Oliver Twist The adventures of an orphan child

Oliver Twist is one of Charles Dicken’s most famous stories and one of the most classic novels overall in English literature. It became very popular among contemporary readers when published as a serial in the 1830s.

The plot centers around Oliver Twist, an orphan child, brought up by the parish. He is ill-treated and decide to run away to London. In the capital he meets Fagin organizer of a criminal league. When Oliver finally realized this, he tries to escape from Fagin, but are dragged back in.

The novel is a mix of satire, critical to the society’s threating of orphans, and an adventure story with sensational crimes. An example of the satirical contents in the book:

when Mr Bumble brought him, with his own hands, a basin of gruel, and the holiday allowance of two ounces and a quarter of bread. At this tremendous sight Oliver began to cry very piteously: thinking, not unnaturally, that the board must have determined to kill him for some useful purpose, or they never would have begun to fatten him up in that way. 1

The book was written as a serial between February 1837 and April 1839 in Bentley’s Miscellany.2  It is noticeable how the story shifts from a satire to become an adventure story with sensational features crime and sometimes sentimental romance.

Characters in Dickens stories are seldom very complex and neither are the characters polarized in this novel. Oliver is exceedingly courageous and it is sometimes a very moralistic story. It is also obvious how the luck turns out badly for the evil characters and how the good goes are prosperous. In the end, all is a delight for Oliver and his closets: “whose conditions approached as nearly to one of perfect happiness as can ever be known in this changing world”.

The strength in the novel lays not at least in the rich detailed milieu and the colorful persons in the book. When published, it was also an innovated novel, as noted by Ella Westland: “Since we are so familiar with the boy heroes of Dicken’s later novels, we need reminding that to center the whole work on a child’s growing up was an innovation”.3

With a boy in the center, who the world first looks upon with dubious eyes because of its heritage, but when show his supreme goodness, there is also parallels to Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones.

The author

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is one of the greatest writesr in the English language and extremely influantal as a novelist. He is famous for novels such as The Pickwick Club, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist.

< 19th Century

Notes

1 .Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens, Wordworth Classics, (2000), p. 18
2. Ibid p. 365
3 .Oliver Twist. Foreword. Charles Dickens, Wordworth Classics, (2000)