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In actuality the workhouse was a front for child labor; the inmates would be served a small amount of gruel (as opposed to the feast of normal food served to the visiting governors who funded the workhouse), They would work around the clock and when Oliver asked for more food, the hypocritical governors evicted him into an abusive apprenticeship with Mr. Sowerberry's funeral parlor. To add to the hypocrisy, the walls in the dining hall were covered in bible passages, and the staff would say a version of grace reminding the inmates about how lucky they are.
This is an example of truth in fiction as the real life workhouses during the Victorian era had similar living conditions for the inmates (usually orphans, the poor and destitute).