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Perhaps one of the most famous of all the classic books, Oliver Twist is a household name.
This review will discuss the themes throughout the book and hopefully will not spoil the plot!
Everyone is familliar with the general outline of the novel whereby a newborn baby is orphaned and sent to a charity institution. Following the famous line where Oliver asks for more gruel he is sold following a catalogue of events becomes a run away in London, involved with some un savories!
In concurrance with Dickens other novels post revolution capatilism is a strong theme within the text. Being responsiable for ones own interests is something we see at the root of society in the illicit money making systems of Fagin.
The selfish connotations of this lifestyle are adressed at the end of the book whereby the contrast of the selfless and the selfish is aparent.
Dickins discusses the idealism assosciated with the countryside and this is where a "happy ending" is achieved for Oliver.
Above is only a basic outline of the themes which run throughout the book, each reader draws different meanings and emotions from literature.
Initially Oliver Twist was serialised and is said to be a protest against "The Poor Law of 1834" which ruled that public charity was only available when obtained as a resident in a work house.
Oliver Twist will forever remain a popular novel, not least because of the theatrical and film productions which have been made.
I much prefer to read than to watch and for me, Dickens has a way with words like no other.
This is of course the classic tale of the orphan boy who asked for more. Oliver Twist is born and raised in a workhouse but is thrust out into the world when he is forced to run away to save his life. He ends up on the streets of London where he meets a host of villians who inhabit the underbelly of the filthy city; Fagin, the jew, who presides over a group of pick-pocketing boys, Nancy the prostitute with a heart, the comical Artful Dodger and of course, the evil Bill Sykes. There are wonderful twists and turns in the story, Oliver going from rags to riches and back again, murderous plots and plenty of villany. Dickens wanted to show the world what it was like for the poor and he certainly did, this book has a undercurrent reek of filth and decay and squallor.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought that I would. I have never been a huge fan of Dickens, probably because of the way I was taught some of his work at school; we never actually got to finish any of it. This book was really exciting in parts and terribly sad in others and there was a lot that suprised me. There was a lot of the book that didn't make it into the musical, my first experience of the story, so it was nice to find out what else happened. And the revelation about who Monks was actually made me stop in complete shock. I especially loved both the part when Oliver is running away after being thought to be the one to pick the old gentleman's pocket and the part about Bill's descent into madness after the murder. Overall a good book that I am glad I bought.
Shocking to say, but I only read Oliver Twist for the first time this year. I am a great fan of the works of Charles Dickens, but I think I felt I knew this one too well, with all of the versions of it I had seen on television and movies (including the cringe inducing "OLIVER!") and felt that I could never justify reading it to myself. I know that sounds terrible - very much like the old joke of "Have you read this?" "No, I'm waiting until the movie comes out" and for some who is a self confessed bibliphile, it is unacceptable. And the story of how I came to pick the book up is bad too. I was in a bookshop in St Petersburg in Russia, having run out of books to read and this was one of the few English books in the shop at the time. So I picked it up and thought it would tide me over. I cannot believe I waited so long. The depth of the book is unbelievable and I was hung on every single word. I definitely still don't consider it to be one of Dickens' better books but an average book from a great writer is still always better than a great book from an average writer
***This review contains spoilers***
Oliver Twist is the second novel published by Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers being his first. Like many novels of the day it was released in serial form; with monthly instalments in Bentley's Miscellany, it was then printed as a novel in 1838.
Oliver is a young boy being raised in the orphanage of an unnamed town, his father being unknown and his mother having died upon his birth in the local workhouse. When he reaches the age of nine, Oliver is moved to that very workhouse where he is forced into an occupation for his stay. With meagre portions of gruel for sustenance, Oliver and the other young workers grow discontent and hungry. After drawing the short straw, Oliver is chosen to brave the wrath of the workhouse administrators by uttering the immortal line, "Please sir, I want some more". It is this simple request that sets in motion a series of unfortunate and desperate events which leads Oliver to the horrid company of Fagin and his company of pick pocketing friends.
