Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

Epidemics shape societies. Epidemics shape our stories. Early Dickens opposed sanitary reform, so Oliver and his compatriots are victims of public health reformers. They live under the New Poor Law and the gallows. Dickens will change his mind, but Oliver’s story remain his most vivid tale of how the vulnerable suffer at the hands of the powerful, both impersonally technocratic and personally terrorizing.

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