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Oliver Twist

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A gripping portrayal of London's dark criminal underbelly, published in Penguin Classics with an introduction by Philip Horne.

The story of Oliver Twist - orphaned, and set upon by evil and adversity from his first breath - shocked readers when it was published. After running away from the workhouse and pompous beadle Mr Bumble, Oliver finds himself lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters - the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull's Eye, and prostitute Nancy, all watched over by cunning master-thief Fagin. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

This Penguin Classics edition of Oliver Twist is the first critical edition to faithfully reproduce the text as its earliest readers would have encountered it from its serialisation in Bentley's Miscellany, and includes an introduction by Philip Horne, a glossary of Victorian thieves' slang, a chronology of Dickens's life, a map of contemporary London and all of George Cruikshank's original illustrations.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

608 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1838

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About the author

Charles Dickens

15.8k books27.2k followers
Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) 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. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. 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.

Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens's creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell and G. K. Chesterton—for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism. The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.

On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day's work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day he died at Gad's Hill Place. Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner," he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. 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. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world." His last words were: "On the ground", in response to his sister-in-law Georgina's request that he lie down.

(from Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,848 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,196 reviews9,480 followers
March 9, 2012
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.

Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
October 7, 2011

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.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
August 11, 2021
(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. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «اولیور»؛ «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؛ شا��ک 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 نگا��ت

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 است، 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؛ 19/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
797 reviews3,629 followers
May 29, 2023
The dawn of the use of social criticism as main plot element while overusing the modern readers' tolerance for suspension of disbelief

by making the whole story a bit too unrealistic optimistic and too full of coincidences, a kind of trademark of Dickens work as he didn´t MacGuffined and Chekhoved enough or mixed different plotlines to make it look more compelling. It would also help if it would be a bit less wooden, stiff, and more dynamic, but not everybody can be a Jane Austen or Mark Twain and it´s not bad, just not the work of a literary genius, but of a person trying to send a message at any cost.

Full of subjective real life inspirations
It´s possibly one of Dickens most autobiographical works, as the had to endure poverty and see the dark sides of society firsthand, but instead of getting bitter, his work became a torchlight of the importance of staying human and positive under the worst conditions while each normal person would have already relinquished or had a mental breakdown.

Subjective reading preferences for English speaking authors
I´m just once again realizing how much I enjoy UK/US classics and literature in general while avoiding especially Central Europe and I have a controversial and very unfriendly theory I already keep repeating throughout my reviewer career and it feels like a rant is coming up.

The review now seems to escalate to trolling against European literature, it must have something to do with bias and stream of consciousness, sorry for that.

There are no past or current European equivalents
Dickens is an institution and shows that, already in the 19th century, UK/US authors dominated the creation of entertaining, good works of fiction. Sorry, Continental Europe, much eccentric philosophical blah yadda and deeper meaning literature just isn´t as entertaining as all the UK/US works, one of the reasons I hardly ever read European authors. Something with fantastic realism and cultural heritage went terribly wrong and created a reading culture and literature notorious for its boring, reader hostile, and arrogant sociopathic style, absolutely not caring about what the vast majority of readers like. Shame on you. Ok, if I can´t sleep or want to make myself angry and sad it´s the literature of choice, but in all other cases, no thank you.
The funny thing is that it´s the same situation now as it was hundreds of years ago, European literature just sucks, and the snobby attitude towards pseudo intellectual garbage or poorly written trivial literature seems to have epigenetically poisoned most countries. And transformed them into toxic literature wastelands fueled by the tears and screams of the poor pupils and students forced to read this trash while the same happy students in English speaking countries can enjoy great entertainment as part of their education.

Look at the completely different approaches:
European writer: I want to make high brow, over the top, eccentric, weird, impossible to understand Nobel prize material, glorify myself and my intellect, and integrate much of my personal bias in it to impress critics with similar, restricted mindsets.
UK/US writer: I want to use the rules of the writing game to create epic, timeless pieces that are both entertaining and have a message.
If someone would create music or paintings the same way, one could immediately hear and see the ugliness and the underlying incompetence, sadly that´s not possible with literature.

