What do you learn about Dickens' attitude towards children in chapter 2 of Oliver Twist?

Expert Answers
missrice eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's clear that he finds the theories about raising children in his day were foolish.  Because this passage is full of sarcasm, one can read the underlying tone (and attitude about children) by looking at the superlatives that he uses: for example, the sentence "Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating," immediately highlights that the theory is pure drivel and extremely unsuccessful (far from great!).  Therefore, Dickens implies, anyone who applies the same theory to children would be quite idiotic.  We can then assume that Dickens feels children should be treated in a manner far from this method.

Another phrase to look at is "He was brought up by hand." (second sentence).  This has a double meaning.  An animal "brought up by hand" is one that has been cared for by the hands and extra attention of the owner.  However, in this context it is highly ironic, because the only hands that touch Oliver are raised in cruelty.  Dickens uses this specific phrase to show his disapproval of cruel treatment of children and implies that they don't even get the care given to farm animals. 

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is one of the most famous scenes in the novel when Oliver Twist dares to say, "Please, sir, I want some more," in reference to more of the dreadful gruel the boys are served. Dickens illustrates the harsh conditions for children during this time in England's history. In fact, the boys are "desperate with hunger and reckless with misery." The injustice is overwhelming. At the close of the chapter, Twist is offered for sale for the price of five pounds to anyone who will take him.  Dickens illuminates issues of child labor and child welfare in this chapter through the artfulness of his writing as literature is proven to reflect life!