John's Reviews > Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
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's review
Mar 09, 11

it was ok
Read in March, 2011

I read A Tale of Two Cities last year and really liked it. Really, really liked it. It painted such a deep, vivid picture of Paris during the revolution. It was haunting. I felt I was walking the streets of Paris with the characters and could see the houses and jails so clearly. I was expecting Oliver Twist to have the same descriptive power, but it didn’t. Finally in the last few chapters when Dickens is describing the poor warehouse district of London did I find what I was expecting.

I understand why Oliver Twist is a classic. I can appreciate it as serial that left London hanging for more. The twists and turns of the plot are the precursor to soap operas and action shows like 24. But its just not my thing.

I long for depth in characters. I never felt like I got in the head of any of the characters in Oliver Twist. Perhaps Fagin and Nancy a little. The act seems to sweep characters, Oliver in particular, away. The plot twists drive the story.

I chose to read Oliver Twist now to contrast Dickens’s treatment of the poor with Jane Austen’s in Mansfield Park. Dickens is a champion of the poor without a doubt. He makes the case that the poor are foremost humans and should be treated so. Secondly they are often victims and not wholly responsible for their state in life. Thirdly, as in A Christmas Carol, he proposes the idea that if the rich gave a little more of their excess, the poor could be uplifted.

Although strides have been taken in society on the first idea, (standards of acceptable living conditions have come a long way) it is interesting that the debate continues today on the second and third. I know I am often guilty of deep down believing the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough or are lazy or somehow deserve their situation. And the political debate of the tax burden on the rich continues. But I applaud the movement of Bill Gates and others to give the vast majority of their wealth away. A noble belief indeed.

Overall this book tempered my desire to read more Dickens any time soon.
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