Personal nightmare
I imagine waking up in purgatory, first thinking it´s heaven because it´s an endless library, then realizing it´s just Eurotrash literature, laughing louder and louder while madness kicks in and crying takes over in waves over my tormented soul while the demons are coming closer to fix me to A Clockwork Orange style force reading machine.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
October 26, 2020

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.
Profile Image for oyshik.
212 reviews665 followers
January 27, 2021
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist, the young child who lived as a victim of a corrupt society and, fought hardships and endured hardships. But fate was harder in his case. And he fell into the group of terrible people who used him to achieve their evil purposes. There are full of despicable characters who will examine readers about the dark side of humanity. However, for me, this book was difficult to read. There were so many characters with lengthy descriptions. I know it's classic. But I couldn't enjoy it. I just find myself desiring it to be finished.
It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.

Hard read
Profile Image for Luís.
1,864 reviews523 followers
April 4, 2023
Born to a single mother who gave birth secretly, Oliver Twist seemed to have a dim future. The charities that took care of him, convinced that sooner or later he would end up on the gallows like all the beings of his generation, barely gave him enough to survive (and were indignant as it should be at the lack of gratitude for their sacrifices).
We then try to get rid of his bulky stomach when he reaches the apprentice's age. If he escapes an unscrupulous chimney sweep, he eventually ends up with an undertaker. His life is not improving by it: his orphan status and assistance designate him from the outset as guilty in all the conflicts that concern him, making him the company's dead weight. He decides one evening to flee to London to improve his lot. But he only finds a bunch of thieves there, determined to take advantage of his naivety to pull off some juicy shots.
The novel is very close to the philosophical tale in several aspects. First of all, the Manichaeism of the characters: the good guys had only described by qualities, the bad guys only by faults (and they are inexcusable on top of that), and even if some have found themselves on the wrong side by a twist of fate, we know at first glance where our sympathy should go, and who we should hate. But, then, the plot fills with twists and turns and less credible drama: despite England's extent, the protagonists always fall on the right person at the right time. We must admit that sometimes, we border the romance of series B.
Despite these minor flaws, it is easy to get carried away by the author's pen. However, humor is omnipresent in history, and the criticism of the laws on poverty, the lack of aid to the peasants, and the hypocrisy of philanthropists are severe (ah, those poor people who persist in starving while people of good society assured them that they had something to eat, what a scandal!)
Therefore, a novel contains good feelings and relatively simple mechanics. But if you're in a frame of mind where you want to see the good guys rewarded and the bad guys punished, Oliver Twist is a great read.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,228 reviews1,062 followers
May 10, 2023
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. chill us to the marrow. Dickens enacted this latter scene many years later on his final tour, with such passion and violence that that woman fainted in the aisles. It is thought to have hastened his early death. The story itself is undoubtedly exciting, with many mysteries and devious convolutions which are satisfactorily resolved at the end. The many descriptions effectively convey the squalid horror of the specific area around London's River Thames at that time, such as this evocative passage,

"Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half-a-dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows, broken and patched... rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud, and threatening to fall into it - as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations; every repulsive lineament of poverty; every loathsome indication of filth, rot and garbage; all these ornament the banks of Folly Ditch."

If you view it as Dickens's first proper novel it is an amazing accomplishment, and we know that he only got better. Its characters are well-loved and still in our culture today; a sure sign of a classic.
Profile Image for Mutasim Billah .
112 reviews193 followers
June 24, 2020
“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.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
March 21, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
May 13, 2019
"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!"
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
December 27, 2018
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.

