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10 thoughts on “Oliver Twist;

  1. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    Oliver Twist THE BOOK is crap and has NO songs in it, I couldn't believe it. So I googled and get this, it turns out they put those in the movie and Dickens had nothing to do with it! But since they were the best bit of the film, you can understand my horror and bereft sense of disappointment when I finally came to pick up the book.

    How could Dickens NOT have thought of having little Oliver sing Where Is Love when chucked into the cellar or Who Will Buy This Loverly Morning when he wakes up in his posh house...I mean yeah he was supposed to be good wasn't he? And please note the edition I read was not a Readers Digest Condensed Edition. When you DON'T have Fagin capering about warbling In this life one thing counts/ In the bank, large amounts/I'm afraid these don't grow on trees/You got to pick a pocket or two with that pederastic twinkle in his eyes as he surveys his small boys then alas I'm sorry to say that what you're left with is a bit of an antisemitic caricature lashed to a morality tale whose immoral moral appears to be that rich is good, poor is bad, and you better get yourself a deus ex machina in the form of a very unlikely sugardaddy to magic you out of the poorhouse or the rats will eat your bollocks, your bones will turn to dust and be blown away and no one will ever hire cute kids to pretend to be you on stage or screen and melt our hearts and win Oscars and Tonys. Which I think we all knew.

  2. Stephen Stephen says:


    I looooooooved this book. Another Dickens...another favorite. 'Please, sir, I want some more.'

    Jane Austen and Charles Dickens have been dueling inside my WOW center for some time in a titanic, see-saw struggle for the title of greatest word-smither/story-crafter in all of English literature. Ms Austen previously caused heart-palpitations and a slew of gasms with Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility which left me spent like a cheap nickel. However, Sir Dickens, being a slick, wily devil responded in kind with A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, a pair of wonderfully addictive, tingle causing joy blasts full of jaw-drops and breezy elegance.

    Where this battle of master word charmers will end….I could really care less because I’m sporting a complete happy going through their respective catalogs with a perma-smile on my face.

    Next up on the parade of mouth-watering, phrase turning feasts is The Adventures of Oliver Twist which is terrific on several levels. In relating the tragic (but ultimately rewarding) life of Oliver Twist, Dickens is at his most Austenesque as he employs with great effect biting sarcasm and dry, dark humor to scathingly satire the English Poor Laws of the 1830s. Of the novels I’ve read by Dickens, this is him at his most “socially conscious” and he strategically uses Oliver’s biography to harshly spotlight the greed, hypocrisy and let’s just say it…evil…of the society that organized and profited by the work house system of the middle 19th century.

    So they established the rule, that all poor people should have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they,) of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it.
    We follow Oliver beginning with his difficult birth that killed his mother and almost cost the young lad his life as well.
    [T]here was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration- a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence…
    From there we journey with the child as he is dumped into a workhouse where his early life goes from bad to horrendously shitty as he’s subjected to a systematic process of neglect, physical brutality and starvation along with the other children residing there.

    Here is a passage from Chapter 2 that I think perfectly encapsulates the subtly sarcastic style Dickens employs to address his subject matter.
    The parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be ‘farmed,’ or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food, or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week.

    Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.

    Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rapacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four and twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air. Unfortunately for the experimental philosopher of the female to whose care Oliver Twist was delivered over, a similar result usually attended the operation of her system; for at the very moment when a child had contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food, it did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this.
    I love the way Dickens can describe callous starvation and casual murder of children for nothing more than greed in such a way that I was actually chuckling because of his lusciously humorous phrasing.

    This man could write.

    Eventually, Oliver’s life takes another turn from horrendously shitty to mega-painful-chunks-of-misery-filled-crap when he has the temerity to utter the famous words, “Please, sir, I want some more. He gets more…
    more beatings,
    more starvation,
    more verbal abuse,
    more neglect,
    …and ultimately finds himself alone on the streets with no means of survival. There, Oliver finds himself sucked into a life of petty criminality under the tutelage of “Fagin the Jew” who I thought was one of the most compelling Dickens characters ever.**

    [**Note: I know there is a lot of controversy about the portrayal of Fagin being one of the most egregious cases of anti-Semitism in classic literature. I think the criticism is fair, but I also don’t think (based on what I’ve read) that Dickens’ had any malicious intent. It is what it is and everyone can make their own decision on that point.]

