Free Essay. Women Abuse During the 19th Century in "Oliver Twist" and "Hard Times."

Published: 2023-04-12
Free Essay. Women Abuse During the 19th Century in "Oliver Twist" and "Hard Times."
Type of paper:  Creative writing
Categories:  Women Violence Abuse Charles Dickens Books
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1033 words
9 min read

The 19th century Victorian age, as portrayed by Charles Dickens, is characterized by industrial revolution events that can be attributed to the deteriorated conditions of the working class as well as abuse towards women. In both Oliver Twist and Hard Times, Charles Dickens outlines some of the ideal experiences that Victorian women encountered through characterization. As women are among the central characters in both writings, most incidents signify on the abuse of women in the 19th century. This paper will discuss abuse against women, as shown by Dickens in Oliver Twist and Hard Times.

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In Oliver Twist, Dickens shows the oppression against women as they interact with other people in society. As the novel begins, oppression and physical abuse against Agnes is seen after she gives birth to Oliver Twist. Throughout the book, her name is not revealed until the end of Oliver Twist, which shows is seen as a disgrace in Victorian society. During the 19th century, women were treated as lesser beings than men and often encountered victimization from the community if they failed to meet the standards required of them. For example, in the relationship between Agnes and Oliver Twist's father, only her mother was identified as lost despite the father being married and was excused because he was male (Dickens 198).

The abuse of women during the Victorian age is also seen through the character of Nancy in Oliver Twist. In the book, Nancy encounters sexual violence and domestic violence as she deals with the people around her. As Dickens portrays Nancy as a woman affected by the Victorian environment, she is mistreated and abused by Sikes. Despite Nancy being aware that Sikes was not a good person, she cannot leave him since she has nowhere else to reside. Also, as Nancy interacts with the Monks and Rose, the dangers of abuse are indicated by Dickens (Dickens 200). This explains the physical violence against women in the 19th century, whereby, if Nancy was not is Fagin's house with other gang members, then she would be forced to shelter in the workhouse.

Correspondingly, in Hard Times, female characters are used to demonstrate the different social practices in the Victoria age as Dickens attempts to define various aspects in England during the time. Although Dickens in deeply conservative in his description of women, as the Victorians held that women embodied traits of moral purity and compassion, most of them encounter abuse. As the Hard Times begins, violence against Louisa is portrayed depicting the various events in the 19th century. In Louisa's life, she has been brought up under strict supervision by her father and in her life based on bare facts, which can be used to explain the reason for failure in her life in terms of happiness and free love. Louisa Gradgrind is prohibited from having feelings by his father, Thomas Gradgrind, as he believes that everything should be based upon facts (Dickens 11). Also, the education system developed by her father seems to have taken away her youthful joy as she is not allowed to interact with other people to show a sense of emotion.

Louisa Gradgrind encounters more abuse as she is commanded to marry Josiah Bounderby, by her father, whom she does not love. In this incident, she is never expected to have an opposing opinion or think about her needs but rather do as demanded (Dickens 11). Similarly, the abuse of women's rights as to have no opinion on issues about them is seen through the character of Mrs. Gradgrind is seen as she is presented as a failed mother due to her inability to work without the instruction of her husband. These events between Mrs. Gradgrind and her daughter Louisa show the loss of freedom of expression and action among women during the 19th century, as presented by Dickens in Hard Times.

Throughout the novel, the character of Sissy Jupe is presented to illustrate different ideologies about women during the Victorian age. Although she is viewed as upright and as a character embodying every functional aspect of human nature, she encounters abuse. For instance, she is neglected by her father, who elopes displacing her, and this leads to her living with the Gradgrinds. This particular event or action by her father delivers an indication of how women were abused through negligence in the Victorian age. Further, since she was from a social class, she encountered rejection. As Dickens provides, Sissy was inflicted with low self-esteem as she was not at ease interacting with people from a different social class (Dickens 50). Through the character of Sissy, Charles Dickens provides a significant view of abuse towards the Victorian woman and signifies how a woman should be during the 19th century.

Women abuse during the 19th century has been presented through the character of Rachael in Hard Times. As part of the lower-class individuals, Rachael is compared to the industry in Coke Town, as she has to work hard. Also, the inability to explore true happiness is evident in her as she is in love with her friend's husband (Dickens 74). Besides her goodness and humanity, she faces a hard life working as a laborer and, at some point, abused by fellow male workers. The different encounters by the women portray the various cases of abuse women faced during the Victorian era.


In both Oliver Twist and Hard Times, Charles Dickens shows women's abuse in the 19th century by portraying how they encountered domestic violence, social and gender victimization, loss of freedom, and the inability to power. In most cases, women are faced with difficult situations as they try to fit in Victorian society either because of their low-social classes or because they have been neglected or are orphans. Moreover, the difference between women in both novels describes how the loss of freedom and violence are significant abuses against women during the Victorian age. For example, in Oliver Twist, Nancy is murdered in cold blood by Sikes because of her moral identity. On the other hand, Hard Times represents the position of women during the industrialization activities and social inequalities.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. Hard Times: A novel. No. 192. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1854.

Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Ticknor and Fields, 1868.

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