Oliver Twist, a poor, innocent orphan boy, stands out in this story as the main character but it is the supporting characters that allow this novel of much content to develop a much more satisfying and believable theme. With “Good V.S. Evil” as one of the major conflicts, in such categories are the secondary characters found as well. Three main auxiliary characters of Oliver Twist aid the elaboration of the story; these significant characters are Mr. Brownlow representing purity, integrity and goodness, Nancy as partially righteous, partially villain and lastly on the other extreme of the scale: Fagin, the symbol of evil, corruption and manipulation. Throughout the story we are introduced to each of these characters through an omniscient point of view, and are able to categorize them according to their personalities, thoughts and actions. With their differing levels of honesty and social status, each of them play a crucial role in the development of the story’s theme.
As most of the author’s characters, Mr. Brownlow too, is brought out with an indirect presentation but it is not long after introducing him that his wholesome goodness is revealed to us. Though at first he accuses Oliver of thieving, his concern over Oliver’s welfare on the street is a direct hint of his innocence which successfully helps him convince Oliver to board at his house. A generous and trusting man he was, perhaps too good a man to be true; but with all the malicious characters in the story, a heroic and pure persona was needed to ensure a happy ending. With honesty and great wealth as his prime qualities, he assists Oliver in his times of need and demonstrates to society with an exemplary touch, the attributes of a perfect citizen. As the positive extreme in both social status and benevolence, Mr. Brownlow is a definite aid in the development of the theme throughout the novel.
Nancy, for us, must be the weakest character. Trapped between wanting to help Oliver evade Fagin’s exploitation and her dedicated love for Sikes; she fails to survive to the end as she is convicted and ironically murdered by her own husband : Sikes, a brutal and abusive man. But there is a great need for this secondary character in the story, she serves not only as a tie between the scenes at the different house holds but as well she is the only hope of salvation for Oliver. Without her, Oliver may have never had the chance to grow up in a loving home and learn to be proper in his actions and pure in the soul. Even though her ununderstandable love for Sikes is honest most of the time, her own soul held an even greater devotion to Oliver, for she gets her own husband drunk and comes to Oliver’s rescue. Nancy sees in Oliver the innocence of her own childhood being robbed by Fagin’s deceiving malpractice. Nancy provides the story with a second chance for Oliver into a proper, honest world. It costs her, her life, but she prospers in helping Oliver as well as doing a lot of justice for society. Able to save Oliver from evil and putting evil itself in prison, Nancy triumphs above all her devilish acquaintances and is the pivoting point of Oliver’s return to safety. Not only as a way to introduce new plots in the tale, but as well as the theme’s greatest support, she is a genial character that could have only been created after much planning and thought.
Fagin was a jew described by the author in such a manner that one may think Dickens were racist to some extent. His beliefs of Jew’s were that a Jew seldom thieves, but is worse than a thief when he encourages others to thieve. In his opinion, “In every town there is a Jew, resident or tramping;… if a robbery is effected, the property is hid till a Jew is found, and a bargain is then made.” Fagin is described in such a style in this tale that one is almost forced to dislike his character. Old, ugly and a “Jew”, Fagin is associated with principal atmospheric devices that give the novel unique power. Not only does Fagin seek to capture Oliver forever by making him an accomplice in crime, but it also seems that he has supernatural powers to seek him out of wherever his good friends may hide him. Truly the antagonist, Fagin and his amoral forces are to Oliver as the devil himself is to a sinless human. Even though highly complex and interpretive in its content, “Oliver Twist”, like an escape story, where the bad guy gets what he deserves and the good guy lives happily ever after, its main plot follows this same pattern. Fagin, as he deserves, ends up in prison and goes mentally insane, while Oliver, the innocent young boy, gets a great home and a loving family. But Fagin is not all vile, because after going to jail, where he realizes that all his stolen goods will do him no good now, he gives Oliver back what was once his, his mother Agnes’ ring; which in turn unleashes Oliver’s ancestry and gives the story a more coherent plot. It is the complex secondary characters of this story that permit it to reach out and touch all the levels of society; these being the rich, the poor and the man in the middle.
These same three characters are what grants this story with a theme that captures reality in the midst of England’s nineteenth century. As revealed throughout the tale, England’s nineteenth century was an epoch of much poverty and great social problems which resulted in a society of two opposing classes: the wealthy and the poor. Within these two classes lay two other opposing forces: the good and the bad. In the same way that good and bad exist within all classes in the novel, the same thing can be said about real life. What the theme of this story says about reality is that in todays society, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, educated or not, most competent human beings possess the ability to judge right from wrong and are therefore free to make whatever choices in their lives they wish to make, provided though, that they can live with the consequences of their decisions. In Oliver’s case, even just as a very young boy, he too was able to judge right from wrong and ends up chosing not to steal. As a result of his decision, young Oliver is given a happy home and a promising future. On the other hand, Fagin’s judgement is not so proficient, and concluding, he remains with nothing but insanity and a solemn life in jail ’till his last day comes about.