    I thought the character of Fagin was fascinating and his signature phrase my dear (which he uses in almost every sentence) is still popping into my head more than a week after finishing the novel. Fagin, while irredeemably evil and in some ways a criminal caricature, Dickens draws him with such flair imbues him with a dimension and essence that I found very compelling. His psychology, his calculating intelligence and his soft words masking despicable actions is deftly laid out. At times, I almost got the impression that Fagin was intended to represent “the devil himself” with the way Dickens focuses on his corrupting influence.
    In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils; and, 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, was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it and change its hue for ever.
    On one level, the life of Oliver Twist is one of the harshest, most depressingly sad tales ever put to paper. In lesser hands, the heartache and forlornness of Oliver’s birth and tragic early life could have swallowed up the story and made the book a real chore to get through.

    Good news…these are not lesser hands.

    Dickens writing is so melodic that the narrative glides over the horror at a safe middle-distance, allowing us to observe and absorb the surroundings without drowning in the pain that Dickens describes. I thought it was masterful.

    Intimate yet detached.

    Eventually, the plot takes a mysterious turn as a shadowy figure arrives on the scene who has a connection to Oliver and his past that is slowly revealed over the last half of the story. All of this leads to a marvelous ending that makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable in retrospect…sometimes positive, warm and fuzzy resolutions are exactly what a story needs.

    Dickens prose is buttery smooth while his mocking humor is cheddar sharp. His balance is outstanding and his ability to poke fun at his readers’ society while avoiding making the reader themselves feel like a target is brilliant. I had such a wonderful time reading this that I am left wondering why everyone doesn’t love Dickens as much as I do.


    Okay, Ms. Austen…your turn again.

  3. Bill Kerwin Bill Kerwin says:

    In recent years, I have become bewitched by all things gothic, and I was curious to discover to what extent gothic tropes and examplars may have influenced the imagery and structure of Dicken's first serious novel. Specifically, I was interested in how gothic elements might be expressed in Oliver Twist's urban atmosphere. Had Hugo's Paris thieves' guild left its mark upon Fagin and his charges? Had Scott's Highland robbers' caves influenced Dickens' lowlife dens? Were these dirty London streets much the same as those of the Newgate novels, or had distinct touches of the marvelous already arisen, hints of the city that would soon take shape in the fiction of Conan Doyle and Machen?

    I think I detected a little gothic influence in the city atmosphere, but much less than I expected to find. Fagin's den, the Three Cripples gin mill, and the abandoned house where Sykes' gang gathers may owe something to Hugo, Scott and Radcliff, but the general atmosphere is neither gothic nor Newgate, but instead something new: early Victorian realism. Dickens knew London well. His childhood acquainted him with London's depths, and his manhood and its long compulsive walks with the city's variety and extent. Dickens sees much, and everything he sees he describes with a photographer's intensity and interest.

    It is in its structure, rather than its metaphors, that Oliver Twist owes a great debt to the gothic novel. Although superficially a Newgate novel--streetboy corrupted by urban gang into a life of crime--it is actually closer to that of the traditional gothic, with Oliver Twist taking the place of the menaced gothic heroine. Oliver is torn between men who wish to control him, often for their own selfish purposes, and it is the struggle between guardians and would-be guardians that gives the narrative of Oliver Twist its shape, in much the same way that such a struggle determined the narrative movement of The Mysteries of Udolpho.

    All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. Oliver Twist is short for a Dickens' novel, and it has few of the wearisome circumlocutions or labored jests that sometimes afflict his longer works. His prose is spare, and full of powerful effects. The murder of Nancy can still touch the jaded modern heart with its horror, and the last appearances of Sykes and Fagin are also well done. There are sentimental touches and incredible coincidences--this is still Dickens, after all--but Oliver Twist is in essence a realistic novel of Victorian poverty and crime, and it still packs a powerful punch.