Oliver Twist has to be the most well known orphan in all of literature and film. When first released it became a huge success and has remained so to this day. Being perhaps the most famous of Dickens' works, which considering that none have ever gone out of print, is a great achievement. There have been countless film and television adaptations from gritty realistic portrayals to the incredibly popular 1968 musical 'Oliver!'.
It is not only the character of Oliver that has become a part of the modern conscience, subsidiary characters like Bill Sykes, Nancy, Fagin and of course the young Artful Dodger are just as famous.
Bill Sykes is the most evil and terrifying person with whom Oliver becomes acquainted. Faithfully followed by his dog to the end, his character shows no sign of goodness being completely deplorable throughout. His horrific murder of the young and ill treated Nancy, which is described in quite thorough detail, is the epitome of his evilness.
Nancy is a character that is wonderfully rounded. She is painfully aware of her keeper's character, yet is devoted to him despite his treatment of her. Unwilling to turn him over to the law, it is her devotion to him that ultimately sees her miserable demise. Nancy is an incredibly frustrating character, the reader sympathises with her plight and wills her to accept the help she is offered, yet quite realistically this abused woman remains faithfully with her keeper, to await her fait.
Reading the descriptions of Fagin by Dickens one is first struck be the overtly anti-Semitic description of his appearance. He is constantly described in ways such as, the hideous Jew or the Jew Fagin; never is he described in a way that is not related to his ethnicity. One must remember, when reading this novel, that in the days of Dickens these sorts of things were common place, even if they are unsavoury to the modern reader. As a character Fagin is a man out for himself. He has a powerful influence over the boys in his charge and profits from them through this. Of his many thieves, the young Jack Dawkins, otherwise known as the Artful Dodger, is the most prevalent and well known. His character has become a favourite amongst the public. A poor product of his environment it's difficult to criticise the young thief.
Oliver Twist is only the second Charles Dickens novel I've read, with A Tale of Two Cities, being my first. Having tried to read Great Expectation several times I was all for writing Dickens off as an author I just couldn't enjoy. Oliver Twist however has completely changed my opinion of him. I was quite astonished by how much I enjoyed this story and the style in which it is written; so much so that I've already ordered several more of his classic stories to make my way through.
Dickens has a masterful way of writing. His descriptions are imaginative and fascinating without dragging on for pages like some authors seem to do. The plot line is well thought out, it carries mysteries that hold the readers attention and make you want to read on. The characters are diverse and, although sometimes a little stereotypical, are completely memorable. The one thing that struck me most about the style was the abundance of sarcasm and humour. There isn't a single passage that doesn't contain something of this sort which makes the whole novel the more enjoyable.
For people who detest ridiculously long chapters, I know I do, then Oliver Twist, and Dickens' other works, are brilliant. Due to the style of their publication his novels have very short chapters of little more than a few pages in length. This also means that each chapter furthers the plot so the story doesn't stagnate; it is constantly on the move which makes it exciting and easier to read.
There is only one thing that I could mark down in Oliver Twist and that is the twist in the novel. While I liked the ending, in the sense that the characters fates are precisely what you'd wish, the twist is a little unrealistic. A suspension of disbelief is needed to account for the remarkable coincidences that seem to occur.
My copy of this classic is the harback Everyman's Library edition which includes an introduction by G. K. Chesterton. There are also twenty four prints of the original illustrations which accompanied the monthly serials when they were first printed. Even if some of them don't fit my image of the characters, it's a nice touch to see the original pictures along side the text.
