Dickens’s Oliver Twist: Depictions of Childhood

Lesson rationale

This activity will introduce students to influential 19th-century philosophies that construct the nature of the child and childhood itself. Students will examine how Charles Dickens depicts both the character of Oliver and his upbringing within this context. 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.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How does Dickens construct the child, childhood and family within the context of Oliver Twist?
  • What kind of provision, if any, was made for orphans who found themselves entirely alone in the world? How does Dickens depict these existences?
  • How were children who committed crimes dealt with by the courts, and how were they viewed by society?