quiet shady street near Pentonville” (Dickens, 1898: 96). The house has many rooms, including bedrooms, dining room, study, and the bedrooms have beds and pillows. Even Mr. Sowerberry’s house, which also functions as his workshop, is in depicted in decent condition even though Mr. of stairs” (1898: 34), so it consists of at least two storeys. It also has a dining room, bedroom for the Soweberrys, and a “back parlour” for the servants (1898: 39). This is in sharp contrast with the residences of the lower-class characters. A pauper’s house has no fire, no light, and no heat at all even though it is in winter (1898: 43). The poor neighbourhood is also depicted in very bad condition; the passage is dark (1898: 43), the houses are decayed and occupied by squatters, the kennel is dirty, the streets are full of rats, and so on.
A great many of the tenements had shop-fronts; but these were fast closed, and mouldering away; only the upper rooms being inhabited. Some houses which had become insecure from age and decay, were prevented from falling into the street, by huge beams of wood reared against the walls, and firmly planted in the road ; but even these crazy dens seemed to have been selected as the nightly haunts of some houseless wretches, for many of the rough boards which supplied the place of door and window, were wrenched from their positions, to afford an aperture wide enough for the passage of a human body. The kennel was stagnant and filthy. The very rats, which here and there lay putrefying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine (1898: 43). As another example, in the social setting, the upper- and middle- class occupations are shown to have decent habits, lifestyle and surroundings. The upper-class character like Mr Brownlow does not have to work all the time; he can spend his time socializing with his friends, reading in his study, or reading in the bookstores. The middle-class characters like Mr. Bumble the beadle or Mr. Sowerberry the parochial undertaker have to work everyday, but they are still able to rest, chat, drink, and enjoy their personal life. Therefore, they can enjoy their life. This is in sharp contrast with the habits, lifestyle and surroundings of the lower-class characters. They have high birth rate and high mortality rate, and they have to continuously struggle for their life. The workhouse pauper who becomes the nurse in the workhouse has had 13 children, but only 2 children live, as shown in her quotation: “Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on 'em dead except two, and them in the wurkus with me” (1898: 3). Lower-class job such as chimney sweep is very dangerous because it involves the risk of being “smothered in chimneys” or “stuck in the chimney” and “roasting their feet” (1898: 20). The job of hawking tin saucepans without a license would risk arrest and imprisonment (1898: 113), while being jobless would risk starvation to death (1898: 44). Therefore, lower- class people have no time or resources to enjoy their life at all.
As the second negative trait, the lower class people in Victorian experience life with very low standards. One way to measure the minimum standards of life is by looking at the basic human rights, such as the rights to live, to feel secure, to stay healthy, to get education, and so on. These are one of the universal standards for acceptable quality of life. The lower class people’s standards of life depicted in the novel are even below the basic human rights. This condition is reflected in the place and social setting.
There are two alternatives for lower class people in the novel, namely to become workhouse paupers or to stay outside the workhouse. Both the workhouse paupers and poor people outside the workhouse suffer from low quality of life. In the place setting, outside the workhouse, the lower class neighbourhoods or houses depicted in the novel are far below the acceptable standards. They do not have enought light, warmth, and proper sanitation system. Therefore, the people food is very scarce. In the social setting, outside the workhouse, the lower class people are not provided with jobs or social support at all, so they could not better their life quality. Inside the workhouse, the condition often leads to human right violation practice, such as child labour, human trafficking, and lack of education.
CHAPTER V CONCLUSION This study examines the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. The
topic of this study is formulated in two problems. After conducting the analysis, the writer found some conclusions to answer the formulated problems.
Firstly, the element of setting functions as one of the dominant elements in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The element of setting depicted in Oliver Twist is mostly related to the Victorian era and consists of the place setting, time setting, and social setting. Some dominant place setting depicted in the novel are Mr.
Brownlow’s house, Mr. Sowerberry’s house, Fagin’s two houses, the unnamed poor family’s house, the workhouse, the police station, the city of London, and an unnamed town where Mr. Sowerberry lived. The time setting depicted in the novel span over a long period of time, namely about 12 years, which included the morning, afternoon, evening and night, as well as the four seasons of the year. Some dominant social setting depicted in the novel are the social environment of the gentlemen, the businessmen, the government, the workhouse residents, the workers, the jobless, the criminals, and the urban population in general. These groups are chosen because they represent the dominant environment depicted in this novel. In this novel, the place and social setting are more dominant than the time setting, because the novel contains more description of place and social
Secondly, the place and social setting depicted in the novel reflect two negative characteristics of the Victorian era England. The first negative trait of the Victorian era England is a sharp disparity between the lower class and the middle or upper classes. This idea is supported by the depiction of place setting, such as the condition of Mr. Brownlow’s house and Mr. Sowerberry’s house compared to Fagin’s houses, the poor family’s house, and the workhouse, as well as the condition in the city of London and the unnamed town where all the classes mingle; this idea is also supported by the depiction of social setting, such as the lifestyle and habits of the gentlemen, the businessmen and the government compared to the lifestyle and habits of the workhouse residents, the workers and the jobless, as well as the contrasting elements of urban population. Meanwhile, the second negative trait of the Victorian era England is the English government’s failure in administering the country. This idea is supported by the depiction of place setting, such as Fagin’s houses, which serves as criminal hideout, the unnamed poor family’s house, the workhouse, the police station, the city of London, and the unnamed town, which are depicted as very poorly managed and lacking important infrastructures; this idea is also supported by the depiction of social setting, such as high rate of criminal activities, the government’s incompetencies, as well as the lifestyle and habits of the workhouse residents, the workers, the jobless, and the urban population in general.
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