The novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a tale of a young orphan boy who
enters this world, according to Dickens as an it.
For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble by the
parish surgeon it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child
would survive to bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than
probable that these memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that
being comprised within a couple of pages, they would have possessed the
inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimen of biography,
extant in the literature of any age or country (Dickens 19).
Dickens believes that this boy is unimportant, and his life meaningless, but as he writes
he brings a glow to the childs spirit, and wonderful adventures to go along with it. The
plot of this story is, a boy on his way to becoming a nothing fights through his troubles,
and ends up living happily ever after. The theme of this story is, if you work hard, stand
by your beliefs, and do what is right than everything will work out. This theme, is
associated with many stories, such as fairy tales, everything will work out for the boy or
girl who has a rough life as long as they do what is right. This is fits Oliver perfectly, he
almost wasnt even given a name, and in the beginning it was almost inevitable that he
would end up a street rat, than as he went through life learning what was right or wrong
things feel into place for him, and it was a happy ending.
As the boy Oliver Twist was born his mother died, and he was left with no
family, and was sent to go through life despised by all, and pitied by none (Dickens
22). As a young boy Twist is sent to a juvenile home, and then to a workhouse.
Dickens portrayal of Olivers childhood homes is of violence, mistreatment, deliberate
starvation, and helplessness. Dickens was obviously not a fan of the law, or what went
on behind the closed doors of these work houses. One day as Oliver attempts to get
more food he is turned down, and then he is apprenticed to Mr. Sowerberry. During his
apprenticeship Oliver meets Noah Claypole, a young charity boy. Claypole influences
Oliver to run away. Oliver declares that he is off to seek his fortune, and runs to
London, where he may find his place, where he belongs. This action that Oliver takes
is the only real characteristic you see of a protagonist character. A protagonist
character has some influence of how a story flows. Oliver lets things happen to him,
instead of making things happen. Later in the story he could be considered a pawn in
the crime and schemes of Fagin. A man of little morals, and even less of a heart. He is
caught up in himself, and what he needs he does everything he can to get.
In this novel you can see Dickens style very clearly. Dickens has a very unique
style, even though some critics say that there is no style in his literature, If they mean
by this that Dickens has a tendency to play fast and loose with their ideas of literary
composition, of whatever order those ideas may be, no doubt they are in they right
(Hayens 15). In this novel you can see the way that Dickens may have wrote for an
audience, or his method of addressing people. Dickens seemed to be telling a tale,
and if you consider yourself to be in this audience listening to this tale then you will
enjoy the story. Dickens also tells of his own beliefs in his writing. In Oliver Twist
Dickens strongly expresses his feelings of society, and the poor law of the time. His
personal interest in the matter and the personal relationship he feels towards the
readers combine in encouraging him to be insistent (Hayens 16). It may not be
obvious the way he does this, but in the novel you can see the way that he describes
Olivers cell when he was imprisoned for stealing Mr. Brownlows handkerchief.
In our station-houses, men and women are every night confined on the most
trivial charges-the word is worth noting-in dungeons, compared with which,
those in Newgate, occupied by the most atrocious felons, tried, found guilty, and
under sentences of death, are palaces. (Dickens 85).
In many Dickens novels there is a wide variety of characters, yet in Oliver Twist
he has accomplished this and done even more with the roles they play. Dickens does
not just bring a character into the story, he brings them in with a reason. The
characters of this story are very different, and their paths seem unlikely to cross but
Dickens does have them cross, and that is the most interesting part of the story. The
characters Dickens creates are not for us to enjoy, they are for us to know, and relate
to. Dickens follows the method of the pure satirist, in that he exaggerates actually
existing characteristics; he does not give us, in the manner of those who cannot or will
not observe the possibilities and probabilities of human character, monsters which have
found birth solely in a fevered imagination (Hayens 14).
Oliver Twist the main character, is also the main prize of the story. He is a boy
seeking for belonging, and in his search falls in into the hands of crime. Misguided and
confused, he goes through his childhood being thrown around from person to person.
All of this while trying to find out where he belongs . Monks, Fagin and Sikes are the
antagonist of this novel. Throughout the novel, every action they take, is linked toward
bringing Oliver into a world of crime, and evil. Their lives are filled with crime, and
poverty. They are cold men, and Dickens writes about them in the most disgusted way.
He seems to write that they bring Oliver a sense of security at first, and that sense of
belonging he is seeking, than later the truth comes out of their evilness.
The setting of this story is very meaningful. Darkness seems to follow Oliver
where ever he goes. The only time the story has any sunlight in it or warmth is when
Oliver is staying with the Maylies at their cottage. Many of the actions of the criminals,
and Fagin are done at night. The criminals seem to only come out of their horrid, ruins
at night. There are not really nice places seen in this novel, the novel mainly deals with
poverty and criminals, therefore the main sets in the story are disgusting, filthy places.
The weather in this story also seems gloomy. The weather is usually cold, rainy and
foggy. This unhappy, and mean setting seems inevitable in Oliver Twist.
A strong part of this novel is symbolism. One example is Fagins death. As
Fagin is sent to death, and Oliver walks by the equipment used to hang someone
Dickens describes the scene. Everything told of life and animation, but one dark
cluster of objects in the centre of all-the black stage, the cross-beam, the rope, and all
the hideous apparatus of death (Dickens 408). This description is a view of what
Fagin will endure. This symbolism is of Dickens beliefs. Fagin could be compared to
crime as a whole and his death symbolize the end of crime, or at least the end of the
crime in Olivers life. The setting and characters also play a large part of symbolism;
the gloom, or a single gesture of a character. The setting symbolizes more than just
gloom, and the bad parts of Olivers life. The rain, and cold weather symbolize the
violence, and cruelty, while the fog and events during the dark nights relate to the evil
acts, and criminal events throughout the story. The eight or ten fat gentlemen
(Dickens 42) on the parish board, are a good view of the way Dickens portrayed the
wealthier, more prosperous people as the well-fed people, there is a glimpse of
Dickens irony in that symbolism also.
The foreshadowing in Oliver Twist is very obvious. Foreshadowing in this novel
is quit simple, Dickens writes in a way where everything is seen coming and the reader
can assume what will happen. His story goes slow and the plot is not complicated, the
story is very basic. The largest part of the story is the conflict and resolution. Oliver
goes through very many conflicts, only resolving a few of them. The main conflicts of
the story are between Oliver and Monks, and Fagin and Sikes. These conflicts make
the story flow, and bring mystery and misadventures to Olivers life.
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens is a classic, and that is so because of the way
Dickens writes. Dickens style is original, and his characters are very realistic. The way
he makes them like the people we know is unbelievable, he does not make them
special to the reader. The level of the symbolism in this novel is high, that is one of the
best parts of the plot. The parts of the novel that have been analyzed in the preceding
are the reasons why the novel is good, as Dickens wrote in the first chapter
Oliver was a nothing, and his life would have taken up two pages or so. But Dickens
made it something, A story of a young helpless child growing up alone and misguided,
to only find himself spending his adolescence full of crime and lies, until adopted and
saved by a unselfish man.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. New York: Peebles Press International, 1838.
Hayens, Kenneth. Oliver Twist (introduction). New York: Peeble Press International,