How would the novel be different if Oliver were a girl?

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Oliver's being a girl would, perhaps, mitigate the poignancy of Nancy's position in the narrative.  She, like Oliver, is a victim of exploitation; however, hers goes in another direction, as well.  In addition, her act of saving Oliver is all the more credible because she is the female, motherly in her kindness to Oliver, and Oliver is the male child.

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A female would have had far fewer opportunities for relatively dignified work of the sort that Oliver obtains. Her options in general would have been much more limited. We normally think of Oliver as in some ways a very unfortunate character, but one of the things he actually has "going" for him is that he was born a male.

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This is an interesting concept.  I cannot help but feel that the novel would be much darker if Oliver were a girl.  I think that the victimization that orphaned girls endured at the time would be far worse than what Oliver had to endure.  The idea of Oliver not hating the world and being able to rise above the temporal nature of consciousness would have been challenged had Oliver been a girl.  It stands to reason that Fagin's own sense of moral depravity would not have hesitated to use Oliver, as a girl, for any purpose as long as it benefited himself.  I certainly think that child trafficking or child prostitution would have made Oliver, as a girl, less likely to trust the world.  The overall innocence and purity with which he views the world would have to have been challenged had he been a girl and subjected to the silencing of young, orphaned girls' voices of the time period.  In a way, Oliver benefits because of his gender, for it seems quite appropriate to see a girl's life in Oliver's predicament as fundamentally more challenging due to violations, unwanted advances, and manipulation than a boy's life in the same condition.

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