by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Poverty Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The sun was rising in all his splendid beauty, but the light only seemed to show the boy his own lonesomeness and desolation as he sat with bleeding feet and covered with dust upon a cold door-step. (8.9)
There’s an old saying about how the sun shines on everyone – rich and poor. But here, the sun might be shining on Oliver, but it isn’t warming at all – the door-step Oliver is sitting on is still "cold," and the light only shows him how alone he is.
"Out-of-door relief, properly managed,-- properly managed, ma’am,-- is the porochial safe-guard. The great principle of out-of-door relief is to give the paupers exactly what they don’t want, and then they get tired of coming." (23.21)
Mr. Bumble’s revealing trade secrets here. "Out-of-door relief" is the practice of giving people help when they come to ask for it, rather than waiting until they have no choice but to be admitted to the workhouse. Mr. Bumble’s "porochial safe-guard" method is just another way to save the parish money – but do the paupers stop coming because they’re tired of it, or because they’ve starved to death on their own? And Dickens isn’t just making this up – the 1834 New Poor Law (so, just a few years before Oliver Twist was written) does away with "out-of-door" relief in favor of the kind of institutionalized, centralized system that Dickens is critiquing here.
[…] there came a rumour that two men and a boy were in the cage at Kingston, who had been apprehended overnight under suspicious circumstances […]. The suspicious circumstances, however, resolving themselves, on investigation, into the fact that they had been discovered sleeping under a haystack, which, although a great crime, is only punishable by imprisonment. (31.84)
It’s considered bad form to sleep outdoors – so much so, that you can be thrown in jail for it. This is because of the vagrancy laws in England at this point: it’s like the law that had Mr. Bayton, the poor man from Chapter Five, thrown into prison for begging in the streets when his wife was sick. Basically, those laws were designed to keep poor people behind the walls of the workhouse, where they could be easily controlled. So sleeping under a haystack, or begging in the street (looking for "out-of-door relief") was a big no-no.