  4. Ahmad Sharabiani Ahmad Sharabiani says:

    (918 From 1001) - Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

    Oliver Twist; or, the Parish Boy's Progress is author Charles Dickens's second novel, and was first published as a serial 1837–39.

    The story centers on orphan Oliver Twist, born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. After escaping, Twist travels to London, where he meets The Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal, Fagin.

    Oliver Twist is born into a life of poverty and misfortune, raised in a workhouse in the fictional town of Mudfog, located 70 miles (110 km) north of London. He is orphaned by his father's mysterious absence and his mother Agnes' death in childbirth, welcomed only in the workhouse and robbed of her gold name locket.

    Oliver is meagerly provided for under the terms of the Poor Law and spends the first nine years of his life living at a baby farm in the 'care' of a woman named Mrs. Mann. Oliver is brought up with little food and few comforts. Around the time of Oliver's ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, removes Oliver from the baby farm and puts him to work picking and weaving oakum at the main workhouse.

    Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains in the workhouse for six months. One day, the desperately hungry boys decide to draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. This task falls to Oliver himself, who at the next meal comes forward trembling, bowl in hand, and begs Mr. Bumble for gruel with his famous request: Please, sir, I want some more.

    A great uproar ensues. The board of well-fed gentlemen who administer the workhouse hypocritically offer £5 to any person wishing to take on the boy as an apprentice. Mr. Gamfield, a brutal chimney sweep, almost claims Oliver.

    However, when Oliver begs despairingly not to be sent away with that dreadful man, a kindly magistrate refuses to sign the indentures.

    Later, Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker employed by the parish, takes Oliver into his service. He treats Oliver better and, because of the boy's sorrowful countenance, uses him as a mourner at children's funerals.

    Mr. Sowerberry is in an unhappy marriage, and his wife looks down on Oliver and misses few opportunities to underfeed and mistreat him.

    He also suffers torment at the hands of Noah Claypole, an oafish and bullying fellow apprentice and charity boy who is jealous of Oliver's promotion to mute, and Charlotte, the Sowerberrys' maidservant, who is in love with Noah.

    However, Mrs. Sowerberry takes Noah's side, helps him to subdue, punch, and beat Oliver, and later compels her husband and Mr. Bumble, who has been sent for in the aftermath of the fight, to beat Oliver again. Once Oliver is sent to his room for the night he breaks down and weeps. The next day Oliver escapes from the Sowerberrys' house and later decides to run away to London to seek a better life. ...

    عنوانها: «اولیور - پسر یتیم»؛ «اولیور تویست»؛ «اولیور توایست»؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز، (امیرکبیر، مرکز) ادبیات انگلستان؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 1976میلادی

    عنوان: اولیور؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: محمدرضا سیف، امیرکبیر، 1348، در 180ص عنوان روی جلد «پسر یتیم»؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 19م

    عنوان: اولیور توایست؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: یاسمن یاسی پور، تهران، آبان مهر، 1394، در 157ص؛ شابک 9789649016467؛

    عنوان: اولیور تویست؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ مترجم: حسین خسروی، تهران، گلشائی، 1363، در 648ص؛ شابک 9789649016467؛
    بسیاری از بزرگواران این متن را ترجمه کرده اند، در فرصتی بهتر همه را خواهم نگاشت

