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?
'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. 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 Ive read by Dickens, this is him at his most socially conscious and he strategically uses Olivers biography to harshly spotlight the greed, hypocrisy and lets just say itevilof the society that organized and profited by the work house system of the middle 19th century. There 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 hes subjected to a systematic process of neglect, physical brutality and starvation along with the other children residing there. 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. Eventually, Olivers 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. 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 Olivers birth and tragic early life could have swallowed up the story and made the book a real chore to get through.
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. 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. 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.
Perhaps if Id 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. The social obstacles she faces feel like obstacles; they dont 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.
Oliver Twist introduces readers to some of the most recognizable characters in all of literature including Fagan, Bill Sykes and the Artful Dodger. 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.
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.
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. 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 stars Alec Guinness as Fagin, Robert Newton as Bill Sikes and a young John Howard Davies as Oliver Twist. 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. "The Pickwick Papers" had been phenomenally successful, making Dickens famous. 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. 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. 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". 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. But as Dickens tells us with bitter sarcasm in chapter 2, the workhouse was little more than a prison for the poor. 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. Dickens is clearly thinking of this recent Act in the first few pages, when Oliver's mother's body disappears. There is quite a marked difference in style when the character of Oliver moves away from the workhouse. Surprisingly many of the grotesque characters were based on people in real life, who performed similar unbelievably atrocious acts. 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. 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. 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. 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. But the main character's name of "Oliver Twist" is the most obvious example. Oliver Twist himself isn't a fully rounded character.
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. 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. 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.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was a writer and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: "To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years.