Research Paper English 12 2

Submitted By ekrol
Words: 2046
Pages: 9

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most respected and known social activist of all time. He was a man who wanted to enacted change that would allow all people: rich or poor, black or white, male or female, to succeed. King Jr. was quoted as saying “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” He made sure to always stand for what he believed in through passive protests; from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the March on Washington. Charles Dickens lived with this same life philosophy about one hundred year before King was born. Dickens had the same fiery passion for social activism as King. Dickens, however, exhibited his passion through his many literary works. One critic stated “Through social commentary, he brought up a strong case of poverty, crime, misfortunes of being poor, treatment of poor, and condemnation of inconsiderate public institution” (Duke 6). Dickens grew up during the Age of Reform in England which saw an increase in poverty, crime, child labor, and workhouses. Dickens had the “fortune” of seeing all of these aspects of society during his time. Perhaps, it was fortunate that Dickens, rather than another, experienced these conditions because he had the gumption to write about it. He introduced characters such as Oliver Twist, who exemplified the nature of the time period. Dickens wrote of Twist, a young pauper, who managed to seize the opportunities given to him in order to free himself from the shackles of impoverished life. Dickens wanted to help all paupers of the time period by writing to reform societal issues of the era. Dickens never allowed himself to become silent about the problems his saw in society. Charles Dickens uses Oliver Twist as a satirical vehicle to reform social issues of workhouses, child labor, crime, and the Poor Laws. Often times, fictional stories are a product of factual happenings. This is no different for Charles Dickens, who used his life as a template for Oliver Twist. Dickens was born in 1812; he was the second of eight children. Charles was thrust into work at the age of twelve to support his family and pay off his father’s debt, for which he had been imprisoned. Dickens worked in a shoe polish warehouse, the same polish mentioned several time in Oliver Twist. Dickens told John Forster, his biographer “Its wainscoted rooms, and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again” (Forster n.p.). Dickens recalled working with a boy whose name was Bob Fagin, which he ended up using as the name for one of the main characters in Oliver Twist. Dickens was finally able to stop working when his family inherited a large sum of money from his grandmother, similar is Oliver being taken in by Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies. Dickens’ youth heavily influenced his passion for writing about social reforms and led to his work, Oliver Twist. One area of reform Dickens chose to focus on was the cruel child labor of the workhouses. Dickens had life experiences of child labor and workhouses, which he gained from working in a shoe polish factory as a boy. These issues were important to Dickens, and important to the time period. Without child labor and workhouses, the Industrial Revolution in England would have struggled to take place. Employers would pay children much less than their adult counterparts, but often times poverty led children into labor; they would have to support themselves or their families. Workhouses, similar to child labor, were extremely prevalent during the Industrial Revolution in England. Conditions within the workhouses were inhumane and barbaric. Oliver begins his life in an orphanage and then, at age nine, is taken to the workhouse. One critic wrote “It provided conditions in the workhouse such that