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Marxist Analysis of Oliver Twist

by Abeera Arshad
Marxist Analysis of Oliver Twist

Marxist Analysis of Oliver Twist: Power Hierarchies and class difference in Charles Dicken’s characters. Capitalism leads a conflict in the society. The present research proposal aims to highlight the horrible lives of criminals in an unromantic way as well as the brutal treatment of London’s numerous orphans. The story is about an orphan whose name was Oliver. He lived in a poorly run home that was for orphans and then he was moved to a workhouse. Charles Dicken portrayed the hardships of adults through the character of Oliver. The upper-class mistreated the lower-class. They put more burdens on them and got all the benefits for themselves. Charles Dicken also faced poverty during his childhood because of the failings of his father and worked in a factory. So, the research shows that Oliver Twist truly represents the realities of social inequality in Victorian Britain.


Capitalism, Oppression, Power Hierarchy, Class difference and Marxism.

Marxist Analysis of Oliver Twist Introduction:

Oppression done due to Power Hierarchy and class difference can bring huge disasters. This study aims to focus on the brutal conditions of the British during the 19th century. Industrial growth and urban growth were the major problems of the 19th century.

Different authors of that era had depicted class and economic problems that they have faced. Karl Marx was one of the authors who explore different facets of society. He introduced different theories for the idea of a perfect society. One of his theory Marxist theory presented the idea of the perfect evolution system of politics. Charles Dicken’s works present Marx’s concept of Marxism.

Karl Marx loved the works of Charles Dickens’ due to his effective portrayal of the living conditions of the working class in the Victorian era of British. Here we will apply the Marxist theory to Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist.

Dickens is known for the portrayal of a powerful picture of the underclass of the Victorian era, helping to bring about social change. Here we will see Oliver Twist from a Marxist perspective based on some issues revealed in it like class conflict, alienation, and economic struggle during the Victorian period in British society. This paper actually highlights the oppression faced by the middle-class and especially of the lower-class society.

Research Questions:

The present study is about ruler and oppressed. It aims to answer the following questions depending on different researches:

  1. How Power Hierarchies in Oliver twist impacted the Orphans?
  2. How we can bring equality in our society?

Research Methodology:

The present study is actually a qualitative methodology. For this research many past researches were mute and many writers did great work on it.  The main purpose of this research is to highlight the power imbalances between upper and lower class and how the rulers mistreated the people and specially orphans in the mid- nineteenth century.

According to my observation, it was clear that the portrayal of power hierarchy in Oliver twist leads to the Marxist theory as it also talks about Capitalism. This research proposal includes: Abstract, Introduction, Research questions, Methodology, Theoretical Framework, Literature review, Analysis and Conclusion to deeply understand the injustices and imbalances among the community.

Theoretical Framework:

There are several researches made on this topic before but the present research will bring out some newness in it. The theory applied on the conducted research is Marist theory. Marxism is a concept, idea, or theory that was established by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to spot the Capitalism during their era. They introduced this notion to bring about a classless society based on the public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. It is a theory that examines how society is influenced by social class, money, and means of production. Marxist perspective can be seen through oppressed children in Oliver Twist who were not allowed to make any social relations and were regulated by their masters.

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Literature review:

There are many previous researches conducted before on this topic and each research presented different opinions. Likewise, the present research also focuses to extract some new meaning with the help of previous researches.

According to (Gale, 2016), by writing Oliver Twist, Dickens exhibits his awareness of ordinary people by giving them a voice to deliver social commentary on institutions hypocrisy and inadequacies, his society’s administration, with its laws and prison system, and its methods of dealing with the destitute.

As a result, Dawson (1905) considers Charles Dickens to be the “spokesman of the masses: he wrote for them and lived by their praise; he was understood by the common people and thrilled in their company. He also refers to Dickens as “the founder of the democratic book” Dawson (1905). In Oliver Twist, light and dark contrasts are frequently utilized to depict the fight between good and evil: “Oliver Twist’s moral world is split by extremes of vice and goodness.” (Sanders, 62) (Frissen, Fontys, p.2)

Dickens’ story focuses on society’s “crumbling feudal structure,” which is “gradually but definitely giving birth to industrial capitalism,” while also presenting society’s “underclass” (Stearns and Burns, 2011, p. 2). According to Newton (1990), Dickens’ writings “have been significant for traditional Marxist criticism in that they freely deal with social concerns”. (p.452)

Oliver Twist has almost the same ideas that Marxism have regardless of the fact that it does not give us a solution to the problems that systemic racism and capitalism create in society but still it has awoken the minds of many contemporary readers from both the upper and lower classes. (Frissen, Fontys, p.2)


Oliver Twist shows us the brutal face of a 19th-century society that how the lower-class struggled for the economy.

Everyone in the story is trying to oppress lower-class people and lower-class people are working for money but not for themselves but their masters who took more work from them and pay less. If someone argues, then he was brutally treated by his master. This cruelty impacted the orphans psychologically, physically and socially and made them alienated.

  • Charles Dicken was himself belonged to the middle-class and faced many hardships in his childhood. So, he was aware of the problems that the lower-class had to face during the 19th-century. The economic struggle mostly led the lower-class towards wrongdoings as we can see in the novel that the children were suppressed to pick-pocket and involved in a bad society.
  • Nancy, one of the lower-class characters in the story was also involved in bad deeds. She commits prostitution to earn money. This thing shows that there was no option for lower-class people that led them to do bad things because of their problem of poverty. Monk was the step-brother of Oliver and he wanted to make Oliver a criminal.
  • He had a lust for money that was inherited by their father. Mr. Bumble sold Oliver to a workhouse just for money. One main reason to see Oliver Twist from the Marxist perspective is because of the question of class conflict vividly depicted in the novel. Dickens stressed that the behavior of upper-class people is crueler towards the lower class.
  • This can be seen through the character of Mr. Bumble who was a materialistic person and the master of the workhouse. He forced the poor children to work with insufficient food, bad shelter condition, and with less or no salary.
  • These characters showed us the scenario of that era’s society and the communist system as well. This thing divided society into two classes: working or non-working classes. Marx’s opinion about society was that there should be a classless society. There must be equality among people of every status in society.  Everyone should spend a happy, independent, and healthy life, and this is their right.
  • To build a classless, perfect, and Utopian society, Marx and Engels presented their opinions on this issue and introduced Marxist theory. Charles Dicken also wanted to make a clean and perfect society. He highlighted the weaknesses of his era in his writings. So, we can surely criticize the issue of economic struggle presented in Oliver Twist from Marxist views.

Conclusion and limitations:

Marxist Analysis of Oliver Twist Marxism is based on money, class struggle, and humans. The concepts of Marxism can be used in the study of literary works. It’s an idea that uses a materialistic concept of historical development to explain class differences and economic instability. Marxism can be perfectly applied to Oliver Twist.

In Oliver Twist, Dickens tried to expose the impact of industrialization, society’s alienation towards poor children, the miserable lives of orphans. He wanted to attract the attention of his readers to the condition of the most helpless members of his society. Charles Dicken and Karl Marx both have similar ideas in criticizing the bad conditions of British society during the Victorian era. Marxism suggests us to treat people equally no matter what race and color they belonged to. They are also humans like us. They also have feelings and emotions in them and it is their right to spend a normal human life.

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