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Criminality and Immorality in Oliver Twist

Dickens' Viewpoint in His Preface

In the preface to Oliver Twist, Dickens unequivocally rejects the notion that he intended to romanticize or glamorize a life of crime. On the contrary, he strives to portray it as repulsive, abominable, and loathsome. Dickens explicitly states in his preface that he aims to depict the ugliness, filth, and squalor of criminal existence. He asserts that his intention is to expose the prevalent crimes and criminals in society, presenting them realistically to raise awareness about the societal evils. Dickens staunchly denies the accusation that his novel might entice readers into embracing a criminal lifestyle, emphasizing that the portrayal of criminal life in Oliver Twist lacks any allure or magnetism. Drawing a contrast with Gay's work, The Beggar's Opera, Dickens points out that he aligns more with authors like Fielding, Defoe, Goldsmith, and Smollett, who depict the darker aspects of society as obnoxious and disgusting.

Criminality and Immorality in Oliver Twist:

The Squalor of Criminal Lives in Oliver Twist:

The depiction of criminal lives in Oliver Twist is far from appealing; instead, it is rife with filth and sordidness. Dickens paints a vivid picture of the unsavoury environment when Artful Dodger introduces Oliver to Fagin's den. The narrow, dirty street leading to Fagin's dwelling emanates a foul odor, with children crawling in and out of houses, and screams echoing within. Fagin's living quarters are described as dirty and dismal, adorned with spiders, webs, and scurrying mice. Similar descriptions apply to the localities of Sikes and Toby Crackit. Dickens skilfully ensures that the reader finds these criminal environments undesirable and repulsive.

Criminals Struggling with Poverty, Comfort, and Self-Respect:

Oliver Twist illustrates that criminals live in abject poverty, lacking the means to meet their basic needs. The novel highlights that a life of crime does not lead to luxury; rather, characters like Charley Bates and Artful Dodger often go to bed hungry. Even Sikes, a hardened criminal, must plead with Fagin for money, emphasizing the financial struggles associated with a criminal lifestyle. Sikes' reliance on crime for income forces him into a subservient relationship with Fagin, dispelling any notion of glamour in criminal lives.

Constant Fear of Police:

The narrative underscores the perpetual fear criminals experience, haunted by the prospect of police intervention. Sikes, after committing murder, is depicted as constantly on the move, avoiding any trace that might lead to his arrest. Fagin, too, lives in perpetual dread of being apprehended, especially when his criminal endeavors fail. The fear of the police is portrayed as a pervasive and unrelenting aspect of criminal life.

Tragic Ends of Sikes and Fagin:

The fates of Sikes and Fagin in Oliver Twist are portrayed as horrifying rather than glamorous. Sikes meets a gruesome end, accidentally strangling himself while attempting to escape, and Fagin faces severe mental agony as he awaits execution behind bars. The tragic conclusions of these characters serve as a stark warning,

Discouraging readers from embracing a criminal path:

Far from romanticizing crime, Oliver Twist imparts a moral lesson that crime ultimately leads to exposure and punishment.

The Moral Lesson of Oliver Twist:

The overarching moral lesson of Oliver Twist is clear – crime never pays. Dickens uses the tragic outcomes of the characters to emphasize the consequences of criminal actions. The novel serves as a cautionary tale, dissuading readers from succumbing to the allure of a criminal life. Contrary to any misconceptions, Dickens' work is not a glamorous representation of crime and vice, but rather a moral commentary on the perils and pitfalls of such a lifestyle.