Dickens represents the Victorian age in two key ways: his indefatigableness and his desire to control all aspects of his life.
Dickens returns to OT in his public readings towards the end of his life--Sikes's brutal murder of Nancy--dramatic/personal demons
- OT, a dark and tragic novel in some ways, comes right after the largely comic PP. Why? Dickens shows the condition of the world: humor/tragedy, violence/goodwill, energy/decay. The end of OT does echo back to PP.
- Theory of the novel--moral realism: fiction that is morally useful because it gives a faithful and accurate picture of the world as it really is//characters who are good and act honorably, compassionately, bravely. See Dickens's defense of his subject matter in the Preface (Penguin, pg. 456).
- 18th Century--disinheritance/inheritance and the search for identity/novel of the road--Pilgrim's Progress (1678,1684)(heavenly rewards) Tom Jones (1749)(earthly rewards) //narrative stance--objective and detached/commentary. William Hogarth--sets of pictures that tell a story/appeals to practical observations. E.g.: A Harlot's Progress (1731-32), A Rake's Progress (1734-35). Subtitle of Oliver Twist: The Parish Boy's Progress (Penguin, pg. 457)
- Fairy Tale structure--reward for patience and virtue--rewritten in an urban setting
- Gothic literature--Monk and Fagin/Newgate novel--sensationalize crime
- Survival of goodness (See the Preface, pg. 456)--fear of becoming evil. The search for identity--finding relationships in the world. Is Oliver a passive protagonist? Is the position of the criminals (active, assertive) more feasible? Understandable?
- Social criticism/history: Poor Law (Penguin, pg. 486), Urban/Rural life, Courts and Criminality, Child Labor. What characters would you place under each of these?
- Play theory--Why do the criminals in OT have such a vivid place in our imagination? They construct a game world in which they "play" (compete) against proper society. Use the pickpocket game as a means of understanding the larger "game" the criminals play against proper society. What are the characteristics of games? What is the nature of play? (Is there a distinction between play and games?) What does the criminals' game reveal about how individuals are connected to society and each other?