Oliver Twist is one of the best known works of Charles Dickens, mostly thanks to the movie adaption Oliver! (1968). I had never read it until last month, and I ended up – surprised.
It’s not one of Dickens’s better novels.
Oliver Twist is the story of an orphan, born illegitimately (a shocking enough notion for early Victorian literature). His early years are spent in a workhouse run by incompetent and sometimes venal caretakers. He’s “sold” to a coffin maker; the practice of selling (officially, “apprenticing”) orphan children was common at the time. He runs away to London, and falls in with a criminal gang led by the miserly Fagin. The gang includes the Artful Dodger, John Dawkins; the vicious Bill Sikes; the thief Charley Bates; Toby Crackit, a burglar; and the thief Nancy, Sikes’s lover and who will die for trying to save Oliver.
Oliver moves in and out of potentially criminal situations, Dickens managing to keep him just out of reach of the law. He’s taken in twice and cared for, once by the elderly gentleman Mr. Brownlow and once by a lady, Mrs. Maylie, and her daughter Rose. But the criminals are always hovering around Oliver, and for a good reason – they need to get him caught in criminal activity.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Illustration: In a famous scene in the novel, Oliver asks for more gruel.