“Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens


This is the story of Oliver, who becomes an orphan soon after his birth. Administrators of the workhouse in which he was born mistreat him and proclaim that he will not achieve anything during his entire life (Dickens, 1). He is taken to a baby farm where he is brought up for the initial eight years of his life. Here, he knows no luxury since he is fed on extreme rations and has access to little or no comforts at all. The story sees him sent out as an apprentice a farm where intensive labor with few hours rest was the order of the day. He is punished heavily after he asks for an additional ration, and he nearly passes out after he cleans a chimney filled with soot for long hours on an empty stomach. He is taken in by an officer of the court who shows him some kindness. This stay is short lived, since his masters spouse disliked him and underfed him. His colleagues also mistreat him, especially after he received a promotion. One day, he receives a beating that prompts him to run away.

During his travels, he comes across Dawkins, a crook and petty thief who lures him into Fagin’s den by giving him a free meal. Fagin is a Jewish crook who fools Oliver into believing that he makes an honest living by manufacturing pocket items like handkerchiefs. After living with him for a while, initiates him into pick pocketing and other petty crimes (Dickens, 269). Oliver realized their real mission after his companions had pinched personals from an unsuspecting gentleman. He fails in this endeavor since he is arrested by police and arraigned in a court of law. Luck is on his side because the man he attempted to rob has mercy on him and takes him into his home. During his stay in the new environment, he learns that his past is not as shameful as he was influenced to believe. He is later dragged back to crime by Fagin’s crew, who force into taking part in a robbery attempt.

Their plan is later botched up and Oliver is taken in by the persons they had accosted. They nurse him carefully until his wounds heal. This provides Oliver with the new lease of life he always craved for. The naivety shown by Oliver is characteristic of most of the children who live in towns presently. It also sheds some light on the child crisis that existed in London during the Victorian age. Most importantly, this publication reveals the plight of many youngsters leading a street life in London and other major cities. By depicting the challenges they face vividly, Dickens is appealing to the society to be mindful of heir state and treat them differently, since most of them end up in that state unwillingly like Oliver did. He takes a swipe at the duplicitous nature of the people living during those ages through humor and sarcasm, which are widely used in the book. It is possible that dickens past as a victim of child labor may have played a pert in developing this plot.


Oliver Twist is one of the main characters in this story. Dickens uses this character to counter the notion that criminal tendencies are inherent. He portrays Oliver as a morally upright boy who believes in the sanctity of property, and endeavors to uphold that belief. The fact that Oliver is fluent in Kings English, as opposed to slang and begs to be allowed to escape when called to assist in a robbery, supports Dickens’ assertion, that corruption is brought about by the environment. Nancy is another of the main characters used by Dickens to further debate on morality and nobility.

A large number of the personalities in this book are at extreme ends behaviorally. This means that the righteous persons have no knowledge of evil and vice versa. Dickens casts Nancy among the bad characters, but later allows her to perform a charitable act. The fact that she gives up her life for Oliver’s shows that basic goodness exists in all persons, irrespective of their social class. Lastly, Fagin also counts among the main characters. He is a testament of ethnic prejudice that existed at the time. Dickens also uses him to inspire terror among his readers, irrespective of their age. He is described using negative adjectives and springs alive during dark scenes that are meant to scare the audience.


One of the weighty themes pursued by Dickens is the idiocy of eccentricity. He chides at the proponents of capitalism, which was widely advancing due to the industrial revolution. He presents the self centered Fagin as the epitome of capitalism. The negativity of this principle is evidenced by the downfall of Fagin’s family, after self interests take centre stage and members turn on each other. In contrast, Dickens parades another society that is close knit. Oliver, Brownlow and their friends establish a cohesive unit, since everyone looks out for the others well being. Another theme is the possibility of having pure souls in a corrupt state. This is evidenced by the numerous instances where the environment a person is cast in demands that an action that is contrary to beliefs that they cherish. Dickens also uses this publication to idolize life and societies in the countryside. This is because most of the atrocities perpetrated against Oliver take place in towns. When the young lad is taken back to those areas by his new family, he discovers a new dimension of himself and the life around him. He acknowledges the serenity brought about by the beautiful environment. He notes reinvigorated memories of comfort he gets by admiring the landscape.

This is because they purify his thoughts, eliminating any negatives he may have harbored therein. Dickens also highlights the neatness and cleanliness that characterize the surroundings in these areas. He portrays life in the urban areas as less realistic and extremely demanding on whoever was to experience it. This is clearly brought about by the happy ending this new family has after relocating to the rural area. This would have been an impossibility ad they stayed in the urban precincts. Lastly, the malfunction of charity is another theme advanced by Dickens. Here, he takes a swipe at the flawed laws concerning charitable ventures, which required residence in government institutions before support was issued. He applauds the noble efforts of philanthropists, but takes issue with the mismanagement occasioned by the state religious institutions and other bodies that governed such centers. He laments that poor persons will never escape starvation, but are presented with the choice of experiencing it gradually in these establishments, or the quick but undeterminable intervals of the same that exist in the streets.

Stylistic choices

Symbolism is a stylistic devise that has been used extensively in the story. The names given to characters are an example of this. Oliver’s surname, ‘Twist’ is an example of this; since it points to the numerous reversals he will go through in his life. Toby the thief is known for breaking into houses, hence the name ‘Crackit’. The inclusion of London Bridge in the story is another case of symbolism. It is commonplace that bridges join extreme ends that are separated by a great chasm. This was the difference between degradation that characterized Nancy’s life, and the idyllic environment of Rose and Brownlow. True to the concept, Nancy is offered a chance to crossover to the other world, a chance she foregoes. Lastly, Bull’s-eye the dog serves as a symbol of the guilt his owner feels. Whenever the dog appears, Bill Sikes is reminded of his shortcomings. This tortures him until he finally commits suicide accidentally.

Audience for which the book was intended

Most of the readers in the Dickens era were middle-class citizens of the Victorian times. Dickens opted to make Oliver his protagonist as a result of this fact. Since he sought to challenge their beliefs, the well behaved Oliver would easily appeal to them as the others elicited strong reactions from the readers. It should be noted that some readers criticized Dickens for mentioning prostitution in his work. This made Oliver the best medium through which he could challenge their prejudice. The fact that Dickens successfully portrays ill behavior as an acquired trait is what draws me to this story. It provides a fitting response to some of the most common forms of prejudice that persons experience in their daily lives just because they are not stable financially. Consequently, Dickens proves through this book that proper morals are not pegged on the abundance of fiscal resources, rather on the quality of decisions an individual makes. As a result of the above stated facts, I would rate the book at level four on a scale of five. This is because the concepts are well relayed and the language is easily understood.

Rationale for the project

One of the reasons why I chose to review this book is the fact that Charles Dickens ranks among the greatest English writers of all time. In addition, this book addresses pertinent issues, such as prejudice and misconceptions about the less fortunate, which he addresses aptly, especially the notion that crime is inherent. I was particularly drawn to this book due to the fact that it portrays the ills occasioned by capitalism in the present day societies. This was the part that touched me the most since it i share similar sentiment. Overall, the book deserves a four star commendation out of a possible five. This is due to the issues mentioned above, coherence and language mastery displayed in the course of writing the publication.

Work Cited

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. London: Oxford University press. 1839. Print.

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