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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens

Religion Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"I hope you say your prayers every night," said another gentleman in a gruff voice, "and pray for the people who feed you, and take care of you, like a Christian."

"Yes, sir," stammered the boy. The gentleman who spoke last was unconsciously right. It would have been very like a Christian, and a marvelously good Christian, too, if Oliver had prayed for the people who fed and took care of him. But he hadn’t, because nobody had taught him. (2.53-54)

This is the first time religion is ever mentioned in terms of private practice (praying for people) instead of as a big institution (the parish authorities, the beadle, the baby farm, et cetera are all run by the institutional Church of England). And we learn here that although they expect Oliver to practice religion, no one has ever taught him to do so, in spite of being brought up by the Church’s institutions. So there’s a big difference in this book between religion as a private practice, and religion as an institution.

Quote #2

"What have paupers to do with soul or spirit either? It’s quite enough that we let ’em have bodies." (7.32)

…says Mr. Bumble, as he explains why it’s better to keep paupers half-starved. Mr. Bumble sure does think a lot of his own power over the poor people in his parish – he controls their bodies, souls, and spirits? Dickens is establishing really early on his theme of universal, institutional control – those with power use it to control the lives (and souls and spirits, apparently) of those without it.

Quote #3

The blessing was from a young child’s lips, but it was the first that Oliver had ever heard invoked upon his head; and through all the struggles and sufferings of his after life, through all the troubles and changes of many weary years, he never once forgot it. (7.59)

Little Dick, Oliver’s friend and fellow-sufferer at Mrs. Mann’s baby farm, is the first person ever to bless Oliver? For an orphan who is at least ostensibly being raised by the Church of England, Oliver’s had remarkably little religious training. Again with the difference between personal religious practice and organized, institutionalized religion. This sentence, although it sounds pretty dreary, suggesting that Oliver will "struggle," and "suffer," and have "troubles and changes" through "many weary years," actually does give a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel: at least we know he survives for many years after this moment, and considering what he’s been through already, survival hasn’t always seemed likely. Are we grasping at straws here? Maybe.

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