Why was Oliver sent away from the workhouse?

In Oliver Twist, Oliver was sent away from the workhouse because he asked for more food. He had been nominated to ask by the other children at the workhouse, who were also starving.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Oliver, an orphan, is sent to the public workhouse when he is nine years old (chapter 2). While there, he is horribly mistreated by the members of the board who have little compassion towards poor people:

The members of this board were very sage, deep, philosophical men; and when they came to turn their attention to the workhouse, they found out at once, what ordinary folks would never have discovered—the poor people liked it!

These board members decide to starve the poor people to encourage them to get out of the workhouse.

So, they established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative . . . of being starved by a gradual process in the house . . . With this view, they contracted with the water-works to lay on an unlimited supply of water; and with a corn-factor to supply periodically small quantities of oatmeal; and issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll of Sundays.

The orphaned children have few other options of places to live. Still, they are slowly starved by the board members to encourage them to leave. One day, Oliver and his companions grow exhausted of being hungry. They decide (by lots—that is, at random) who will ask the leadership for a great portion of food. Oliver is selected for the job. He humbly asks, "Please, sir, I want some more."

The leaders are astonished that he would dare to ask for more. In fact, the leaders say that this shows that he will eventually turn into a criminal and be hung:

"That boy will be hung," said the gentleman in the white waistcoat. "I know that boy will be hung."

Immediately, the board members try to find another placement for Oliver:

Oliver was ordered into instant confinement; and a bill was next morning pasted on the outside of the gate, offering a reward of five pounds to anybody who would take Oliver Twist off the hands of the parish. In other words, five pounds and Oliver Twist were offered to any man or woman who wanted an apprentice to any trade, business, or calling.

Oliver is sent away from the workhouse for daring to ask for more food, though many of the people living at the workhouse are starving to death.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Oliver Twist is a novel written by Charles Dickens. In order to help you answer this question, it is first of all important to point out that Oliver was an orphan who grew up in a workhouse. A workhouse was a place in Victorian Britain where the poor were offered accommodation in return for labor. As an orphan, without any family to look after him, Oliver had to live in a workhouse in order to survive.

However, Oliver wasn't able to continue living in the workhouse forever: instead, he ended up being sent away. The reason for this is the fact that Oliver had dared to ask for more food. In order to understand the significance of this, it is important to understand that life and conditions in Oliver's workhouse were horrible and inhumane. People were starving. Oliver and the other kids were constantly hungry, which is why the children decided to nominate one of their group to ask for more food.

They knew that this wouldn't be a good idea, but they were so desperate in their hunger that they simply had to take the risk. Oliver ended up being chosen to do this, so he asked the master whether they could have some more food: "Please Sir. I want some more." This is the reason why he ended up being sent away from the workhouse.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial