Document Type

Junior Award Winner

Award Date

Spring 2014

Course Name

Victorian Fiction


Dr. Michael Hancock


It should come as no great surprise to readers of Victorian fiction that Charles Dickens makes great use of symbolism in his stories. This practice proves especially useful for his serialized stories, like Oliver Twist, where he uses criminals, including prostitutes like Nancy, to make an overall political point. At the time of this novel’s publication, prostitutes were looked down upon, sometimes as sub-human, and Dickens, though largely sympathetic to Nancy, takes this degradation a step further by directly comparing her to an animal. In Oliver Twist, Sikes’s dog acts a surrogate for Nancy, experiencing similar treatment from Sikes and, eventually, the same death. Dickens uses descriptors and the idea of ownership to make this surrogacy clear, thus illustrating his idea of prostitutes as victims of circumstance.



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