Profile Image for Kenny.
495 reviews866 followers
January 24, 2023
It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.
Oliver Twist ~~ Charles Dickens


Oliver Twist … you’ve eluded me for so long. I finally hunkered down and read your tale of whoa ~~ not woe, but whoa

Renowned for please sir, I want some more, Oliver Twist is the classic story of a young, orphaned boy growing up in the workhouses of rural England where gentle society, religious figures, and the powers that be oppress him merely for being born poor and illegitimate. Charles Dickens was not afraid to get into the realism of desperation; The boy, Oliver Twist journeys from the tribulations of the work house to the London slums where Oliver is held captive by a gang of thieves, told to either learn the trade or die. Jostled between the need to survive and his innate, innocent desire to do good, Oliver’s achingly poignant story is embroiled in the life of paupers, prostitutes, murderers, and the society that forces them to desperate measures. Dickens’ bitter humor cuts to the quick, his commentary is deeply affecting, and all the while he keeps the reader engaged with this addicting story. Tense and dangerous, Oliver Twist isn’t the stuffy old classic you thought it would be, but is instead a dark, often sordid story unafraid to look into the nooks and crannies of neglected people and broken lives.

Beginning, as many of Dicken’s novels do, with the birth of the protagonist title character, the story follows our boy from infancy to young adulthood, only swerving at the conclusion to concentrate on the gang of thieves, run by the old criminal, Fagin, and the way in which their circumstances and forced corruption shape their destruction.

Continually starved at the workhouse, Oliver is eventually thrust out ~~ after requesting more gruel ~~ into apprenticeship with a coffin maker, Mr. Sowerberry. From here, the abuse escalates both physically and mentally and Oliver, stuck between the gallows and workhouse, flees to London, submersing himself in the anonymity of London and the rumors of work for a willing lad. The boy’s naivety soon leads him to be picked up by The Artful Dodger, a charismatic child thief ~~ near Oliver’s own age ~~ who ostensibly takes pity on a starving orphan and brings him home to Fagin, a deceitful man determined to rob all of those with whom he comes in contact. The inhuman Fagin with his continual application of my dear embodies all that is detestable yet irresistible about Dickens’ villains and soon has Oliver thoroughly deceived. However, when Oliver is falsely accused of picking pockets, his newfound understanding leads to a desire to flee the gang of thieves and escape into a better life.

Soon, events spiral dangerously, launching explosive secrets to the surface about Oliver’s background, true parentage, and intended future. Meanwhile, Bill Sykes, a housebreaker accomplice of Fagin’s, has taken a keen interest in the boy and with the assistance of his presumed girlfriend / thief / prostitute, Nancy, and hatches a scheme to drag Oliver back to the streets and into a life of infamy and terror. Should Oliver refuse, Sykes is always ready to make good on his escalating threats of physical violence.


An emotional novel, Oliver Twist while stunningly and movingly written, is all about the story and the intense passions elicited by the resulting depravity of an underclass desperate to survive. Examining the cause-and-effect relationships of heartless power and the integrity of alleged social convention / position, Dickens’ assessment here is made with bitter, bloody blows.

Not afraid to unveil the uglier aspects of life, and indeed death, Oliver’s story is an intensely personal one that, thereby, becomes universal. Dickens captures the despair and goodness of Oliver, thinly veiling his own inner fears, uncertainties, and oppression with a pulse that breaks down barriers and transforms pages into thoughts and soul longings, touching us in way that transcend the written word. Oliver Twist is one of Dickens most shining examples of creating and populating a world that will leave you simultaneously laughing, crying, and emotionally moved.


The cast of villains in Oliver Twist is exceptional including the chilling and volatile Sykes, who serves to deliver the most horror to a story already verging on disaster. The final scene between Sykes and Nancy, and Fagin’s clever manipulation of the two, is a testament to Dickens’ great understanding of situational realities. Indeed, the entire cast of villains, large as it is, becames a sort of sordid family to me and in the later part of the novel, Oliver, with all of his ghostly history, steps aside to let us see the workings of good and evil in these desperate ~~ albeit all too realistic spirits. Dickens has a lot to say here about the very nature of good and evil ~~ and the inability to separate the two.

