Oliver Twist

by: Charles Dickens

Criminality

Quotes Criminality
And it’s a great deal better, Work’us, that she died when she did, or else she’d have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung; which is more likely than either, isn’t it?

Noah Claypole, an apprentice himself, taunts Oliver, saying that if his mother had not died she would likely be in prison or hanged as a criminal. Even a youth such as Noah, a recipient of charity himself, accepts the links that Victorian society makes between poverty and criminality. That Oliver rises to Noah’s bait and attacks him in rage only validates these fallacies that the people believe. By attacking Noah, Oliver demonstrates violent behavior, which supports the idea that poor people, like him and his mother, are criminals at heart.

He had left her, when only eighteen; robbed her of jewels and money; gambled, squandered, forged, and fled to London: where for two years he had associated with the lowest outcasts.

As a foil to Oliver and his purity, Monks and his degradation demonstrate that criminality spans wealth and social class. As described here by the narrator, even though Monks has socially respectable, well-off parents, he acts like a born criminal. Life offered Monks advantages that no one in Fagin’s gang could imagine—including an inheritance. Instead, Monks chose to spend much of his life in the company of criminals. He shows no interest in repentance, even when confronted by Mr. Brownlow, who treats him with kindness. In the end, despite starting afresh in the New World, Monks returns to his old ways and dies in prison.

Master Charles Bates, appalled by Sikes’s crime, fell into a train of reflection whether an honest life was not, after all, the best.

The narrator reports that Charley has turned his back on his life of crime and ends up a cattle farmer. This detail refutes many of the preconceived notions of criminality and class in Victorian England. In choosing to change his ways, Charley proves that criminals can repent and find redemption. Charley’s transformation, through dint of hard work and determination, also demonstrates that criminality is not innate. If poor people were born to a criminal destiny, they would not have the ability to shake off such habits.