ChapterOliver Asks for More

Oliver Twist is a poor orphan boy who has just lost his mother. His life in the workhouse is miserable and he is punished severely when he asks for more.

Meet the Author

  • Charles Dickens was a famous British author best known for his fiction writing.
  • Born: 7th February, 1812
  • Place of Birth: Landport, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
  • Died: 8th June, 1870
  • Major Works: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers.
  • Best Known for: He is renowned for writing about the lives of poor and underprivileged people in England during the Victorian era.
Child working at a mine
Child working at a mine

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Summary of the Poem

Child labour is an age-old societal problem. The life of the poor living in workhouses was deplorable during the 17th to 19th centuries . Oliver Twist, the protagonist, was born in a workhouse. One day his mother, a young woman, lay sick in bed. She was being looked after by a doctor and an old lady. She lifted her head from the pillow and requested to see her baby one last time before she died. The doctor said that she must not talk about dying. Even the old lady said that she was too young to die. The doctor put the child’s cold white lips onto the woman’s face and she held the child one last time in her arms before passing away.

‘She is dead,’ said the doctor.

‘Yes, poor dear,’ said the old woman, as she took the child away from its dead mother. ‘Poor dear.’

The doctor declared that the woman was dead. The old woman too was sorry as she took the child away from the dead mother. The doctor put on his hat and gloves and said the girl who died had been good looking. He asked where she had come from. The old woman said she was lying somewhere in the street and had been brought there last night. She had walked a lot and her shoes were in bad shape with holes. There was nobody who knew where the woman had come from and where she was going. The doctor lifted the woman’s left hand and noticed that she had no ring. He said her story was common. She was not married either.

He wished them, ‘Good night’ and then went home to have his dinner. Meanwhile, the old lady sat down on a chair in front of the fire. She was preparing to dress the baby. He was now an orphan and the world would have no pity or love for him. She dressed him up in very old clothes usually reserved for babies born in the workhouse. No one knew who the baby’s father was. Mr Bumble, an important officer in the town, decided to call him Oliver Twist.

We name the new babies here in order from A to Z.’ he explained when people asked. ‘I named the last one Swubble. This one is Twist. The next one will be Unwin.

At the age of nine, Oliver was a pale, thin child. He and the other workhouse boys were always underfed and without warm clothes. They were given just three meals of thin soup everyday and a small piece of bread on Sundays.

There was a large hall with a big pot where soup was served by a master. Each boy could have one small bowl.

One day Oliver and the other boys decided that one of them would get up and ask the master for some more soup. Oliver was chosen. When evening time came, all sat down on the table. They were served soup by the master. The boys finished it very quickly. They whispered to each other and signaled to Oliver. He got up and went to the master with the bowl and spoon in his hand.

‘Please sir’, he said, ‘I want some more.’

The master was a fat, healthy man but he went very pale. He looked with surprise at the small boy.

Oliver got up and went towards the master. He told him politely that he wanted some more. The master was surprised. He was a fat and healthy man. He asked Oliver what happened. Oliver once again said politely that he wanted some more of the soup.

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

The master hit Oliver with his spoon! He seized him and cried for help. Mr Bumble came rushing and the master told him what Oliver had said. Mr Bumble also acted shocked as if the boy had committed a very grave error. According to Mr Bumble, the boy would be hanged one day.

Oliver was taken away and shut in a dark room. They posted a notice on the workhouse gate saying that if anyone wanted the boy, they could take him. That person would be given five pounds.

Oliver was taken as a prisoner and kept in a cold and dark room for one whole week. They took him outside for a wash daily and beat him. They also beat him in the large hall where he used to eat soup with the other boys. He used to cry during the day, and at night, it was too lonely and cold to sleep. He was frightened.

But one day, outside the high workouse gate, Mr Bumble met Mr. Sowerberry. Mr. Sowerberry was a tall, thin man who wore black clothes and made coffins.

One day, Mr Bumble met Mr Sowerberry who was standing outside the high workhouse gate. Mr Sowerberry was a tall, thin man who usually dressed in black and made coffins. A lot of his coffins were for the poor people who died in the workhouse. He told Mr. Bumble that the coffins for the two women who died last night were ready.

Good, said Mr Bumble. You will be rich one day, Mr Sowerberry.

Do you know anybody who wants a boy? And five pounds?’ He raised his stick and pointed to the notice on the gate.

The story ends with Mr. Bumble asking Mr. Sowerberry if anyone wants a boy. The workhouse was willing to offer five pounds. He raised his stick to point to the notice on the gate.

The author uses Imagery and figures of speech like Hyperbole. Hyperbole is the exaggeration of something. For example the following sentence is an example of hyperbole.

‘He asked for more? I cannot believe it. One day, they will hang the boy.’

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Above and Beyond the Text

The period of Victorian workhouses

Victorian workhouses were formally abolished in 1930, however many continued to operate even after that. Due to the horrible living and working conditions, the life expectancy in these houses was very less. Babies didn’t survive beyond the age of four while the average age of death was 22 and in some cases even 18.

There was no importance given to human dignity in these workhouses. These workers, including children, provided cheap labor to the employers. The Poor Amendment Act of 1834 was passed stating that the poor people housed in workhouses should be clothed and fed while the pauper children should receive an education.

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Oliver Asks for More Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

A workhouse was a place for people who had no money and no place to live. This practice was prevalent in England. As given in the chapter there was not enough food for the people living there making it a miserable place.

Yes. Children are not objects to be put up for sale. The master and Mr. Bumble did not help the children. On the contrary, they punished the children for no fault of theirs.

Yes. The title, ‘Oliver Asks for More’ provides the answer to the reason for Oliver’s punishment. Oliver was a child who asked for more soup. Thus his ordeals increased and he was harassed even further.