Great Expectations and Oliver Twist


Expectations and Oliver Twist

During his lifetime, Charles Dickens is
known to have written several books. Although each book is different, they
also share many similarities. Two of his books, Great Expectations and

Oliver Twist, are representatives of the many kinds of differences and
similarities found within his work.

Perhaps the reason why these two novels
share some of the same qualities is because they both reflect painful experiences
which occurred in Dickens' past. During his childhood, Charles Dickens
suffered much abuse from his parents.1 This abuse is often expressed in
his novels. Pip, in Great Expectations, talked often about the abuse he
received at the hands of his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery. On one occasion
he remarked, "I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from behind in
the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face ignominously
shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient

While at the orphanage, Oliver from Oliver

Twist also experienced a great amount of abuse. For example, while suffering
from starvation and malnutrition for a long period of time, Oliver was
chosen by the other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner
one night. After making this simple request, "the master (at the orphanage)
aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms;
and shrieked aloud for the beadle."3

The whole beginning of Oliver Twist's story
was created from memories which related to Charles Dickens' childhood in
a blacking factory ( which was overshadowed by the Marshalsea Prison ).4

While working in the blacking factory, Dickens suffered tremendous humiliation.

This humiliation is greatly expressed through Oliver's adventures at the
orphanage before he is sent away.

Throughout his lifetime, Dickens appeared
to have acquired a fondness for "the bleak, the sordid, and the austere."5

Most of Oliver Twist, for example, takes place in London's lowest slums.6

The city is described as a maze which involves a "mystery of darkness,
anonymity, and peril."7 Many of the settings, such as the pickpocket's
hideout, the surrounding streets, and the bars, are also described as dark,
gloomy, and bland.8 Meanwhile, in Great Expectations, Miss Havisham's house
is often made to sound depressing, old, and lonely. Many of the objects
within the house had not been touched or moved in many years. Cobwebs were
clearly visible as well as an abundance of dust, and even the wedding dress
which Miss Havisham constantly wore had turned yellow with age.9

However, similarities are not just found
in the settings. The novels' two main characters, Pip and Oliver, are also
similar in many ways. Both young boys were orphaned practically from birth;
but where Pip is sent to live with and be abused by his sister, Oliver
is sent to live in an orphanage. Pip is a very curious young boy. He is
a "child of intense and yearning fancy."10 Yet, Oliver is well spoken.

Even while his life was in danger while in the hands of Fagin and Bill

Sikes, two conniving pickpockets, he refused to participate in the stealing
which he so greatly opposed. All Oliver really longed for was to escape
from harsh living conditions and evil surroundings which he had grown up
in.11 However, no matter how tempting the evil may have been, Oliver stood
by his beliefs.

Therefore, he can be referred to as "ideal
and incorruptible innocence."12 "It is Oliver's self-generated and self-sustained
love, conferred it would seem from Heaven alone, that preserves him from
disaster and death."13

Unfortunately, many critics have found
it hard to believe that a boy such as Oliver Twist could remain so innocent,
pure, and well spoken given the long period of time in which he was surrounded
by evil and injustices.14

Pip, on the other hand, is a dreamer. His
imagination is always helping him to create situations to cover up for
his hard times. For example, when questioned about his first visit to Miss

Havisham's house, he made up along elaborate story to make up for the terrible
time he had in reality. Instead of telling how he played cards all day
while being ridiculed and criticized by Estella and Miss Havisham, he claimed
that they played with flags and swords all day after having wine and cake
on gold plates.15 However, one special quality possessed by Pip that is
rarely seen in a novel's hero is that he wrongs others instead of being
hurt himself all of the time.16

Another similarity between Oliver and Pip
is that they both have had interactions with convicts. Fagin the head of
a group of young thieves, spends most of his time trying to