In this lesson, students will explore aspects of the social and economic background underpinning Oliver Twist and discover Charles 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.
Key questions in this lesson:
- What was new and revolutionary about the Act in terms of provision for the poor?
- What were the main social and economic developments that dominated the early 19th century and how were ordinary working people affected in terms of housing and budgeting?
- Why were the workhouses such hated institutions?
- How did critics, like Dickens, explore the reality of the poor and their treatment at the hands of both the authorities and the criminal class?