Study Guide

Oliver Twist Society and Class

By Charles Dickens

Society and Class

"Society and Class" is one of the central themes of most Dickens novels. In Oliver Twist, Dickens often shows how superficial class structures really are—at the core, everyone’s really the same, regardless of the social class into which they’re born.

Dickens also exposes how callous and uncaring Victorian society was—folks just ignored the plight of the less fortunate because they were so self-satisfied, and so convinced that the systems they had in place to take care of the poor were the best and most humane systems possible.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. In the world of Oliver Twist, is the middle class always morally superior to the working class?
  2. In the Bayton episode of Book I, Chapter Five, Mr. Bayton blames his wife’s death on some undefined "they:" "They starved her!" he repeats several times (5.69). Who is the "they" he’s condemning, and how can you tell?
  3. Are members of the upper class ever mentioned in Oliver Twist? By whom, and in what light? What does that say about the position of the middle class characters?
  4. Is the reader condemned along with the rest of "society" in Oliver Twist?

Chew on This

Although Dickens spends a lot of narrative energy in depicting the plight of the poor and working class in Oliver Twist, the final chapters of the novel serve to reinforce the moral superiority of the middle class.

Dickens satirizes the complacency of all of Victorian society in Oliver Twist, and although he occasionally addresses the reader as a peer, more often than not, he condemns the reader along with the rest of society.