    مترجمین دیگر خانمها و آقایان: «مجید غلامی شاهدی، تهران، نظاره، 1395؛ در 446ص، و قم، نوید ظهور، 1396»؛ «محمد قصاع، تهران، شهر قلم، 1394، در 120ص»؛ «زهرا قلمبر‌دزفولی؛ شهرقصه، 1395؛ در 46ص، چاپ دوم سال 1396»؛ «مریم سلحشور، قم، رخ مهتاب، 1391، در 225ص؛ «سوده کریمی، قاصدک، 1395، در 32ص»؛ «مهسا یزدانی؛ تهران، شما، 1397؛ در 199ص»؛ «المیرا کاس‌نژاد، تهران، پینه دوز، 1396؛ در 52ص»؛ «م‍ه‍دی‌ غ‍ب‍رای‍ی، در 127ص، نشر مرکز، مریم، 1383، در 127ص؛ «خسرو شایسته، تهران، سپیده، 1366، در 135ص؛ چاپ پنجم 1371»؛ «م‍ه‍ری‌ ص‍ب‍وری، ه‍ران‌: گ‍س‍ت‍رش‌ ان‍ت‍ش‍ارات‌‏‫، 1369، در 157ص»؛ «ای‍از ح‍دادی، تهران، آرمان، 1380، در 325ص، چاپ سوم 1370»؛ «شایسته ابراهیمی؛ گاج، 1395، در 55ص»؛ «سولماز قاسمی»؛ «ه‍ادی‌ ری‍اض‍ی»؛ «م‍ح‍س‍ن‌ ف‍رزاد»؛ «حبیبیان»؛ «معصومه موسوی»؛ «رحیم اصلانی»؛ «ماریه برزگران»؛ «نرگس بهرامی»؛ «سمیه شکرزاده»؛ «مهسا محجوب‌لاله»؛ «سحر حدیقه»؛ «متین پدرامی»؛ «رش‍ا خ‍ال‍دح‍داد»؛ «یوسف قریب، گوتنبرگ، 1386، در 559ص، چاپ دوم 1388»؛ «پارميدا درسرا»؛ «رضا مرتضوی»؛ «ج‍ل‍ی‍ل‌ ده‍م‍ش‍گ‍ی»؛ «ع‍ن‍ای‍ت‌ال‍ل‍ه‌ ش‍ک‍ی‍ب‍اپ‍ور، 1362، در 408ص، چاپ چهارم 1369»؛ «الهام‌سادات یاسینی»؛ «مهسا شهبازی»؛ «افشین امیری‌ججین»؛ «فاطمه حقیقی»؛ «علیرضا کاشانی»؛

    هشدار اگر هنوز کتاب را نخوانده اید و میخواهید آن را بخوانید، ادامه ی این نوشتار را نخوانید؛

    نویسنده در «الیور تویست» به بررسی اوضاع وخیم یتیم‌خانه‌ ها، در «انگلستان» در آن دوران، می‌پردازد؛ «اولیور، پسربچه ی یتیمی ست، که پس از فروخته شدن از سوی یتیم‌خانه، به پیرمردی تابوت‌ساز، تصمیم می‌گیرد، از شهر فرار کند، و به «لندن» برود، در میانه ی راه، با پسری دزد، آشنا می‌شود، که برای پیرمردی یهودی، در «لندن»، کار می‌کند؛ و «اولیور» را نزد او می‌بَرَد، تا ناخواسته آموزش دزدی ببیند؛ ...؛

    سرانجام «اولیور» بی‌گناه دستگیر می‌شود؛ شاکی او، که فردی عاقل است، او را به‌ عنوان فرزند، در خانه نگهداری می‌کند، اما از بخت بدِ «اولیور»، در خیابان توسط همان دزدان، دوباره دزدیده می‌شود؛ و اینبار از او برای سرقتی بزرگتر استفاده می‌کنند؛ «اولیور» در آن سرقت تیر می‌خورَد، ولی از سوی همان خانه که قصد دزدی داشته، پذیرفته می‌شود؛ و از او مراقبت می‌شود؛ سرانجام، شخصی به نام مستعارِ «مانکس»؛ پیدا می‌شود، که برادر «اولیور» است؛ و قصد کشتن او را دارد؛ و خبر خطر مرگ «اولیور» به اهالی خانه می‌رسد؛ از قضا صاحبان پیشین «اولیور» نیز، که «اولیور» از پیشِ آن‌ها دزدیده شده بود، او را پیدا می‌کنند، و با یاری صاحبانِ تازه ی «اولیور»، سعی در نجات او دارند؛ سرانجام «اولیور» نجات می‌یابد، و تمامی دزدان به سزای خود می‌رسند، و واقعیت‌ها نیز برملا می‌شود؛

    تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  5. Cait Poytress Cait Poytress says:

    I swear Dickens named one of his characters Master Bates on purpose.