Everything is saturated with selfishness and selflessness, enclosure and escape, guilt and justification, and above it all, the secret of Oliver’s birth which ties everything up into a bittersweet ending. Dickens even thwarts his society further with forgiveness and a disdain of the entire illegitimate stigma and the sins of the mothers visited on their children ~~ sadly, this is still all too common today. One of Dickens most moving works, Oliver Twist should be read for both the beauty of its engaging prose and the message within that prose.


If you haven’t read Oliver Twist please do give it a read, especially if you ~~ like me ~~ enjoy classics. Words fail me as I try to express how wonderful Oliver Twist is. This is definitely one of my favorite reads of 2022.

Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,823 followers
January 3, 2023
I enjoyed this reread, probably more than previously. It's not my favourite Dickens but it has some fantastic moments.
Profile Image for Tim.
476 reviews616 followers
March 25, 2022
Wait one damn second… there's no singing in this book at all! Pop culture has once again lead me astray!

Jokes aside, this is Dickens's second novel (and coincidentally the second novel I've read by him) and it shows. In many ways I had the opposite reaction of what I did to A Tale of Two Cities. I loved the characters here, both main and side, but found the plot a bit of a mess full of coincidences and things that can only be explained away with "well, God was looking out for them" which is an immediate downside for me. Clearly Dickens grows as an author between the two as A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most carefully plotted of books, filled with scenes that mirror earlier ones throughout. That complaint aside, I did enjoy the experience of this one more than the other book.

Oliver Twist is a book seemingly built on its characters and humor. The story of an orphan boy who things keep going to hell for could so easily turn into a misery porn sort of work, but here Dickens tells his tale with sympathy, yes, but with a wink and a smile. Many times I found myself laughing out loud. I found myself loving the side characters again, in particular Fagin (who is admittedly some of an offensive caricature at times, but a delightful villain filled with charm) the Artful Dodger (who is not in the book near enough), Mr. Bumble and Nancy. The book occasionally seemed to loose its way and go off on multiple chapter tangents (like when the two detectives show up to the house) but all of them were delightful vignettes.

Dickens also manages to moralize in this one without coming off as preaching. His descriptions of the work houses and young Oliver's life are terrible, but because of his humor he gets his point across without ever feeling too bleak (yet somehow still capturing the seriousness of the events). It's a fine balancing act performed throughout the novel, and one I can't help but applaud.

While I recognize this is likely not Dickens strongest work, it is an extremely fun novel and one I would highly recommend. I'm giving it the same rating as the other book of his I've read, but with the notation that I find this a far more enjoyable book. 4/5 stars
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
December 17, 2015

This has been an exercise in exorcism for me.

I have been enjoying reading Dickens lately but I knew that not until I tackled Oliver Twist would I have dealt with, and conquered, the devil.

Images of black and white dreary images in a boxy TV have been projecting in the back of my mind since my childhood. And growing up and becoming an adult cooking garlic did not help. More substances were needed for a cleansing ritual. Oliver Twist continued to inspire horrific fear in me.

Expectedly, the endless scenes of gloom, of poverty, of sleaziness, of dreariness had been haunting my conception of Dickens. But now, with my new distance as a relatively well-read adult, I had become more ready to enjoy Dickens’ fiction. In particular because, in parallel to the text, I have been listening to a brilliant audio edition in which the reader would dramatize very effectively the various voices. Oliver Twist presented as an auditory high relief made me laugh several times. Superb humour cast a different light on the author’s stereotypes and exaggerations. And Dickens’s formidable command of a literary and lively language exerted an accompanying redeeming effect.

But the humour and the exquisite language were present in the other Dickens novels I have read recently. What is different in Oliver, and awoke the ghosts of angst from my youth, was the force with which it conveys the feeling of being trapped. No matter what turn of plot lighted a gleam of hope upon poor little Oliver—obviously and easily a projection of my alter ego-- the dreadful encroaching and stultifying doom always hit back. The humour and quaint taste of Dickens’s prose were dampened in this novel by the notion that any new ray of brightness that might save a victim out of his/her ambushed life would eventually dispel.

