Account actions Log in or Register. More Blog Quick shop. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens author. Suitable for 9 - 11 years gbp prices Price: This product has not been rated yet. Product description Absolutely classic Dickens. Taken under the wing of a vicious gang of thieves, he soon ends up in the worst trouble of his life… winterwarmers classics christmas-on-tv unexpected-twist-reading-list. View all 15 comments.
Oct 31, Bookdragon Sean rated it it was ok Shelves: The film is better. There I said it. It has taken me five years to read this book, five whole years. To me that says a lot. I just could never get into it.
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I may have seen the charmless characters as part of Dickens attack on society and its lack of social justice. Instead I just saw them for what they were: Oliver, the protagonist, is somewhat unlikable himself. I sympathised with him where I could, I felt sorry for his situation, though I never liked him. So that made the book hard to read from the start. I was not remotely invested in him.
From the get go the reader is made to care for Jane and her plight. Her story drives the narrative forward. With Oliver I felt like it was the other way round and I simply could not enjoy the book as a result. You have no idea how relieved I was to finish this today. My battle is over. I was determined to finish it. Getting through Ulysses was easier than this. View all 20 comments. The Industrial Revolution is in full flow. Money is being made, the population is thriving. The working-class is suffering and the Poor Law is in operation. Oliver Twist is born under testing circumstances as his unmarried mother dies in childbirth and his father is nowhere to be found.
The Poor Law stated: The book details on Oliver's struggles as a child, the mistreatment he receives from a society of scoundrels in a dog-eat-dog world. Oliver Twist is well known for its portrayal of English workhouse conditions. The infamous scene where the hungry children draw lots and the loser must ask for a second portion of gruel.
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Upon being asked, the well-fed, hypocritical workhouse owners brand him a troublemaker and offer to send him away to anyone willing, showing another cruel aspect of the Poor Law and the mistreatment of orphans at the time. The novel also illustrates a horrific image of 19th century London slums, riddled with disease and poverty with shady crime circles. We see a world where even children are not spared their innocence.
Oliver finds himself the recipient of love more than once in the novel and his story eventually finds a respectable conclusion. A personal favorite of mine, Oliver Twist to me is the definitive illustration of Dickensian literature. A representation of 19th century poverty and crime, the novel is a classic tale of a child's survival in a world marked by cruelty. View all 7 comments. Oliver Twist is one of Charles Dickens's best known stories. Characters such as the evil Fagin, with his band of thieves and villains, the Artful Dodger with "all the airs and manners of a man," the house-breaker Sikes and his dog, the conscience-stricken but flawed Nancy, the frail but determined Oliver, and the arrogant and hypocritical beadle Mr Bumble have taken on a life of their own and passed into our culture.
Who does not recognise the sentence, "Please sir, I want some more! If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience - by experience! Oliver Twist was appearing in 10 theatres in London before serialisation of the novel was even completed, so how does the original novel hold up for a modern reader? It seems pointless in this review to retell this famous story.
The excellent film by David Lean from is one of the most faithful to the book. Davis went on to work for the BBC as a producer all his life. The subplot with Edward Leeman is largely missed out, but that is inevitable in a short dramatisation. The essence of the story is there, and is true to Dickens, as is much of his dialogue. It's important to look not only at the writing style and construction, but at the social conditions of the time and Dickens's own personal situation. Oliver Twist; or the Parish Boy's Progress was written when he was only 25, and first published serially in "Bentley's Miscellany" where Dickens was editor, from February to April Interestingly though, it was not originally intended as a novel but as part of a series of sketches called the "Mudfog Papers".
These were intended to be similar to the very popular "Pickwick Papers" , Mudfog being heavily based on Chatham, in Kent. He therefore decided to give up his job as a parliamentary reporter and journalist in November , and to become a freelance writer. But while "The Pickwick Papers" was still only halfway through being serialised, his readers clamoured for a second novel. There must have been a lot of pressure on the young author to maintain such a high standard. In addition to his writing and editing, Dickens's personal life at the time was typically hectic.
In March he moved house. Two months later, his beloved sister-in-law Mary Hogarth died tragically young. The grief he felt caused him to miss the deadlines for both "The Pickwick Papers" and Oliver Twist - the only deadlines he ever missed in his entire writing career. Four months later in October, the final issue of Pickwick was published, but the pressure did not let up. In January of , Dickens and his friend Hablot Knight Browne Phiz left for Yorkshire to do research for his next novel, "Nicholas Nickleby" which itself started to be serialised two months later. Interestingly it was not Browne who illustrated Oliver Twist , although he had stepped into the breach before see my review of "The Pickwick Papers" and also went on to illustrate most of Dickens's further novels.
