Throughout the novel Dickens criticises Victorian society. He wrote the novel based on the personal experiences of previous hardships inflicted on people. Dickens emphasised the treatment of the poor, the conditions in which children survived and the way in which society treated each other. Throughout the novel, Dickens uses irony, sarcasm and satire to reinforce his points to illustrate the conditions in which people lived.
The subject of Institutional bullying is highlighted at the beginning of the novel. Oliver Twist was just one of the subjects of institutional bullying. In Victorian society, workhouses were very common places for individuals to live. People were sent to the workhouse if they did not have any where else to go. These places were often used for old people. If a person was sent to a workhouse it was thought to be their fault. It was difficult for the inhabitants; as they were categorized as shameful and desperate. Whilst living in the workhouse people would lose their identity and integrity. They would live by very vigorous rules and lose the freedom they possessed.
In the opening of the novel, Oliver is an orphan born in a workhouse. The first time Oliver is referred to in the novel is as ‘it’, this is a sign of bullying from the beginning. When someone is referred to as ‘it’, they lose their identity. Oliver is later referred to as ‘the fact of a new burden having been imposed upon the parish’. It is ironic because when a baby is born it is regarded as the greatest joy in the world, but in the case of babies who were born in the workhouse they were classed as a burden and one which was not needed.
Dickens highlighted the fact that ‘He was enveloped in the old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service.’ This demonstrates that the workhouse was a dirty place. The owners did not buy new clothes nor did they wash them very often. This suggests that the robe had been worn many times by other babies born into the environment. Oliver was just one of many to wear it. The robe was yellow which suggests it was very old and dirty. This suggests institutional bullying; most people who went through the workhouse were treated this way.
Institutional bullying continued throughout Oliver’s early life, he was maltreated by his hypocritical master Bumble. We reflect on this as ‘Oliver Twist’s ninth birthday found him a pale thin child.’ This shows the malnutrition that Oliver and the other work house boys encountered and the way in which they were starved. The description of food amounts were at starvation levels for a child. Dickens describes Oliver’s clothes as ‘He wore an outer coat of dirt’, this highlighted the fact that Oliver had been neglected and was unclean. From the novel, I can see how unhappy Oliver was ‘on a rough, hard bed, he sobbed himself to sleep’; this emphasised how badly he was treated and the sorrow he felt. This is institutional and emotional bullying.
Throughout the novel, Oliver encounters many bullies. Dickens uses these bullies to emphasise the way in which society treated people and the examination of evil. One bully who Oliver is the victim of is Noah Claypole. Oliver meets Noah when he is apprenticed by Mr Sowerberry at the undertakers where he is sent to work. Noah Claypole is one of the workers there. Noah Claypole instantly takes a dislike to Oliver. Before he even meets him, he threatens to hurt him by saying, ‘I’ll whop yer when I get in.’ This is a clear indication of bullying.