Oliver Twist. A tale of many pities?

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    I wrote this some time ago, to amuse myself one cheerless afternoon.
    I truly hope it might be of interest to at least one other person.

    Long ago, when I was in school, my class was taken to see a movie.
    We were ‘studying’ Charles Dickens’ at the time.
    So off we went to see Oliver Twist, the 1948 version.
    My impression was that the movie was dull, boring, and decidedly uninteresting.
    Recently, thinking this impression might be attributable to my then youthful disposition, I decided to view the movie again.
    I thought the same this time.
    It was dull, boring, and, I regret to say, once again (mostly) unambiguously uninteresting.
    Plus it gave a distinctly dismal depiction of the original Dickens’ tale.
    I believe that in Dickens’ time there would have been far more humour, and a great deal more humanity, alive and well amongst the general population.
    The way the movie shows it, there was non-stop drama and aggression.
    Dark doorways, and strange assignations.
    Looming faces; greedy, grim, and calculating.
    (a worthy addition to any ‘B’ grade movie I am sure)
    An undercurrent of evil coupled with dastardly deeds.
    The makers of the movie gave all scenes a distinctly dismal appearance, no doubt to enhance the revulsion it was hoped they would produce.
    The original story was meant to reflect the disparity in the social structure.
    To illustrate the extreme poverty and hardship some unreasonably experienced.
    To demonstrate that such was unfair, and above all, inhuman.
    To show the public how some persons of responsibility behaved badly, even cruelly, in daily life.
    To bring their frequent failings in to focus.
    I don’t remember so dark a colour pervading the original story though.
    The ‘atmosphere’ of the movie was no doubt influenced by the ‘mood’ of my grandmother’s generation.
    Colourless, with little humour in daily life.
    Which is a bit harsh, but their thinking was unavoidably shaped by wars and ‘the depression’.
    So a movie from that time not only tells a story, but can reflect the ‘atmosphere’ and prevailing ‘mood’ in the society which produces it.
    As do the movies of today.
    The performances of the actors and actresses were mediocre, except perhaps for the actor who was ‘Fagin’.
    His animated and careful interpretation stood out from the bland unconvincing performances of others.
    The ‘dog’ gave a decidedly creditable and engaging display as the (not so) humble hound too.
    I wonder how much they paid him. The dog I mean.
    For the others, when you can see the real personality of an actor coming through, and that glimpse clashes with the way the actor should be seen, such circumstance can throw cold water on your enjoyment of the story.
    I then took the trouble to view the 1922 (silent) version of the movie.
    More businesslike, and for that reason gave an increase in satisfaction, but not much.
    At least there were no extraneous scenes, especially of actors running up stairs.
    I suppose they had to be economical with footage in earlier years.
    Anyway, I found that ‘old’ does not always translate to ‘good’.
    Even when a movie is based on an interesting story, ‘old’ can often be a synonym for ‘poor’.
    Something we need to bear in mind when watching movies from long ago.


    This is yet another illustration of the odd things I write in my spare time.
    I wonder if others do the same?
    Read it at your peril?

    Oliver leaves Mrs Mann. From Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Oliver Twist’.
    It is reminiscent of all those who depart their school for the last time?
    Perhaps it explains why many are drawn back to their schools; to reminisce, perchance to dream…

    With the slice of bread in his hand, and the little brown-cloth parish cap on his head, Oliver was then led away by Mr. Bumble from the wretched home where one kind word or look had never lighted the gloom of his infant years.
    And yet he burst into an agony of childish grief, as the cottage-gate closed after him.
    Wretched as were the little companions in misery he was leaving behind, they were the only friends he had ever known; and a sense of his loneliness in the great wide world sank into the child’s heart for the first time.
    Mr. Bumble walked on with long strides; little Oliver, firmly grasping his gold-laced cuff, trotted beside him, inquiring at the end of every quarter of a mile whether they were ‘nearly there.’
    To these interrogations Mr. Bumble returned very brief and snappish replies; …

    When I re-read this book a few years back, I wondered if the latter sentences were the origin of ‘are we there yet’?
    In his writings, lively word pictures are painted by Dickens.
    One can almost feel the physical substance of the abject Oliver, as he is led away from the scant security he has known.
    One can almost experience his sadness and regret as he leaves the refuge wherein he has sheltered.
    One can almost hear the sound of his small feet, as they are hurried along the pavement.
    One can easily appreciate his outpouring of grief at that time.
    He goes towards something entirely unfamiliar, which is, of course, the reason for his increased feeling of loss.
    And the reference to the ‘gold laced cuff’ most certainly highlights the disparity between different ‘social stratas’ in Oliver’s world.
    And it is also true that the lowest ‘class’ had far less than the minimum which would be expected today?
    The ‘lowest grade’ would also have had little expectation that a benevolent society might one day better serve their needs.
    They saw no improvement likely in the future?

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