It was George Cruikshank, and this is the only novel of Dickens he illustrated Also in March, Dickens's daughter Mary Mamie was born. In November Dickens revised the monthly parts of Oliver Twist for the 3-volume book version, the first instance where he was published under "Charles Dickens" instead of "Boz". The serial continued until April , alongside serialisation of Nicholas Nickleby. If we think that the novel's structure may not be as we would wish, it is as well to bear in mind the constraints both of the time and of Dickens's own incredibly complicated personal circumstances!
Oliver Twist is very much the novel an angry young man would write, seething with fury at the social injustices he observed. It follows hot on the heels of the "Poor Law Amendment Act" of , and the whole novel is a bitter indictment of that Act, even to its satirical subtitle, A Parish Boy's Progress.
This Act was a draconian tightening up of the Poor Law, ensuring that poor people were no longer able to live at home and work at outside jobs. The only help from the parish available to them now was to become inmates in the workhouse, which operated on the principle that poverty was the consequence of laziness; the dreadful conditions in the workhouse were intended to inspire the poor to better their own circumstances.
Dickens himself in these chapters constantly makes negative remarks about "philosophers" in this context. It is possible he was thinking about the principles of Utilitarianism; a fashionable philosophy of the time, responsible for such things as the high positioning of windows in many Victorian buildings, placed so that children and workers would not be distracted by looking out of them. According to Jeremy Bentham, man's actions were governed by the will to avoid pain and strive for pleasure, so the government's task was to increase the benefits of society by punishing and rewarding people according to their actions.
But as Dickens tells us with bitter sarcasm in chapter 2, the workhouse was little more than a prison for the poor. Civil liberties were denied, families were separated, and human dignity was destroyed. The inadequate diet instituted in the workhouse prompted his ironic comment that, "all poor people should have the alternative The authorities in charge of the workhouse joke among themselves about feeding minute portions so that the inmates would stay small and thin, thereby needing smaller coffins.
They complain about having to pay for burials, again hoping for smaller corpses to bury. Dickens writes a passionate diatribe against both the social conditions and the institutions. His humour is there, but it is a very black biting humour. Sarcasm and irony are on every page; it's a far cry from "The Pickwick Papers". In these scenes set in the workhouse, Dickens makes use of deep satire and hyperbolic statements.
Absurd characters and situations are presented as normal; he uses heavy sarcasm, often saying the opposite of what he really means. For example, in describing the men of the parish board, Dickens writes that, "they were very sage, deep, philosophical men" who discover about the workhouse that "the poor people liked it! It was a regular place of public entertainment for the poorer classes; a tavern where there was nothing to pay Before , only the bodies of murderers could be legally be used for dissection by medical students.
This had been partly responsible for the brisk trade in bodysnatching. But after the Anatomy Act, unclaimed bodies from prisons and workhouses were used. The terrifying thought of having their bodies dissected after death became yet another powerful deterrent to entering the workhouse system. Dickens is clearly thinking of this recent Act in the first few pages, when Oliver's mother's body disappears.
The fact that the poor young woman who dies in its opening pages was being dissected while her son was being starved has a grotesque significance. There is quite a marked difference in style when the character of Oliver moves away from the workhouse. The author's voice becomes less acrimonious and bitter.
There is more concentration on the story and also more gross exaggeration of the characters for comic effect rather than proselytising. Apparently when Dickens was writing instalments of both "The Pickwick Papers" and Oliver Twist , he would sit down to write the sardonic early episodes of Oliver Twist first, and then "reward" himself with a little light relief of "The Pickwick Papers". The change in style probably coincides with the conclusion of "The Pickwick Papers".
Surprisingly many of the grotesque characters were based on people in real life, who performed similar unbelievably atrocious acts. The character of Fagin, for instance, was modelled on a notorious Jewish fence by the name of Ikey Solomon. Dickens also sited him in a real location, where the notorious eighteenth-century thief Jonathan Wild had his hideout.
