Mood

Oliver Twist

by

Charles Dickens

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Oliver Twist: Mood 1 key example

Definition of Mood
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect of a piece of writing... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes... read full definition
Chapter 15
Explanation and Analysis—Curious Sympathy:

The mood of the novel shifts primarily between curiosity and sympathy. The reader is often called to imagine how difficult it must be for little Oliver to stay afloat in a cruel world. For instance, in Chapter 15, Oliver is helpless to resist when Nancy and Sikes kidnap him off the street:

Weak with recent illness, stupified by the blows and the suddenness of the attack, terrified by the fierce growling of the dog and the brutality of the man, and overpowered by the conviction of the bystanders that he was really the hardened little wretch he was described to be, what could one poor child do?

The rhetorical question at the end of this passage invites the reader to imagine being Oliver, powerless to resist and doubting that he even deserves better treatment. By calling on the reader to feel for Oliver in moments like this, the narrator cultivates a sympathetic connection not only between the reader and the boy, but also between the reader and real children like Oliver. Many people in the 21st century imagine that sympathy can be a helpful tool for encouraging activism, and Victorians were generally even more steadfast in the belief that sympathy was a prerequisite to activism. By making Oliver extraordinarily sympathetic, the novel attempts to inspire the reader to action.

To keep the reader turning the pages (and buying new serial installments of the novel), Dickens also cultivates the reader's curiosity. This happens mainly through extended foreshadowing about Oliver's parentage, as well as through the liberal use of cliffhangers. For instance, one section of the original serialization ended with the revelation that a stranger who has made an appointment with Bumble is in fact Monks. This cliffhanger is important enough that when Dickens republished the novel in three volumes, he used it as the end of the second volume. Much like a revelation at the end of a television episode today, name-dropping Monks was meant to leave readers eager for more content.