Criminals in the book are portrayed as abhorrent people, and yet we are continually shown how it is not always their own fault, and can be put down to their extreme poverty. This is most clear in his portrayal of children as criminals. The most notable child criminal in the book is the Artful Dodger (Jack Dawkins), who we first meet in chapter eight. From the beginning, one of the most obvious differences about Jack is his language. It is very different to everyone we had seen up until now- it lacked the respectful deference of Oliver’s speech and the ‘educated’ phrasing of Mr Bumble.
This is perhaps to show the lack of education that children of the poor get. Jack seems to have an appealing and pleasant nature, and yet is trapped in a circle of crime by Fagin because of his poor background. This means the reader has sympathy with him despite his criminality.Nancy, another of the child criminals, was forced into prostitution at a young age because of her poverty, and was shown nothing but cruelty as a child, and yet she has developed moral standards, and regrets her part in the snatching of Oliver. This is meant to show how the poor do have morals, and that crime is often forced upon them.
In the book, Oliver experienced the worst that the society of the time had to offer. He suffered cruelty, bullying and starvation. There is however, a good side to the story for, despite going through all of that he remains uncorrupted- despite being the object of injustice all his life, he recoiled in horror from enforcing it on anyone else.
Also, while Oliver is rescued from the life of poverty, those who exploited him are severely punished. This book highlights the severe socio-economic problems of the time and also keeps the essential message that good will always triumph over evil.