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Joshua Bryant

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Child Abuse
Abuse by a primary caregiver damages the most fundamental relationship as a child.

(Smith Melinda, Child Abuse & Neglect). Child abuse is a serious social issue that can harm a

child physically and emotionally and can even cause death. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention

and Treatment Act defines child abuse as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent

or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm. Child abuse has been

present in society for a long time and is a serious social issue in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

Some of the major types of child abuse portrayed in Oliver Twist included physical and

emotional abuse to orphans and poor children in workhouses by their caregivers. On the other

hand, child abuse in modern times is also physically and emotionally harmful, but most abusers

are family members. Child abuse in Oliver Twist and in the present time have some basic

similarities because the abuse is physical and emotional, but the differences in the types of the

abuse and the abusers are more pronounced.

The similarities between the issue of child abuse in Oliver Twist and in current times are

noticeable because the abuse in both is physical and emotional. An example of this in Oliver

Twist is when Mr. Bumble asked Oliver if he would go with him when he was nine and Mrs.

Mann got behind the beadles chair and made a fist at him. He took the hint at once for the fist

had been too often impressed upon his body not to be deeply impressed upon his recollection.

(Dickens, 30). Not only did Mrs. Mann threaten Oliver with physical harm but this threat also

reminded him of past abuse. Equally important are the examples of emotional abuse in Oliver

Twist when Oliver was being taken away from the workhouse by Mr. Bumble. Charles Dickens

described it as the wretched home where one kind word or look had never lighted the gloom of
his infant years. (Chapter 2). Oliver was emotionally abused because he was not shown

affection or love. In addition, child abuse in the present time is also physical and emotional. For

example, Its hard to imagine someone intentionally hurting a child. Yet nearly one million

children are physically abused every year in the United States alone. (Lyness Darcy, Child

Abuse). This example proves that physical abuse to children still exists and is a serious social

issue in the 21st century. In the same way as in Oliver Twist, emotional abuse is also present

today. Emotional abuse or psychological abuse is a pattern of behavior that has negative effects

on the childs emotional development and sense of self-worth. Ignoring a child or withholding

love, support,or guidance is considered emotional abuse. (Lyness DArcy, Child Abuse). This is

proof that emotional abuse is still a problem that harms children in Oliver Twist and in current


The differences between child abuse in Oliver Twist and and in current events are more

striking than the similarities between the two especially when you look at types of abuse and the

abuser. The types of child abuse in Oliver Twist happened in the workhouses and included

floggings and beatings with an iron bar like Charles Dickens wrote that he would flog him to

death, in a playful mood, someday after dinner, or would knock his brains out with an iron bar. (

Chapter 4). The abusers in Oliver Twist are people that are not in Oliver Twists family. Instead,

they are the caregivers that worked in the workhouses where he was forced to live. Oliver and

the other boys were given very little to eat every day by these caregivers. Dickens wrote the

master, dressed in an apron for the purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel

at mealtimes. Of this festive composition each boy had one porringer, and no more- except on

occasions of great public rejoicing, when he had two ounces and a quarter of bread. (Page 33).

The caregivers were abusing the boys by not giving them enough to eat. In contrast, child abuse
in the present time has been identified to include many different types of abuse. When people

think of child abuse, their first thought probably is of physical abuse such as striking, kicking,

or shaking a child. Physical abuse can also include holding a child under water, tying a child up,

intentionally burning a child or scalding a child with hot water, throwing an object at a child or

using an object to beat a child, starving a child or failing to provide a child with food. Abusive

head trauma, or shaken baby syndrome, is a specific form of physical abuse. It's the leading

cause of death in child abuse cases in the U.S. Most incidents last just a few seconds, but that's

enough time to cause brain damage or even kill a baby. ( Lyness D Arcy, Child Abuse). In spite

of the fact that in Oliver Twist, the caretakers were the abusers, in current times, family members

are usually the abusers. For example, While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are

family members or others close to the family. ( Smith Melinda, Child Abuse and Neglect). The

differences between the types of abuse and the abuser are striking and pronounced.

Child abuse In Oliver Twist and in the present time have some basic similarities because

the abuse is physical and emotional, but the differences in the types of the abuse and the abusers

are more clear and noticeable. In the last 180 years since Oliver Twist was written, child abuse

has affected childrens lives all over the world. The differences in child abuse then and now are

more profound than the similarities but it is still a tragic social issue in our society.