Its shops were well known for selling silk handkerchiefs bought from pickpockets. Dickens' letters allude to this, "when my handkerchief is gone, that I may see it flaunting with renovated beauty in Field-lane. Fang" , who is entirely based on an actual person who could well have been even more severe in reality! Laing of Hatton Garden celebrity. Dickens even went so far as to ask Haines, who was an influential police reporter, to smuggle him into the office so he could get an accurate physical description of Laing.
It makes the reader wonder whether "Mrs. Sowerberry", and others also have their counterparts in reality. Dickens had previously studied and sketched the office of beadle in "Sketches by Boz", so the harsh hypocritical behaviour of Mr. Bumble could well have started with that.
Some of the action too is based on real events. For example, when Nancy went to the gaol to enquire after Oliver, she had a conversation with a prisoner who was in there for playing the flute. This sounds very far-fetched. But in November , Dickens had reported on Mr. Laing throwing a muffin-boy in jail "for ringing a muffin-bell in Hatton Garden while Laing's court was sitting.
It says a lot for Dickens's prodigious talent that he could take such examples and weave them into such a captivating whole. Sometimes he employs deus ex machina. Where the plot seems to be impossible to resolve without a contrived and unexpected intervention, he will create some new event, character or object to surprise his audience, or as a comedic device. For all the readers' willing suspension of disbelief, it sometimes seems clear that Dickens has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out. Dickens is often criticised for his use of coincidence, and he uses deus ex machina here to bring the tale of Oliver Twist to a happy ending.
We are told that characters whom we have been following know each other, or happen to be related. It does not really seem necessary to "excuse" the use of this device, as it has so many precedents in literature of the Ancient Greeks, and also gives us the happy ending we so much desire. The "goodies" live happily ever after, the "baddies" get an entertaining variety of just desserts. As well as the criticism of "coincidences" that is often levelled at Dickens, one of the main criticisms of Oliver Twist has always been the apparent antisemitism shown in the author's portrayal of Fagin as a "dirty Jew".
Fagin is introduced in the first chapters; Dickens often using symbols and descriptions which are normally reserved for the Devil. When we first meet Fagin, we find him roasting some sausages on an open fire, "with a toasting fork in his hand", which is then mentioned twice more. In the next chapter we find Fagin holding a fire-shovel. Also, the term "the merry old gentleman" seems to be a euphemistic term for the Devil. In the original text it is clear that Fagin is a personification of evil, both by his intentions and by his behaviour, "In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils.
Having prepared his mind, by solitude and gloom, to prefer any society to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary place, he was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it, and change its hue forever. As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: Victorian society placed a lot of value and emphasis on industry, capitalism and individualism.
And who embodies this most successfully? Fagin - who operates in the illicit businesses of theft and prostitution! His "philosophy" is that the group's interests are best maintained if every individual looks out for himself, saying, "a regard for number one holds us all together, and must do so, unless we would all go to pieces in company. Apparently Dickens expressed surprise, when the Jewish community immediately complained about the depiction of Fagin.
Sadly, in , antisemitism was still rife and ingrained into English society. With all great authors we hope that they will somehow manage to step outside the mores of their time, but maybe we expect too much. Up to a point, Dickens did manage to do that later. When he eventually came to sell his London residence, he sold the lease of Tavistock House to a Jewish family he had befriended, as an attempt to make restitution. He made arrangements for the sale of Tavistock House to Mr Davis, a Jewish gentleman, and he gave up possession of it in September.
When editing Oliver Twist for the "Charles Dickens edition" of his works in , he substantially revised the work for this single volume, eliminating most references to Fagin as "the Jew". There are not many shades of grey in this highly-coloured melodrama. Of the goodies and baddies it is the "baddies" whom we mostly remember. Even Sikes's dog Bullseye falls into the baddies' camp, "Mr Sikes's dog, having faults of temper in common with his owner, and labouring, perhaps at this moment, under a powerful sense of injury He is vicious, just as Sikes has an animal-like brutality.
In fact many of the characters are named according to their vices. There is the vicious magistrate "Mr Fang". Mrs Corney what a angel you are! The curmudgeonly "Mr Grimwig" has only a superficial grimness, which can be removed as easily as a wig. But the main character's name of "Oliver Twist" is the most obvious example. Although it was given him by accident, it alludes to the outrageous twists of fortune that he will experience. Yet another connotation comes from an English card game called "pontoon", where a player asks the dealer for cards to try to total exactly 21 points.
