Textuality » 5ALS Interacting
TEXTUAL ANALYSIS: Oliver wants some more
In the present text I'm going to analyze the extract "Oliver wants some more" from the novel "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens. It is a text told by a third person narrator and it is set inside a workhouse. The intention is to bring to surface the condition of children in workhouses and it provided the role of the man during the Victorian Age. The narrator tries to set a suitable atmosphere to convey the theme of the condition of children and the asymmetric relationship between the adults and children. The use of language is particular relevant to convey an indirect opinion of the typical social problems on the Victorian Age.
In the first three lines, the narrator setting the scene. The reader focuses the attention on a "large stone hall" (line 1) and "master" (line 2). So, the reader can understend that the setting is the living room of a poor house.
Moreover, the use of a passive voice makes the reader understand that the role of the boys is a passive one. The idea is the result of the narrator juxtaposition of the passive role of the children and the hall wich is stone. The material of building is one of the hardes. In addition the reference to copper focuses the reader attention on the content of the copper, a terrible soup. So the narrator provided an image resorted to the language to make the reader imagine the setting.
There is a peculiar use of language where the hall convays the distance between the children and master. The master creates an asymmetric relationship and the text creates this unbalance effect. If the reader consider "the master, dressed in an apron for the purpose" (line 2), he can understand that the language used is in excess to the situation he wants to convey also the master. He is a man who is assisted by two women and this is a typical aspect of the Victorian Age because woman had to help man. The atmosphere created by the narrator is based of one of the retorical figure that creates a comic effect because the reader coudn't criticise the society directly. Therefore the narrator uses a retorical language. Since the use of language is in excess, the master bacame a caricature.
Going on with the analysis, the reader can understand that the conditions of life in the workhouses was very poor and children didn't seems to have freedom. Therefore, the overall effect is everything seems unchangeable, distance and the children had no freedom at all to express their feelings. "The bowls never wanted washing" (line 5) extend the idea of limitation. It is an ironic way to say the children has any single drop of soup. Irony is used because the exaggeration serves two points: it creates entertainer but at the same time it allows an indirect criticism.
At line 12 the reader identifies a boy by the use of his proper name: Oliver Twist. Oliver' starvation makes him aggressive and a potential cannibal. The narrator does not adopt the language of children but a very high register, the Latin language ("per diem", line 16) and this creates a comic effect.
The child chosen to ask for a second portion of food is Oliver Twist. He is convinced by the other children and is also pushed by his own childish naivety. The use of grotesque in the description conveys a rigid and austere atmosphere: "took their places" (line 21), "cook's uniform" (line 22). The idea of master is given by his uniform. The technique of grotesque is used to the exaggeration of tones, in order to make the reader delight and interested in the story. It is interesting to focus the attention on the contraposition between the "long grace" (line 24) and the "short commons" (line 24): once more the narrator uses exaggeration of tones and irony. The narrator wants to underline the importance of appearance over substance for the people of the Victorian Age.
It is interesting to notice the master and children's different behaviour: the man imposes his authority, while the children act together. The description reminds to the theme of the struggle for democracy, a problem present during the Victorian age.
The narrator use a celebrative tone to describe Oliver's walk towards the master: he seems to be a little hero facing the evil. The concept is reinforced by the use of the verb to rise, usually used to describe the sun: the narrator's aim is to convey that Oliver is a symbol of change for his companions.
By the use of the grotesque the narrator creates the caricatures of the characters: the choice initially makes the reader laugh, but next it also provokes the reader's reflection about the problem of children's bad conditions of living in the workhouses during the Victorian Age.