Great Expectations vs. Oliver Twist

During his lifetime, Charles Dickens is known to have written several books.
Although each book is different, they also share many similarities. Two of his
books, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, are representatives of the many
kinds of differences and similarities found within his work.

Perhaps the reason why these two novels share some of the same qualities is
because they both reflect painful experiences which occurred in Dickens\' past.
During his childhood, Charles Dickens suffered much abuse from his parents.1
This abuse is often expressed in his novels. Pip, in Great Expectations, talked
often about the abuse he received at the hands of his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery.
On one occasion he remarked, "I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from
behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face
ignominously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions
at sufficient length."2

While at the orphanage, Oliver from Oliver Twist also experienced a great amount
of abuse. For example, while suffering from starvation and malnutrition for a
long period of time, Oliver was chosen by the other boys at the orphanage to
request more gruel at dinner one night. After making this simple request, "the
master (at the orphanage) aimed a blow at Oliver\'s head with the ladle; pinioned
him in his arms; and shrieked aloud for the beadle."3

The whole beginning of Oliver Twist\'s story was created from memories which
related to Charles Dickens\' childhood in a blacking factory ( which was
overshadowed by the Marshalsea Prison ).4 While working in the blacking factory,
Dickens suffered tremendous humiliation. This humiliation is greatly expressed
through Oliver\'s adventures at the orphanage before he is sent away.

Throughout his lifetime, Dickens appeared to have acquired a fondness for "the
bleak, the sordid, and the austere."5 Most of Oliver Twist, for example, takes
place in London\'s lowest slums.6 The city is described as a maze which involves
a "mystery of darkness, anonymity, and peril."7 Many of the settings, such as
the pickpocket\'s hideout, the surrounding streets, and the bars, are also
described as dark, gloomy, and bland.8 Meanwhile, in Great Expectations, Miss
Havisham\'s house is often made to sound depressing, old, and lonely. Many of the
objects within the house had not been touched or moved in many years. Cobwebs
were clearly visible as well as an abundance of dust, and even the wedding dress
which Miss Havisham constantly wore had turned yellow with age.9

However, similarities are not just found in the settings. The novels\' two main
characters, Pip and Oliver, are also similar in many ways. Both young boys were
orphaned practically from birth; but where Pip is sent to live with and be
abused by his sister, Oliver is sent to live in an orphanage. Pip is a very
curious young boy. He is a "child of intense and yearning fancy."10 Yet, Oliver
is well spoken. Even while his life was in danger while in the hands of Fagin
and Bill Sikes, two conniving pickpockets, he refused to participate in the
stealing which he so greatly opposed. All Oliver really longed for was to escape
from harsh living conditions and evil surroundings which he had grown up in.11
However, no matter how tempting the evil may have been, Oliver stood by his
beliefs. Therefore, he can be referred to as "ideal and incorruptible
innocence."12 "It is Oliver\'s self-generated and self-sustained love, conferred
it would seem from Heaven alone, that preserves him from disaster and death."13

Unfortunately, many critics have found it hard to believe that a boy such as
Oliver Twist could remain so innocent, pure, and well spoken given the long
period of time in which he was surrounded by evil and injustices.14

Pip, on the other hand, is a dreamer. His imagination is always helping him to
create situations to cover up for his hard times. For example, when questioned
about his first visit to Miss Havisham\'s house, he made up along elaborate story
to make up for the terrible time he had in reality. Instead of telling how he
played cards all day while being ridiculed and criticized by Estella and Miss
Havisham, he claimed that they played with flags and swords all day after having
wine and cake on gold plates.15 However, one special quality possessed by Pip
that is rarely seen in a novel\'s hero is that he wrongs others instead of being
hurt himself all of the time.16

Another similarity between Oliver and Pip is that they both have had
interactions with convicts. Fagin the head of a group of young