Charley Bates Innuendo

Charley Bates Innuendo

A Story by Brandee D. Hack

This is an essay I wrote for a Literary Studies class... If you have read or know much about Dickens' Oliver Twist, I would love to know what you think! ^^ Thanks!


           In Dickens’ tale of Oliver Twist, he has many interesting surprises throughout the novel, or installments. One of the many innuendos appears when he introduces the character Master Bates. One can easily identify the perversion associated in Dickens portrayal of this character.


            One perspective in Oliver Twist is to view the character in a normal light. I say “normal light” in reference to the time period in which Dickens lived. Dickens lived in a time period when a ‘gentleman status’ was referred to as “Master”. So in this sense, the usage of “Master Bates” can be referred to as a period reference and nothing more.


            Another way to read Oliver Twist, involves taking notice to Dickens’ portrayal of this character in a very different light. By different, I mean he takes his writing a step further using sexual undertones. It may not be completely significant or something that one would catch on to rather quickly; however, if you do take notice of it, it opens up many references throughout the novel that you would otherwise overlook.

To further back up Dickens’ use of sexual undertones regarding Master Bates with novelic proof, I will refer to chapter nine of the novel. In chapter nine, Dickens’ writes:


“'Wipes,' replied Master Bates; at the same time producing four pocket-handkerchiefs.”


This reference may be very small and may seem insignificant, but please allow me to dig further. With this quote, if one were to really think of it in a perverted manner, one might take an obscene thought from it. However, that thought can be different or the same as mine depending of one’s view (ie. People have many different opinions, views and thought processes). With this quote, I only see “Wipes…Master Bates…” In this context, I think of the process in which his name is referred to. It could be too easy to perceive this as unholy thoughts in Dickens’ times period? However, it does show this idea of masturbation from many other places. They are shown in the following examples:


                     With this irrepressible ebullition of mirth, Master Bates laid himself flat on the floor: and kicked convulsively for five minutes, in an ecstasy of facetious joy. Then jumping to his feet, he snatched the cleft stick from the Dodger; and, advancing to Oliver, viewed him round and round...” (139).


            “ At this, Master Bates roared again: so loud, that Fagin himself relaxed, and even the Dodger smiled…” (140).


In each of the examples, it really brings the thought of masturbation to a new level of understanding. One really has to read the novel with a fresh new mindset. After doing so, it really makes one wonder how one did not view it in the first place. Also, it raises some questions. For instance, was Dickens’ really using it for comic relief for such a tragic tale? Does masturbation really take on the meaning it has in today’s society or does it mean something different? Whatever the answer to these questions, be sure that the witty style of Dickens’ writing shines incandescently upon the pages.


            In contrast, if one is looking at Charley from a status manner, one may take Dickens’ story in truth with the original intent of class. This meaning that Dickens’ only used these terms to show the rank of Charley, no matter how comical it may be phrased. The contrast to Master Bates is simply to say Charley. There is no derogatory term in this name is there? None in my opinion. Furthermore, one may also understand the use of Charley to Master in the following examples:


            “’It's the worst of having to do with women,’ said the Jew, replacing his club; ‘but they're clever, and we can't get on, in our line, without 'em. Charley, show Oliver to bed’.” (146).


            “’Pull off the smart ones,’ said Charley, "and I'll give 'em to Fagin to take care of. What fun it is!’”


            “The noise of Charley's laughter, and the voice of Miss Betsy, who opportunely arrived to throw water over her friend, and perform other feminine offices for the promotion of her recovery, might have kept many people awake under more happy circumstances than those in which Oliver was placed.”


These following examples express a different tone to Charley’s character. On one hand, one may have a comical, sexual tossed bit of rubbish and on the other a person with little to no status to his name. The difference in the scenes is made quite distinct upon further inspection. One may also notice that in the scenes, or phrases, where Master is used, one will find a sexual meaning pinned to it. Whereas, if one notices the sections devoted to Charley, one will see a young, unstable person with no force behind his speech.


            These innuendos are scattered throughout the novel in conjunction with Charley Bates, or Master Bates. It may not seem like much, but if one has this mentality as one reads Oliver Twist, then one may see so many things in the book that went unnoticed before. It may also make an individual question why Dickens’ did it. Was it for comic relief? Was it unintentional? If it was intentional, did anyone take notice? There are so many open-ended questions. One may only speculate the possibilities. However, for myself, I do not believe that it was unintentional, but that it helps the novel by providing comic relief, as well as, allowing readers that possess a “witty” sense of humour to enjoy themselves each time they perceive the possibility of catching one of the clearly hidden sexual undertones implanted by Dickens in his work.


© 2012 Brandee D. Hack

Author's Note

Brandee D. Hack
I am revising this one more time. I need a better grade... sigh...

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This is not a bad essay, and it's certaily well written. But I believe your premise is wrong. I am familiar with both "Oliver Twist" and DIckens, and I am sure Dickens had nothing sexual in mind when he instoduced Master Bates. I do believe he was there for comic relief; Dickens often threw such bits into his work.

Charles Dickens was not a nice person. His personal sex life could be considered unsavory--at least for that time period. I have not read all his novels, but I found no sexual undertones in those I have read.

"Master Bates" was simply a coincidental use of these terms.

Interesting idea, though; you're to be congratulated on coming up with something so orininal.

Posted 9 Years Ago

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Added on April 20, 2012
Last Updated on April 20, 2012


Brandee D. Hack
Brandee D. Hack

Ireland Co.

Hello all. My name is Brandee. I have wrote many different genres of writings for many years. I hope that by putting it up that that will help me get some feedback and constructive criticism. .. more..