Do you think that Dickens believes that the end justifies the means? Do you agree with his position? Give reasons for yours.
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Charles Dickens, the social reformer, deplored the conditions of the poor in London. Perceiving the injustice of a criminal system that was discriminatory to the poor, Dickens championed the orphan, the gamin of the streets and the abandoned elderly.
His portrayal of the squalor and crime in the streets of London as well as the predatory types such as the exploiting Fagin and the brutal Sikes is meant to awaken the frivolous aristocrats who choose to ignore the increasing poverty and crime in Victorian England.
Dickens does not suggest that it is ok for street urchins to pick pockets and fences to collect kids and train them in a life of crime. Instead, he blames society for creating conditions where children become victims of adults. Not all adults are at fault. For example, Nancy is an innocent even though she is a prostitute. Dickens cared deeply about prostitution, and considered prostitutes victims of society. Sikes is portrayed as a heartless, brutal monster and Fagin is not much better. Dickens was not excusing anyone's behavior. He was saying to his readers: This is your problem. You can't ignore it any longer. Do something about it!
Without actually condoning theft (even by poor street urchins), Dickens acknowledges that people are often victims of circumstance more than being culprits through greed. Hard times may well push people to do things out of desperation and, as in 'Oliver Twist,' may even be a question of survival.
I would say rather that Dickens deplored the injustice of an urban society where the breach between the poor and the rich widened more and more with increasing industrialisation. The true crime was in the law itself, which was not fair. Dickens, however, portrayed the seedy side of criminal life in no uncertain terms, which went against the grain of the literary trend before him.
Check out the following references and read particularly the section on 'The Poor Laws' of the time (1834), which gives insight into the political and economic issues of the early industrial era.
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