Book Review of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Attempting to write ‘book review’, for a classic work of literature is to some extent, an audacity. It is even more so, especially if it is an Oliver Twist novel review. The book – ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens has an interesting plot and a timeless appeal. The story revolves around an orphan named Oliver Twist, whose mother died giving birth to him.

The book review deals with the plot, characters and storytelling of Charles Dickens. It also sheds light on how the author challenges the discrepancies of society in the novel.  The story took place in nineteenth century England during the Industrial Revolution.

Being a social reformer, Charles Dickens shed light on the prevalent social issues. The issues include class differences, exploitation of the poor and of child labor. The rich remained rich and snobbish, while the poor suffered. The society would determine the fate of the people. There were no scopes for the poor to rise and prosper.

They had to stay the way they were as they were looked down upon.The poor remained miserable, yet the rich would keep thriving.  The writer also brought focus to a society that was patriarchal, where women were oppressed and in a lot of cases, treated like an object. In the book, the character of the young man, Oliver, represents the struggles in the neglected lives of children who don’t have a family, are orphaned and poor in a flawed society.

The writer even brought attention to the sordid lives of the criminals and the criminal practice of the Victorian Era. This book review of Oliver Twist contains a summary of the plot as well as thoughts on the overall novel.

Oliver Twist was born in a workhouse where his mother died leaving him orphaned. The young man grew up in an orphanage where he got his name. Mr. Bumble took him away from the orphanage and put him to work .

At the workhouse, his job was to pick and weave oakum. Child labor was not uncommon back in that time, so it wasn’t too surprising to see him and other orphans working all day for the benefit of the ruling class with receiving little to no pay, extorted, overworked and starving.  Oliver was nine years of age at that time.

He was sold to a coffin maker named Mr. Sowerberry as an apprentice by Mr. Bumble later on.  Mrs. Sowerberry had a dominating and manipulative personality and Oliver wasn’t shown affection or care by her even though he was a mere child, he was only seen as the house help.

He fled from there after by Mr. Sowerberry had hit and punished him for getting into a fight with Noah.  He traveled all the way to London on foot, hoping to get away from the miserable life he had lived till then.

After arriving in London, he met the ‘Artful Dodger’. He happens to be part of a young boys’ pickpocket gang led by, Fagin, an aged criminal.  Oliver’s trusting and innocent nature failed find any of his actions dishonest.  He was taken to Fagin by the pickpocket.Fagin is a complex character; even though he’s a criminal, he empathizes and nurtures the young kids while training them to become expert pickpockets.  He wasn’t portrayed as abusive towards children and he had a soft corner for the boy, Oliver.

Oliver stayed with the gang of pickpockets at their lair, believing that they make wallets and handkerchiefs not being aware of their criminal line of work.  He learned that their real mission was to steal handkerchiefs when he went out with the ‘Artful Dodger’ and Charley Bates.  From an old man called Mr. Bronlow, Bates and Dodger steal a handkerchief. When he noticed, however, young Oliver caught his eye and he suspected him of theft.  Trying to run away out of fright, he got caught and taken to the magistrate.

But seeing his innocent face and nature, Mr. Brownlow doubted the fact that it was him who was the thief.  The owner of the bookshop where the incident of theft took place, cleared the confusion as he explained that it wasn’t Oliver who was the thief.  Mr. Brownlow took the child to his house and was under the care of Mrs. Bedwin as he fell sick in the courtroom.  Oliver blossoms and has a rapid recovery from the unexpected kindness from them.

Fagin, fearing that Oliver might disclose their wrongdoings to the police, wanted Oliver back in his lair.  So, when Oliver was sent on a duty to pay for the books, Nancy and Bill Sikes – both working alongside Fagin, put on a successful act to capture and bring him back.  The thieves took away the books, the five-pound note and took his new clothes off.  Oliver tried to run away again calling for the police. Yet, Dodger and Fagin caught him. Nancy was the only female character with a different sense of righteousness there who was sympathetic to Oliver.

To re-involve Oliver in criminal activities, Sikes planned a burglary and threatened to take his life unless he cooperates.  He was then taken to a house, asked to open the lock of the main door before being pushed into a small window to enter the house.  They were heard and the robbery went wrong. The inhabitants of the house mistakenly shot Oliver and left him wounded.  The people of the house, Mrs. Maylie and Miss Rose, took him in to care for him.

Readers get some idea about Oliver’s identity when a mysterious man named Monks appears. He was later revealed to be Oliver’s half-brother. Monks plotted with Fagin to destroy Oliver’s reputation to inherit their father’s wealth.  Nancy eavesdropped when Monks was explaining how he traced Oliver’s identity and decided to inform Oliver’s benefactors about this. The following day, Mr. Brownlow returned to London from a trip when Oliver sees him and takes him to meet the Maylies.

Edward Leeford was the father of Monks and Oliver. He fell in love with Agnes, Oliver’s mother, after he had separated from Monks’ mother.  Later on, Mrs. Rose Mayliewas revealed to be Agnes’ sister thus being Oliver’s aunt.  Nancy, being protective of Oliver, went on to meet them at the London Bridge and told everything to Mrs. Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow about Monks’ plan and gave them an idea on how to save Oliver from Fagin, Monks and Sikes’ hand.

Nancy did not realize that Fagin sent a spy after her because of her suspicious behavior who then informed everything to him.  After Fagin disclosed whatever he heard to Sikes, believing that Nancy was a traitor, he brutally beat her to death that very night in a fit of rage turning himself into a murderer. Sikes fled from London.

Later on, the news of Nancy’s murder spread across London and Sikes along with the criminal coach Fagin were wanted for their crimes.  Sikes returned to London to steal money from Fagin and deciding to flee to France, where he accidentally hanged himself trying to get down from a rooftop as he was being chased by a mob mad at Nancy’s murder.

Fagin got arrested and sentenced to death by execution. Mr. Brownlow confronted Monks about his plot against Oliver and decided to give him a second chance.  When asked, Oliver happily agrees to give Monks half of his inheritance. Monks misuses the money and dies in prison later.  Accompanied by Mr. Brownlow on an emotional scene, Oliver visits Fagin, who was lost in a world of his own fear of impending death on the eve of his hanging in Newgate Prison.

Oliver Twist was adopted by Mr. Brownlow and was given love and care as well as a promise to live a proper life.  Dodger was convicted with a punishment of transportation to Australia, Charlie Bates became an honest citizen and Noah became a semi-professional police informer.

Many critics hold the opinion that the main character – Oliver Twist needed more development as he wasn’t very complex and lacked personality.  He was portrayed as an innocent, incorruptible person who didn’t give in regardless of the situation he was found in.  The other characters such as Fagin, Nancy, Mr. Brownlow, The Maylies, Monks and the, Bill Sykes seemed far more interesting to me than the main character.

The mild sarcastic tone of the writer about his own characters was noticeable and helped with the rather grim storyline.  The workhouse portrayed the hypocrisy of the people in charge.  Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies portrayed the goodness in a flawed society.  We got an insight on the lives of the criminals, the rich and the poor.  Overall, this Oliver Twist novel review maintains that encompassed many genres in an attractive yet serious storyline.

In this book review, we would like to conclude that Oliver Twist is a true Dickens classic. The social novel – ‘Oliver Twist’ was one of Dickens’ early writings where he satirizes the hypocrisies of his time. The story shows how strong of an influence environment can have on a person’s life and how it is possible to overlook and overcome these influences.  The wonderful writing complimented the storyline even though certain characters lacked depth and full development as this was his second novel from his whole career. From that point on, the author’s writing evolved and became richer later on.

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