Dickens’s Characterisation of Children in Oliver Twist : An Empty Rhetoric?

 Armel MBON

Abstract
This article discusses Dickens’s characterisation of children with the aim of showing whether the rhetoric he uses for that purpose is empty or not. This is carried out through an analysis of Oliver Twist, his first eponymous novel with a child hero featuring the unhappy parish children. This unhappy childhood, caught up in the Victorian workhouse system brought about by the Industrial Revolution, could not leave Dickens cold. On the contrary, that provoked strong reactions through his career both as a public orator and prose writer. The question that goes with this topic being not asked rhetorically, it is noteworthy  that as a public orator and prose writer, Dickens inescapably relied on rhetorical devices to characterise those children. The experience of such a childhood by Dickens himself drove him to its recreation through a hyperbolic language and style as pinpointed in the development of this study. Indeed, to achieve its objective as regards the shallowness or depth of Dickens’s characterisation of children, this analysis is based on the historical and formalistic approaches, thereby resulting in the assessment of Dickens as a writer of solid rhetoric. The analysis is divided into two parts: Dickens’s recreation of childhood experiences, and Dickens’s hyperbolic portrayal of children. The first part is thus devoted to the link between the recreation of the author’s own childhood and of his characters; the second, to the rhetorical devices the author uses to portray his child characters. If in the first part the emphasis is laid on the biographical background of Little Oliver, in the second, it is on the conception of hyperbole, which is the apple of discord between this analysis and the previous ones

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DOI:  10.32996/ijllt.2018.1.4.7 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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