In addition, the greater tragic elements brought in towards the end before one could attain the restoring Happy End conferred to this novel a greater terrifying resonance. My reading ceremony proved then a harder venture than anticipated. The youthful anxieties had a perdurable nature and I had to rely to a greater extent in Dickens’s literary wings to be able to take off and leave my cage of preconceptions well behind.
Profile Image for James.
Author 19 books3,578 followers
August 31, 2017
I only read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens once, back in 6th grade when I was about 12 years old. It was one of the classic books I'd received as a Christmas present, and I loved Dickens other children's stories, so I had to read this one. It's much more harsh tho, and might be a little difficult for a 12 year old to take in without having a better picture of the world. It's one of those books nagging at the back of my mind... "Please re-read me. I bet you'll like me a whole lot more." And it's probably true... so perhaps I can find some time to squeeze this one in for the year. I read a lot of older books, but I should throw in a "classic" or "pre-19th century" book every ten books or so... just to keep me ed-u-ma-ca-ted.

Several key things about the book to help you decide if you want to read it:

1. The catch phrase: can I have so more, may I have another please...

2. Commentary about life being poor

3. Written in 1838... almost 200 years old!

4. A happy ending

Not a spoiler: I'm just saying... we all die sometime, right?

5. Adventure for a young adult / kid

6. Truly understanding what an orphan meant -- they have scissors for hands, right?

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Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 2 books717 followers
September 11, 2022
I always thought Carol Reed must have had a pretty easy time of it in making 'Oliver!' back in the late '60s, what with Dickens already having done the hard work in putting this, his second novel, together 130 years earlier. But as it turns out, the book is pants, and if Reed had stuck with the original story and dialogue I can't imagine it would have enjoyed nearly the success it did. I had high hopes for this book, having read and enjoyed three Dickens novels in the past. But the plot was contrived, the story overlong, the emotions manipulated (so, so HORRIBLY manipulated) and the dialogue almost hilariously melodramatic. Plus, it was disgracefully anti-semitic (like, honestly - just... wow). It's hard to believe this came from the same hand that had written The Pickwick Papers only a couple of years earlier. I stuck with it to the end, but only just. A surprisingly poor effort, which deserves to be remembered far less than the 1968 musical.

So, well played, Carol. Your movie was superior to Dickens' book in every way.
Profile Image for Lee  (the Book Butcher).
257 reviews67 followers
December 12, 2021
Not sure yall have heard, but this Charles Dickens guy is a pretty good author! of course i kid. I have long resolved to read a Dickens novel ever December. i had planned to read David Copperfield because i am not sure what it's about. Since I'm a little behind my yearly quota i chose to read the shorter Oliver Twist which i had read when i was younger.

Dickens was one of the best character writers in literary history. Oliver Twist is another example of his palpable skill. With standouts like Fagin, the artful dodger, Charlie Bates, Mr. Bumble, Bill Sikes and Oliver Twist himself Dickens weaves a story of lost inheritance at the hands of London's criminal network. there is a mystery here that the great dickens leave to the end. Of course, with Dickens he takes a while getting there using his patented florid descriptive language. You have to be ok with descriptive dialogue to enjoy his work. I shudder to think of his longer works like Bleak House or Nicholas Nickleby since even in this and Great expectations Dickens can meander into side stories for many chapters. You probably know a little of Oliver's story but do you know his family history if not read this and let the master storyteller enthrall you.

Darn that Dickens! another 5 star read and a unanimous recommendation!
Profile Image for Piyangie.
519 reviews416 followers
January 24, 2023
Oliver Twist is the darkest and most depressing novel by Dickens that I have read by far. It brings you some of the wickedest and most villainous characters to life. I'm surprised that Dickens had wanted to weave a tale of thieves, robbers, and murders in his very second novel, but he has taken that step and was successful. The story is a bold attempt to bring to life one of the corrupt sections of society that prey on one of the most innocent sections of the society, the homeless children, to assist carry out their wicked deeds.