Originally it was a French gambling game called "vingt-et-un", and favoured by Napoleon, who died in , well before this novel was written. In the English version, the player "asks for more" ie another card, by saying the word, "Twist". Dickens is clearly having a little joke with his readers! Oliver Twist himself isn't a fully rounded character. He is more of a mouthpiece, or a character created to arouse public emotion and anger against the treatment of poor children.
The whole novel is a a vehicle of criticism, a social commentary - entertaining but overcoloured and melodramatic.
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It is very much the sort of thing Dickens would imagine performed on stage. The hyperbole gets a bit much sometimes, and there are sentimental speeches such as this one from Little Dick, written entirely for effect, to pull at our heart-strings, "I heard them tell the doctor I was dying," replied the child with a faint smile.
I know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of Heaven, and Angels and kind faces that I never see when I am awake. It is like a morality play in narrative form, with the author continually instructing his readers about the iniquities of social conditions. But it has the faults of a young man's novel. He has not yet learnt how to tailor his passions to the purpose, creating either characters as a sort of Everyman, or grotesques - the comic characters we love so much.
Some of the writing is mawkishly oversentimental. But some episodes are gripping. Dickens enacted this latter scene many years later on his final tour, with such passion and violence that that woman fainted in the aisles. It is thought to have hastened his early death. On the eve of Fagin's hanging, Oliver, accompanied by Mr Brownlow in an emotional scene, visits Fagin in Newgate Prison , in hope of retrieving papers from Monks.
Fagin is lost in a world of his own fear of impending death. On a happier note, Rose Maylie is the long-lost sister of Agnes, and thus Oliver's aunt. She marries her sweetheart Harry Maylie, who gives up his political ambitions to become a parson, drawing all their friends to settle near them. Oliver lives happily with Mr Brownlow, who adopts him. Noah becomes a paid, semi-professional police informer. The Bumbles lose their positions and are reduced to poverty, ending up in the workhouse themselves. Charley Bates, horrified by Sikes' murder of Nancy, becomes an honest citizen, moves to the country, and eventually becomes prosperous.
In Oliver Twist , Dickens mixes grim realism with merciless satire to describe the effects of industrialism on 19th-century England and to criticise the harsh new Poor Laws.
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens : chapter9
Oliver, an innocent child, is trapped in a world where his only options seem to be the workhouse, a life of crime symbolised by Fagin's gang, a prison, or an early grave. In the midst of corruption and degradation, the essentially passive Oliver remains pure-hearted; he steers away from evil when those around him give in to it, and in proper fairy-tale fashion, he eventually receives his reward — leaving for a peaceful life in the country, surrounded by kind friends. On the way to this happy ending, Dickens explores the kind of life an outcast, orphan boy could expect to lead in s London.
Poverty is a prominent concern in Oliver Twist. Throughout the novel, Dickens enlarged on this theme, describing slums so decrepit that whole rows of houses are on the point of ruin. In an early chapter, Oliver attends a pauper's funeral with Mr. Sowerberry and sees a whole family crowded together in one miserable room. This prevalent misery makes Oliver's encounters with charity and love more poignant. Oliver owes his life several times over to kindness both large and small.
Nonetheless, in Oliver Twist, he delivers a somewhat mixed message about social caste and social injustice. Oliver's illegitimate workhouse origins place him at the nadir of society; as an orphan without friends, he is routinely despised. His "sturdy spirit" keeps him alive despite the torment he must endure. Most of his associates, however, deserve their place among society's dregs and seem very much at home in the depths. Noah Claypole, a charity boy like Oliver, is idle, stupid, and cowardly; Sikes is a thug; Fagin lives by corrupting children, and the Artful Dodger seems born for a life of crime.
Many of the middle-class people Oliver encounters—Mrs. Bumble, and the savagely hypocritical "gentlemen" of the workhouse board, for example—are, if anything, worse. On the other hand, Oliver—who has an air of refinement remarkable for a workhouse boy—proves to be of gentle birth.
Although he has been abused and neglected all his life, he recoils, aghast, at the idea of victimising anyone else. This apparently hereditary gentlemanliness makes Oliver Twist something of a changeling tale, not just an indictment of social injustice. Director Roman Polanski 's film adaptation of the novel dispenses with the paradox of Oliver's genteel origins by eliminating his origin story completely, making him just another anonymous orphan like the rest of Fagin's gang.
Dickens makes considerable use of symbolism. The many symbols Oliver faces are primarily good versus evil, with evil continually trying to corrupt and exploit good, but good winning out in the end. The town of Oliver's birth was Mudfog in the firsts serialization in Bentley's Miscellany in , but changed to an unnamed town, a mile walk to London, when published in book form.
