Dickens’s Oliver Twist: Depictions of Childhood

This activity will introduce students to influential philosophies current at the beginning of the 19th century that construct the nature of the child and childhood itself. Students will examine how Dickens depicts both the character of Oliver and his upbringing within this context. Orphans with familial ties or guardians often feature in Dickens’s narrative, and although their tales may be unhappy, they seem fortunate by comparison with children lacking any form of adult protection. Students will discover how the orphans’ struggle for survival was desperate and often hopeless. In addition, students will discuss how notions of childhood have developed since Dickens wrote his seminal novel, and consider how punishment, policy and provision for children and young adults evolved.