What are some of the different urban spaces described in Oliver Twist?Aspects of urban spaces in Oliver Twist

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many kinds of urban spaces in Dickens' long novel Oliver Twist, but there is room here to mention a few of the early ones. The urban spaces that frame the novel and set its initial tone are the workhouse and infant farm. Oliver is born in the work house where his unwed, unnamed mother dies at his birth. He is thereafter sent to be reared in the infant farm for orphaned and "found" babies and children. In this urban space, the children are not only unloved and overworked they are underfed because the head mistress Mrs. Mann skims the food money for her own purposes and leaves the children with very little to nourishment.

When Oliver is nine years old, he is returned to the workhouse where he was born to begin to earn his "keep." This is where he famously makes the unfortunate mistake of asking for more food: "Please Sir, I want some more." It is this event that propels him out into the world when the workhouse offers payment to anyone who take the boy as an apprentice. This introduces the next--and even worse--urban spaces in the novel when Oliver experiences the worlds of Mr. Gamfield the chimney sweep and Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker.

Being fed there on rejected scraps of food and beaten by the other apprentices and servants sends Oliver running away to London where Oliver finds the dirty, starving, exhausted, merciless streets of London and the arms of Fagan, with his gang of young thieves. On Oliver's first experience with his newly learned "game" of how to be a pick-pocket, Oliver is arrest, introducing the urban space of the legal justice system, which eventually leads to Oliver's discovery of an oasis of urban space in the elegant home of Mr. Brownlow who thinks Oliver looks familiar somehow.