The "merry old gentleman" Fagin, for example, has satanic characteristics: In contrast, the countryside where the Maylies take Oliver is a bucolic heaven. The novel is also shot through with a related motif , social class, which calls attention to the stark injustice of Oliver's world.
When the half-starved child dares to ask for more, the men who punish him are fat. A remarkable number of the novel's characters are overweight. Toward the end of the novel, the gaze of knowing eyes becomes a potent symbol. For years, Fagin avoids daylight, crowds, and open spaces, concealing himself most of the time in a dark lair. When his luck runs out at last, he squirms in the "living light" of too many eyes as he stands in the dock, awaiting sentence.
Similarly, after Sikes kills Nancy at dawn, he flees the bright sunlight in their room, out to the countryside, but is unable to escape the memory of her dead eyes. In addition, Charley Bates turns his back on crime when he sees the murderous cruelty of the man who has been held up to him as a model.
In the tradition of Restoration Comedy and Henry Fielding , Dickens fits his characters with appropriate names.
Oliver himself, though "badged and ticketed" as a lowly orphan and named according to an alphabetical system, is, in fact, "all of a twist. Grimwig is so called because his seemingly "grim", pessimistic outlook is actually a protective cover for his kind, sentimental soul. Other character names mark their bearers as semi-monstrous caricatures.
Mann, who has charge of the infant Oliver, is not the most motherly of women; Mr. Bumble, despite his impressive sense of his own dignity, continually mangles the King's English he tries to use; and the Sowerberries are, of course, "sour berries", a reference to Mrs.
Sowerberry's perpetual scowl, to Mr. Sowerberry's profession as an undertaker, and to the poor provender Oliver receives from them. Rose Maylie's name echoes her association with flowers and springtime, youth and beauty while Toby Crackit's is a reference to his chosen profession of housebreaking. Bill Sikes's dog, Bull's-eye, has "faults of temper in common with his owner" and is an emblem of his owner's character.
The dog's viciousness represents Sikes's animal-like brutality while Sikes's self-destructiveness is evident in the dog's many scars. The dog, with its willingness to harm anyone on Sikes's whim, shows the mindless brutality of the master. Sikes himself senses that the dog is a reflection of himself and that is why he tries to drown the dog. He is really trying to run away from who he is. The dog leaves bloody footprints on the floor of the room where the murder is committed.
Not long after, Sikes becomes desperate to get rid of the dog, convinced that the dog's presence will give him away. Yet, just as Sikes cannot shake off his guilt, he cannot shake off Bull's-eye, who arrives at the house of Sikes's demise before Sikes himself does. Bull's-eye's name also conjures up the image of Nancy's eyes, which haunt Sikes until the bitter end and eventually cause him to hang himself accidentally. Dickens employs polarised sets of characters to explore various dual themes throughout the novel; [ citation needed ] Mr.
Brownlow and Fagin, for example, personify "good vs. Dickens also juxtaposes honest, law-abiding characters such as Oliver himself with those who, like the Artful Dodger, seem more comfortable on the wrong side of the law. Crime and punishment is another important pair of themes, as is sin and redemption: Dickens describes criminal acts ranging from picking pockets to murder, and the characters are punished severely in the end.
Most obviously, he shows Bill Sikes hounded to death by a mob for his brutal acts and sends Fagin to cower in the condemned cell, sentenced to death by due process. Neither character achieves redemption; Sikes dies trying to run away from his guilt, and on his last night alive, the terrified Fagin refuses to see a rabbi or to pray, instead asking Oliver to help him escape. Nancy, by contrast, redeems herself at the cost of her own life and dies in a prayerful pose. She is one of the few characters in Oliver Twist to display much ambivalence.
Her storyline in the novel strongly reflects themes of domestic violence and psychological abuse at the hands of Bill, who ultimately murders her. Although Nancy is a full-fledged criminal, indoctrinated and trained by Fagin since childhood, she retains enough empathy to repent her role in Oliver's kidnapping, and to take steps to try to atone. As one of Fagin's victims, corrupted but not yet morally dead, she gives eloquent voice to the horrors of the old man's little criminal empire.
She wants to save Oliver from a similar fate; at the same time, she recoils from the idea of turning traitor, especially to Bill Sikes, whom she loves.