Dickens’s Oliver Twist: Poverty, the Poor Laws and the Workhouse

In this lesson, students will explore aspects of the social and economic background underpinning Oliver Twist and discover Dickens’s preoccupations with these subjects not only as a novelist, but also as a campaigner. Students are encouraged to draw comparisons between Dickens’s works of journalism and his fiction, and to discover the similarities Dickens exposes between workhouses and prisons. In addition, students will consider the philosophy behind the notorious 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act; explore the implications of being poor in the 19th century; the consequences of debt; and the ease with which it was possible to become destitute.