  6. Mutasim Billah Mutasim Billah says:

    “It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.”

    Welcome to the 19th century! 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: ..... poor-law authorities should no longer attempt to identify the fathers of illegitimate children and recover the costs of child support from them. Hence, Oliver is now an illegitimate orphan. 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. 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.
    Please, sir, I want some more.
    The story showcases Oliver's pure soul in a world of misery and poverty. 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 meets the Artful Dodger.
    Despite the grim contents of the book, the story, however, eventually proves that kindness does lurk in murky corners as well. 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.

  7. Sean Barrs Sean Barrs says:

    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. Perhaps if I’d not seen the film I would have enjoyed the story more. 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: charmless.

    There’s just a certain lack of life within these pages. Oliver, the protagonist, is somewhat unlikable himself. And that’s odd. He just did not have a great deal about him other than a child’s curiosity and a will to survive on the harsh streets of Victorian London. 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.

    For example if you compare this to another popular work of the era Jane Eyre, you will see how poor Dicken’s characterisation is. From the get go the reader is made to care for Jane and her plight. Her story drives the narrative forward. The social obstacles she faces feel like obstacles; they don’t define the story: she does. 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.

  8. Lisa Lisa says:

    What's a prostitute?

    A student in the library asked me that, and I was baffled for two reasons. First of all, I thought that teenagers are well-informed nowadays, and I also thought she was reading in a corner, not surfing the internet in the work area (where I imagined she would come across the term). As so often, I was wrong on all accounts, which I realised when I explained that a prostitute is a woman selling her body, and received the reply:

    Ah, you mean a whore, why can't Dickens just say that then and stop using all these fancy words?

    The student waved a copy of Oliver Twist in front of me, and I couldn't help laughing out loud, feeling somehow transported into a Dickensian situation.

    And before I knew it, I had checked out another copy of it to a student listening in on the conversation. I bet he wanted to enhance his vocabulary skills - and I don't mind at all!

    Please, Sir, I want some more!

  9. Bionic Jean Bionic Jean says:

    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! or

    If the law says that, then the law is a ass - a idiot. 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!

    Dramatisations of this story abound, and there have been 25 films made of it...so far! 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 1948 is one of the most faithful to the book. It stars Alec Guinness as Fagin, Robert Newton as Bill Sikes and a young John Howard Davies as Oliver Twist. (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 1837 to April 1839. 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.

    The Pickwick Papers had been phenomenally successful, making Dickens famous. He therefore decided to give up his job as a parliamentary reporter and journalist in November 1836, 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 1837 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 1838, 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... but that is another dramatic story.

    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 1839, 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 1834, 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... of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it.

    The workhouse functions here as a sign of the moral hypocrisy of the working class. 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...

    The other recent legislation which is clearly in Dickens's mind in writing this novel, is the Anatomy Act of 1832. Before 1832, 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.

    There's also the ruthless magistrate Mr. Fang, who is entirely based on an actual person who could well have been even more severe in reality! In a letter dated June 3, 1837, Dickens wrote to his friend Thomas Haines,

    In my next number of Oliver Twist, I must have a magistrate...whose harshness and insolence would render him a fit subject to be shewn up...I have...stumbled upon Mr. Laing of Hatton Garden celebrity.

    Laing was a police magistrate, but was dismissed by the Home Secretary for abuse of his power. 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. Corney, 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 1835, 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. Again the reader wonders if other parts of Dickens's story had some basis in fact.

    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.

    And in this description he seems barely human,

    It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. 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: crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal.

    There is a further interpretation of Fagin. 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.

    This is indeed heavy irony on Dickens's part, and adds to Fagin's multi-layered personality.

