Textuality » 5ALS Interacting

EBergantin - "I want some more"
by EBergantin - (2018-02-19)
Up to  5ALS - THE VICTORIAN AGE AND VICTORIAN FICTION Up to task document list


The extract belongs to Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” (1837-1839).  It is a Victorian novel, the main narrative technique is telling, but there is also showing. The narrator  is a omniscient third person narrator. The extract begins with an introduction in which the writer sets the narration in a workhouse during the lunch: C. Dickens portrays the Victorian Age, the condition of children and the role of men.The setting contributes to create the atmosphere and conveys the misery and the condition of children and the asymmetric relationship between the children and the master. The extract is a criticism of the social condition during the Victorian Age.

In the first sequence the narrator focuses the reader’s attention on the master. He characterises him with his aspect: “ dressed in an apron for the purpose” and his behaviours: “ladled the gruel”.
The use of the passive form “ the boys were fed” underlines the passive role of children and their submission to the master, it conveys the asymmetric relationships between children and the master. The language the writer uses is an excess related with the situation he wants to describe: it makes the master become a caricature. The writer uses irony and creates a comic effects using the hyperboles because he can’t criticise society straightforward. Besides irony the writer uses an important tone in order to criticise.

The overall effect of the introduction is that all is standardised and children aren’t free under the master’s apparent supremacy. The sentence “The bowls never wanted washing” refers to the fact that children are very hungry and never leave anything in the bowls, in particular the narrator uses the verb “to polish” to underline that children probably licked their bowls. It also underline this idea with the verb “to shine” that is usually referred to the sun. The exaggeration of the language makes the reader laughs, but at the same time allows an indirect criticism, indeed it suggests the idea of a very poor condition. The writer uses similes to compare children to animals in order to underline that they are really hungry. Also the image of the spoon large as the bowl it’s grotesque: it’s ridiculous but makes the reader reflects on the children’s situation. This double effect remind to the double faced nature of the Victorian Age where wealth and poverty coexisted and where the two faces of the same period.

The onomatopoeia “splashes” sound strange because it can’t “splash” if in the children’s bowl there isn’t anything. It helps the reader understands the condition of the boys. Also the alliteration of sound s in the sentence “suffered the tortures of slow starvation” contribute to creates the idea of the children’s miser condition.

The master is once again characterized with his clothes, his actions and by the people who surround him: “the master in his cook’s uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him”. And at the same time the boys are characterized by their language: “the boys whispered to each other and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him.” The reader could understand that they are afraid, but anyway the writer uses the verb “to rise” to tell the reader that Oliver stands up and goes to the master: it is generally used for the sun and it is in contrast to the feelings of the boy, indeed this contrast is underlined in the next sentence: “somewhat alarmed art his own temerity”.

Oliver tells the master: “Please, sir, I want some more”, the words “please” and “sir” make understand the submitted position of the boys in front of the master.
The reactions of the masters and the assistants portray the society of the Victorian Age: there was determined role and position that couldn’t be ignored. The writer choose to tell the reader the “chaos” that Oliver’s request provoked. The scene might seems comic, but it reveals how society was in Victorian Age and makes the reader reflect on what was children’s reality and which was the role of men in this period.