Who can forget the immortal words "Please Sir, I want some more".......... I wonder if there is anybody who wouldn't be able to give the name of the poor urchin who uttered those words. Oliver Twist and the author, Charles Dickens are known to lovers of classics worldwide and the story has been portrayed in countless films and television series over at least the past 50 years or so. I think I am correct in saying that Oliver Twist was written as a series in a newspaper for which Dickens worked and certainly it is easy to envisage it beginning life in this way as Oliver's life progresses from one heartrendering scene to another. We see him borne to a gentile but unfortunate mother who dies at birth, we follow him through the orphanage and workhouse where he encounters the huge Mr.Bumble who he enrages with his request for more food. We feel for him as he trudges behind the coffins as an undertaker's assistant until he is forced to run away after fighting with a colleague who derides his mother and then we meet The Artful Doger who, along with other lost boys, lives with and steals for Fagin from rich businessmen in the heart of London. Each chapter contains more adventures in much the same way as the serialisation of a story would today. We read of Oliver's corruption by Fagin and his attempts at pick-pocketing egged on by Doger and the other boys, until the day he is caught but happily saved by an elderly rich and gentle man who eventually turns out to be his grandfather, and we hold our breath as Bill Sykes the violent rogue of the story, attempts to steal Oliver back in order to hold him to ransom. Throughout the tale Dickens introduces the reader to vividly described and aptly named characters. There's Fagin, the ragged evil corruptor, appearing kind but with sinister undertones. Then there's Bill Sykes, violent and frightening and his lover Nancy, lowly bred but gentle and pretty - she
takes Oliver under her wing but ultimately dies horrifically because of her compassion towards him. We are taken through the streets of London at the time with its cobbled streets and crowded markets, we are taken into the grand houses with the gleaming carriages outside and we meet the people who live there,be it the street policemen who capture Oliver after his attempts at pickpocketing or the elderly rich gentleman and his friend who is cynical that a petty thief will ever change his ways. The story of Oliver Twist is well known, even to those who haven't read the book and I do not intend to go through every detail of the plot from beginning to end here in this opinion. The films and television series are, of course, magical and can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, but nothing can ultimately compare with Dickens' writing. There is a beauty in his writing that authors today could never recapture. His every sentence takes the reader back to an era of gentile civility, although he is equally able to portray the tramps, rogues and orphins who abound at that time. Dickens has put colour and life into every page and it is little wonder that readers during his lifetime waited with bated breath for each edition of his stories. He can never at that time have imagined that so many years later his stories would still be bringing pleasure to people all over the world. If, by any chance, you are one of the very very few people who doesn't know the story of Oliver Twist I would strongly recommend that you go along to your local library and get a copy. It may take a few minutes to get into the style of writing, but once you do you will be taken on a journey back in time from which you will be reluctant to return. Given the beauty of his work, it is little wonder that readers of the time said "Please sir, we want some more".
Oliver Twist has always been my favourite Dickens novel. It has been televised, made in a musical, stage shoe, etc which has enhanced its popularity but how many people have actually taken the trouble to read it? (Of their own free will I mean, not forced reading as so often happened in schools.) This novel is a the story of Oliver Twist who grew up in a Victorian workhouse until he found a wealthy patron who turned out to be a relative of his. It is also a commentary on the workhouse system and the social structure of the time. Worth reading if you like classics.
I could not help but to see a televised or staged version of Oliver Twist before I read the novel, but I was just as taken with the novel as I was with the films and stage versions that I had seen. Dickens creates a very dark atmosphere and the whole novel is very gloomy and claustrophobic. The story is based around many of the saddest people in society and 'Oliver Twist' moves the reader in such a way that once you have read the book once, it remains with you forever and some of the images haunt you.
I personally think that we do not pay enough attention to the classics. There are a lot of great modern authors, but classics can teach a lot as well as giving enjoyment. Oliver twist is the well known story of an orphan who is brought up in an orphanage. Do not expect the tales about his mother or a lot of the additional bits which have been added to the story by way of dramatic licence. In reading this book the real greatness of the classics comes to the fore because in none of the more modern versions will you find a better or more complete story which is satisfying to read. The advantage of these classics is that as well as a good story there is also the correct usage of grammar so that when children are reading it can also be educational. Unfortunately, parts of this are not suitable for children; it was not written for children.