In this story, as much as Dickens wanted to expose the villainy of some sections of society, he also wanted to expose the position of orphan children. The charitable institutions that cared for them were run by pompous and cold men who ill-treated them for being nobodies. The children in these places had to face many hardships and brutalities. Some survive them, some others pay with life, and some run away. These runaway children become the prey of gangs of robbers, thieves, and murderers, who catch them artfully and train them to assist in their crimes. It was just horrible.

For a reader with a weaker stomach, I just couldn't go through the cruelties exercised against helpless children which were so deliberately described. It was so depressing. The wicked characters of Sikes, Fagin, and Monks take the center stage. So, what we read for the most part are their dark and villainous deeds. But on and off, Dickens brings some rays of sunshine through the kind and generous acts of Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies.

This is the first Dickens novel I have read that which the protagonist takes backstage and lets the other actors play the role of defining him and explaining his story. I wasn't too happy with this change of style of Dickens. Some readers may find the novelty welcoming. But for my part, that very style stopped me from forming any attachment to Oliver. He didn't enter into my warm feelings. I only sympathized with him from a distance.

In Oliver Twist, I was surprised to find a weak plot for a Dickens novel. It had its sparks here and there with adequate drama and melodrama. But overall, the whole performance of the story somewhat lacked colour. And it was a sad story through and through with a rushed happy ending that wasn't truly felt.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,382 followers
March 23, 2015
First of all, Oliver Twist is a shitty book. His second, following the comedic Pickwick Papers, it shows Dickens reaching for new territory: exposing the hopelessness and injustice of destitute life in London. But it's maudlin, obvious, predictable, lame. Oliver is such a simpering bitch that it's impossible to give a shit about him. Bad people want to use him; good people want to pamper him; you are bored. Dickens will write great books, but not yet.

Second, Oliver Twist is a hateful book. Dickens has created in Fagin an embodiment of bigotry; a leering, black-nailed, money-grubbing Jew who's nearly always referred to as The Jew, as though Dickens wasn't sure we'd get it. Fagin is the most memorable character in Oliver Twist, and he's inexcusable. Look, I've read a lot of Victorian novels; I'm familiar with the casual anti-Semitism that's nearly unavoidable in them; I understand the context of the time. Dickens is well beyond that context. For his time, Dickens was a hater. "It unfortunately was true," he said in his own defense, "of the time to which the story refers, that the class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew."

To be fair, not that I want to be, in the last chapters of Oliver Twist, he seems to have worked the storytelling issue out. Nancy and Sikes suddenly take over the book, although I doubt Dickens knew they would, in a climax of terrific power; and Fagin's last scene is equally powerful. But it's way too little, way too late.

This is a shitty, hateful little book. It makes me think less of Dickens. I wish he'd done better.
Profile Image for  ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ❤️.
2,293 reviews409 followers
May 16, 2018
England 18: Oliver Twist kommt im Armenhaus zur Welt; seine Mutter stirbt bei der Geburt. Er kommt ins Waisenhaus, wird dort ohne Liebe aufgezogen und gerät schließlich in die Hände einer Diebesbande. Oliver muss viele Abenteuer bestehen und lernt viele ganz unterschiedliche Menschen kennen, bis er schließlich endlich erfährt, wer seine Eltern waren und wer er eigentlich ist.

Diesen Klassiker wollte ich schon sehr lange lesen, habe mich aber nie so wirklich herangetraut. Nun habe ich aber endlich zu diesem Buch gegriffen und muss sagen, dass es mir sehr gut gefallen hat! Ich mochte die Geschichte als auch die Sprache! Die Sprache ist etwas altertümlich, was ich sehr mochte! Sie passte zur Geschichte. Eine zu moderne Übersetzung wäre hier unpassend gewesen.