    Apparently Dickens expressed surprise, when the Jewish community immediately complained about the depiction of Fagin. Sadly, in 1837, 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. Letters of Charles Dickens 1833-1870 include this sentence in the narrative to 1860,

    This winter was the last spent at Tavistock House...He made arrangements for the sale of Tavistock House to Mr Davis, a Jewish gentleman, and he gave up possession of it in September.

    There is other additional evidence of a rethink. When editing Oliver Twist for the Charles Dickens edition of his works in 1846, he substantially revised the work for this single volume, eliminating most references to Fagin as the Jew. And in his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, (1864) Dickens created Riah, a positive Jewish character.

    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...fixed his teeth in one of the halfboots.

    By this amusing quip Dickens makes the dog a symbolic emblem of his owner's character. 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 Mann who farms the infants sent to her, is named to show that she has none of the maternal instincts Dickens considers necessary for this task. Mr Bumble is a greedy, arrogant, bumbling, hypocritical, procrastinator, proposing marriage by these words,

    Coals, candles and house-rent free...Oh! Mrs Corney what a angel you are!...Such porochial perfection!

    Blathers and Duff are two fairly incompetent coppers (and incidentally, possibly the earliest example in fiction of police detectives.) Rose Maylie echoes the character's association with flowers and springtime, youth and beauty. Toby Crackit refers humorously to his chosen profession of breaking into houses. 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 1821, 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. 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 am very glad to see you, dear; but don't stop!...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. Kiss me!...Goodb'ye dear! God bless you.

    Oliver Twist is a perfect example of persuasive fiction. 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. (view spoiler)[Fagin's desperate and terrified descent into madness when he is about to be hanged, and Sikes's murder of Nancy (hide spoiler)]

  10. Lyn Lyn says:

    I have seen the 1968 academy award winning musical film “Oliver!” so many times that we eventually just bought the DVD.

    David Lean’s 1948 film starring Alec Guinness as Fagan and Robert Newton as Bill Sykes is another favorite.

    These film adaptations are so ubiquitous and so endearing that it is easy to forget what a rare accomplishment was Dickens original novel. One of Dickens earliest novels and like most was first published as a series of installments, Oliver Twist begins Dickens brilliant career of creating memorable characters and of describing some of his most universal themes such as orphanage, poverty, and juvenile perseverance and nobility while at the same time ruthlessly satirizing adult evils and social ills.

    Oliver Twist introduces readers to some of the most recognizable characters in all of literature including Fagan, Bill Sykes and the Artful Dodger.

    ** 2018 - Then winter seems like a great time to read Dickens as the long nights and cold days seem to engender a feeling of those Victorian times. One character that I frequently recall from this book is Nancy, Bill Sykes unfortunate victim. Dickens introduces her as A couple of young ladies called to see the young gentlemen; one of whom was named Bet, and the other Nancy. They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings. They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked quite stout and hearty.

    It is Nancy's protection of Oliver, and her subsequent condemnation by Fagin and then Sykes that forms Dickens' most compelling scenes.


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Oliver Twist; [EPUB] ✹ Oliver Twist; By Charles Dickens – Buyprobolan50.co.uk Oliver is an orphan living on the dangerous London streets with no one but himself to rely on Fleeing from poverty and hardship, he falls in with a criminal street gang who will not let him go, howeve Oliver is an orphan living on the dangerous London streets with no one but himself to rely on Fleeing from poverty and hardship, he falls in with a criminal street gang who will not let him go, however hard he tries to escapeOne of the most swiftly moving and unified of Charles Dickens’s great novels, Oliver Twist is also famous for its recreation–through the splendidly realized figures of Fagin, Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and the evil Bill Sikes–of the vast London underworld of pickpockets, thieves, prostitutes, and abandoned children Victorian critics took Dickens to task for rendering this world in such a compelling, believable way, but readers over the lastyears have delivered an alternative judgment by making this story of the orphaned Oliver Twist one of its author’s most loved works.