Similar Social Stratification and Stereotypes in "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens and Contemporary Pakistan

Essay, 2015

17 Pages



This paper presents the subject of the class system in Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist as compared to the social stratification in Pakistan today . The investigation centers on the settings and symbolism in the novel which uncovers the social stratification during the Victorian age and traces the commonalities of class society between the Victorians and contemporary Pakistani society. Dickens showcases that poverty and vice are hereditary traits and the poor are inherently bad in conformity with the stereotypes of Victorian Britain. Albeit it is blatant in the novel that poverty and vice are fundamentally connected but the label of bad is supposedly attached with the poor. The stereotypes in the Victorian British society depicted by Dickens in Oliver Twist are similar to the stereotypes upheld in the modern day Pakistan. Class differences in Pakistan imply certain notions which are comparable to that of the Victorian society portrayed in the novel. The paper accentuates the theoretical framework of the Marxist approach being applied on the primary text to underline the unquestionable proposition of colonialism of the British Empire and class divisions as an outcome of this process. Based on the critical textual analysis of the novel, I will assess the applicability of Marxist idea of class stratification and my goal is to trace the commonalities in the social stratification and stereotypes of contemporary Pakistan and Victorian Britain.

In England during Victorian era, the poor had no voice, political or financial. Specifically, kids were regularly abused and subjected to the poorest of working conditions. As a matter of fact, the Victorian Era was described by the utilization of children to help add to the economy. Child labor was common and children were not provided with exactly the essentials required at home, school, and at work and there was social stratification which put the people into hierarchy based upon the commodities and economic stability. Basically, the life of a youthful laborer was just like the life of a slave. Charles Dickens came out as the voice of the poor people in his book Oliver Twist and criticized the social stratification and child abuse through intensive labor. Dickens indicated how shallow class structures were and uncovered how insensitive and wanton Victorian culture was. Similarly, the battle for Pakistan since its origin has dependably been between the upper class and lower class. There is identity crisis in Pakistan and there is an on-going struggle between the elite and poor class where the Pakistan‟s elite people encompass themselves in greed just like the bourgeoisies of Victorian era. The class struggle, social stratification, oppression, physical abuse, child labor shown in Oliver Twist is remarkably similar to that in Pakistani society which has been portrayed by the British Pakistani Author in his story „Leila in the Wilderness.‟ Dickens portrays that neediness and bad habit are inherited characteristics. Similarly, the poor people in Pakistani are labeled bad and are innately in terrible situation and in similarity with the generalizations of Victorian Britain. The stereotypes related to class conflicts showcased in the novel are similar to the stereotypes upheld in the modern day Pakistan. Both the Victorian era of the Great Britain shown in Oliver Twist and modern Pakistan in Aslam‟s story today traces out many commonalities based upon class conflict and struggle.

Dickens has portrayed the shallowness of English laws and class society in Oliver twist and has also reflected the flawed utilitarian philosophy. People simply overlooked the predicament of the less lucky on the grounds that they were conceited, thus convinced that the frameworks they had set up to deal with the poor were the best and most sympathetic frameworks.

Oliver Twist has economic connections of the people with the society and relates perfectly to the theory of Marx. The novel is written in Victorian era therefore it shows miserable economic conditions of that era after Industrial Revolution. The book unfolds the irrational capitalist system and the class society and focuses on the economic issues. Marx concept of class society fits into the work of Dickens‟ as well as of Aslam‟s since there is a portrayal of class differences. The lower working class is dying of poverty as their economic condition is not letting them better their situation. The upper class is constantly exploiting the lower class and not paying them enough or feeding them enough to survive. Likewise, class battle in Pakistan exposes the sheer miseries and exploitation of the poor. Normal Pakistanis harbor monstrous grievances against their financial and political overlords. As soon as one begins to talk about utility specialists on strike or thirty thousand laborers hindering one of the nation's primary roadways, the picture of a unitary Pakistanis begins to disintegrate. No one is there to hear their voice and thus their exploitation continues. Aslam in his short story, „Leila in the wilderness‟, brings forth the same concept of the exploitation of the poor at the hands of powerful, established man. He depicts the real side of Pakistan society where the people with less money are considered low and are treated badly in every possible manner. The protagonist of the novel Leila, who is a minor like Oliver Twist, suffers the similar persecution as Oliver Twist does. She is both physically abused and mentally tortured by her rich feudal husband and her mother in law when she fails to bear them a male heir for their family who could become a source of earning in future. Therefore, Marxist ides of class stratification and class struggle is applicable to Victorian era and contemporary Pakistani society which is the direct reflection of the economy as both points out the pitiable condition of the oppression of lower class at the hands of upper class.

Oliver Twist has economic associations of the individuals. The novel is composed in Victorian time subsequently it indicates hopeless economic state of that period after Industrial Revolution. The book unravels the industrialist framework and the class society and spotlights on the economic issues. There is inequality between the individuals on the premise of their class and there is a consistent battle between them. Joshua Muravchik sums up the same idea in his article Marxism as, “The immutable workings of capitalism would lead to the reduction of society to two classes, an ever growing and increasingly impoverished proletariat and an ever shrinking and increasingly wealthy bourgeoisie” (Muravchik 36). Thus, the society has stratification and the ones with the power and access to wealth have hoards of it and they manipulate the working class in every possible way to maintain their position. While the lower class suffers the persecution thus the class society leads to constant struggle between the classes based upon the commodities. Fred Kaplan says about Oliver

T wist: “The first and perhaps still the most powerful work of fiction to attempt to bring to the attention of those who read such books … caught up in generational cycles of poverty and despair and in the selfishness and stupidity of government and its agencies” (Kaplan 9) .

Kaplan theory has great importance since it admires the way Dickens portrayed the horrible conditions and Victorians‟ awful laws. In the same manner, it also reflects upon the horrific and miserable conditions of the poor people in Pakistan who are stuck in the cycles of poverty and can never come out of it. Although, Kaplan has talked directly in reference to Oliver Twist but it is also a sheer reflection of the society of Pakistan where the Government and agencies work in the favor of themselves neglecting the needs of people and thus creating a class struggle persistent in the society. Likewise, Aslam has set the story in the modern setting of Pakistan and has portrayed the existing situation. The depiction of the Pakistani conservative society and the truthfulness of the feelings inside the characters, stay a solid a solid part of the story. Leila is stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty and thus forced to marry Timur who is the feudal lord.


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Similar Social Stratification and Stereotypes in "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens and Contemporary Pakistan
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similar, social, stratification, stereotypes, "Oliver Twist", Charles Dickens, Pakistan, contemporary
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Uzma Khan (Author), 2015, Similar Social Stratification and Stereotypes in "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens and Contemporary Pakistan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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