Comparison of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

Oliver Twist was the second novel Charles Dickens wrote, published in 1838. This heart-touching novel is about an orphan named Oliver Twist, born in Victorian society. Despite all the misfortunes he faces, his story ends happily. Dickens uses a third person narrative in his novel and a humorous, but sharp-witted language.

Charlotte Brontë wrote her novel Jane Eyre in 1847. In this book, the protagonist is an hapless orphan whose name is Jane Eyre, but despite all misfortunes she went throught, her story too ends well. Both novels describe the 19th century England. Brontë uses the first person narrator, so we could catch feelings of Jane vividly when her beloved friend Helen dies or Mr. Rochester asks her to marry him.

The two orphans can be compared in the aspects of their upbringing, relationships with the people around them, their feelings about being orphan, their living conditions, the influences of good and bad people in their lives and, their educations and occupations. Also, it’s important to know the historical events in that Era and how did these historical events effected the orphan life and their ways to earn money for living, in order to understand their paths.

In this essay, first body paragraph will be the historical information about Victorian society and the important laws and actions. In the second one, I will give information about both the orphan’s childhood and their caretakers. Third body paragraph will be about their education and employment while the fourth one will be about plot and people of the novel. Fifth one will be about their locations and living conditions. Last but not least will be about their differences and diversities.

There had been crucial changes in Victorian society before 18 years-old Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837. First great event was the peace in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars. After the peace, manufacturers of war supplies lost their jobs and number of former navy’s and army’s added in the unemployment rate in cities. Second great event, Industrial revolution turned England to a massive economical power, but all the prices increased and farmers had difficult times.

Thirdly, the first step towards democracy and government consideration for the well-being of the citizens established with the Reform Act in 1832. In 1834, the Poor Law were passed to help the poor but it didn’t help the rural ones and, had no effect on economic growth. Only in 1840, it’s prohibited to chimney sweep employing child labour. With the Ten Hours Act of 1847, working hours for children reduced from twelve to ten hours. Before the Children Act in 1908, children older than seven could charged and imprisoned, when the law passed, the age seven changed to fourteen.

Orphans living in the early 19th century England was usually deprived from education, healtcare, love and appreciation, as shown clearly in Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. Even if the orphan belongs to a higher class like Brontë’s Jane Eyre, if she left with no money, life still can be hard. In Oliver Twist, instead of proper schooling, the workhouse board thinking about sending him to the sea, because they want to get rid of him.

Then, they veer away their idea, due to the fact that he could injured or die. In Jane Eyre, her caretakers think that the best money to invest would be her religious education. They also want to get rid of her, so they sent her to Lowood. She later became a governess, which has so little income compared to her wide education. Both Jane and Oliver been through hardships during their childhood. Since Jane Eyre is a first person narrator and Oliver Twist is third, we get more inside from Jane.

In Dicken’s novel, some characters described vividly, for example Mrs. Mann, one of his first caretakers which treats Oliver and other orphans badly, but acts like a tender-hearted woman around people. During his childhood, Oliver shows no sign of evil, despite all the ill-treatment he received; just burst of anger, in the example of beatiing Noah for saying bad things about his mother.

Since he could not feed himself in orphanage, he was a pale and weak child. Since he could not receive proper love, he feel extreme gradutude the people kind to him, for example Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin. Jane is an assertive character from her early chilhood. She has a strong will to survive. She speaks her mind, and this let people like Mrs. Reed to hate her, but helps Mr. Rochester to fall in love with her. When she gets older, due to her position in society, she become a humble and proud person.

Oliver gets almost no education. He became an apprentice undertaker in Mr. Sowerberry’s workplace. Later, with the help of Mr. Brownlow, he became a well educated young man. Jane, on the other hand, gets a good education including piano, French, and religion. She did well in her studies and become a teacher in Lowood for two years. She was also talented in art.

There differences in plots between two novels. While Oliver Twist is about a ten-year-old boy, Jane Eyre interests the whole story of Jane, from childhood to adulthood. Another difference is that Oliver is a boy, while Jane is a girl. This reality effects their job opportunities. There are similarities as well. Both react similar to bullying. When they receive love from other, both feel highly graditude. Similar to Oliver’s feelings towards Rose after learned that they are related, Jane feels she is not alone when she found out Diana, Mary and St. John are her relatives.

There are similar injustices towards them. Jane introduces as “liar” to the Mr. Brocklehurst when Oliver introduced to the council “retarded”. Both the people around them are unfriendly. The society tries to shape becuse, they think they have bad souls. Another similarity is that when a deperate situation, they both came across good people. Like when he was sick, he knocks at Mrs. Maylie’s and Rose’s door, and Jane knocks at St. John’s door. Also, they later found out they are belonged to some respective family, and inherited money from them. They both choose to share the money, Oliver with his brother Monks and Jane with St. John, Mary and Diana. Both story ends well.

Locations where two orphans been played important roles in their lives. Oliver born in a workhouse. Before he was one year old, he moved to a branch-workhouse. When he entered eight, he is taken back to where he was born. When he ‘asked for more’ they sold him to Mr. Sowerberry, who was an undertaker. He slept between coffins and attended child funerals while he was with him. When he beat Noah, he run away to find a job in London. Fagin, an old criminal found him but before he teaches the arts of pick-pocketing, he was treated both physically and mentally by Mr. Brownlow.

When Fagin steals the boy again, there was no hope to make him a felon. After all, Oliver found himself next to his relatives and in good cicumstances. Jane’s story starts off in Gateshead, where her aunt, Mrs. Reed sees her as a burden and treat her badly. When she was bullied by his cousin John, she attacked him, so they locked her in the red room to punish. After this event, her aunt sent her to Lowood instution, which was a religious school.

She became a teacher there, but when her beloved idol Miss Temple was married and her beloved friend Helen died from typhus, she leave Lowood and went to Thornfield Hall as a governess. When Mr. Rochester asks her to marry him, she accepts it. But she found out he was already married. She run away from Thornfield.

After a long walk, she knocks St. John’s door, soon learned that they were her relatives. St. John arranges her a job in a small village and she gladly accepts it. When St. John learns her real name, he told her that she inherited money from her newly passed away father. She insist to share the money with them equally. When she returns to Thornfield Hall, she found out that the hall has burned to the ground and his wife is dead. Even though he is blind, she gladly agrees to live with him. She founds the fullfillment and joy in her life.

There are several differences between these two novels. First one is the difference between the characters depicted. While Oliver Twist described in third person, Jane Eyre described in first person. Another one is about circumstance the characters found themselves at the beginning of the play. While Oliver born in a workhouse, Jane is ten year-old girl that lives with her uncharitable aunt. The range of time described is an another difference of the plays.

While Oliver Twist deals with the time between Oliver’s born to his ten year-old self, Jane starts from her ten year-old self to her adulthood. Their education level is also very different. While Jane become governess in her adolescence, Oliver couldn’t get any proper education during his childhood. Also, while Jane chooses where to go with her free will, Oliver is thrown back and forth between places.

Both novels represent the orphan lives in Victorian Era with different aspects. Two characters are different in terms of upbringing, their relationships with the people around them, their genders and job opportunities and levels of educations. We can say their representation of orphans’ lives reflects the reality in those times, depending their social classes. Oliver poorly fed, couldn’t get education, forced to do dangerous jobs; Jane, stayed in an expensive house but with no money or love on her.

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