Die Geschichte von Oliver hat mir sehr gefallen und ich habe mit ihm mitfühlen können, obwohl Oliver für mich gar nicht wirklich im Vordergrund stand. Andere Figuren wurden hier zum Teil viel lebendiger beschrieben. Es war vielmehr die ganze Atmosphäre, die mich so packen konnte.

Mir hat es viel Spaß gemacht, dieses Buch zu lesen und ich möchte unbedingt noch weitere Werke von Charles Dickens lesen!

Profile Image for Ankit Garg.
251 reviews346 followers
April 3, 2021
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a wonderful classic fiction novel. The child as a protagonist was something which appealed to me for me to pick up this read, and the narration doesn't disappoint. The journey the character's life takes from its inception till the story ends is mesmerizing. The picture painted of an orphan kid in Victorian-era England is vivid, along with detailed mentions of the status difference among various social classes of the time, and the various atrocities that follow.

The book is dark throughout. The happy ending is a much-needed relief. I am generally not an advocate of impractical happy endings, but Dickens' pure genius can be explained from the fact that even I was craving for a happy end to Oliver's fate - he makes you want it more-and-more as the story progresses. The satire employed in the narration is like icing on the cake.

I haven't watched the movie yet, though it is on my list.

Verdict: Recommended.
Profile Image for Murray.
Author 151 books491 followers
May 11, 2023
It really is an important and entertaining read even though it’s very sad in several parts. Even the YA versions can’t quite hide away Bill Sykes and his satanic & abusive villainy. As for Fagin, some make him a happy clown .. but no, he isn’t. Nevertheless, Oliver overcomes with a little help from his friends .. but lovely sweet Nancy does not overcome 😢
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
November 17, 2020
“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Oliver Twist is one of those novels in which you can definitely tell, while reading it, that at the time it was published it was a hit. Charles Dickens was giving people what they wanted, back in 1837. You can also tell, by the way it is structured, that it was published in "episodes". There are some classics which, when you read them, feel like they are timeless, that any era can be their era; they feel modern, always - regardless of the time of publication. Oliver Twist is not one of them. This novel is over-dramatic, sensationalist, tear-jerking, and - let's face it - racist. Nevertheless, people still read it. Why? There must be something, in the story of this poor, helpless, pure boy, that keeps people glued to the pages - even after almost two centuries.

I think that the main reason why this book can still hit you right in the feels is the fact that Charles Dickens wrote from personal experience: his life hadn't been much different from poor Oliver's; he grew up in a workhouse and I am pretty sure he got his fair share of abuse in there too. There is something inside us human beings, some sort of morbid curiosity, which brings us to read books like this one in which horrible things happen to innocent people - maybe we look for redemption, we hope for a happy ending in which all wrongs will be righted and the bad guy will be punished and everyone will live happily ever after. There is something comforting in knowing that an older novel like this is going to have a happy ending because in our novels of the same kind (*cough* A Little Life *cough*) there is no redemption, no righting of the wrongs, no escape from the pain and sadness; good people don't end up having good lives just because they are good; and bad things happen to righteous people too. Reading a novel like this, feels like reading a fairy tale: it gives us hope in a better future in which maybe our wrongs will be made right too.

Oliver was born surrounded by pain; grew up surrounded by pain. He was abused and exploited by every single person who put his/her hands on him. But did this turn him into a bad person, into an abuser himself? No. Old Fagin tried all his life to break Oliver's pure heart, to make him a criminal just like the other boys in the company; but Oliver stayed pure and innocent, and in the end his goodness was rewarded, and the bad guy punished. Is it realistic? Maybe not. But does it feel wholesome and gives you hope that miracles maybe after all do exist? Yes. And that is what fairy tales do. I wish there were more wholesome - and somewhat naive - books like this one today too. Sometimes the cynicism and disillusion of our society is crashing. Escaping is okay, hoping in a happy ending is okay! We don't have to be extra-critical with this type of attitude towards life.

On a side note; Charles Dickens was a genius writer. I mean, look at that prose! One of my favourite classics growing up, and definitely stood the test of time.
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