Summary of Oliver Twist
Author’s brief biography: The full name of Charles Dickens is Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812–1870) was an English writer and social critic. He has produced some of the most famous fictional characters. He is considered by many to be the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works gained unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and by the 20th century, he was recognized as a literary genius by critics and scholars. His novels and short stories are widely read even today. Charles Dickens was born in the port city of Portsmouth, south-east England. Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was imprisoned because of debt. Despite a lack of formal education, he edited a weekly magazine for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories, and wrote non-fictional articles. Charles Dickens campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and other social reforms.
Key Facts of the novel
Full Title: Oliver Twist: The Parish Boy’s Progress
Genre: Detective story or novel of social protest
Time of composition: 1837
Published date: 1837
Narrator: Anonymous narrator
Point Of View: Third person omniscient
Time Setting: 1830s, industrial revolution of England.
Place Setting: London and fictional town named Mudfog; the English countryside.
Duration of the plot: Most probably 15 years but mainly three years
Chapters: There are 14 chapters in the novel.
Protagonist: Oliver Twist
Major Conflict: Although Oliver is righteous, the social environment in which he has been raised encourages theft and prostitution. Oliver fights to gain his identity and to rise above the humiliating conditions of the lower classes.
He is the protagonist of the novel. His mother dies shortly after giving birth to him and there is no indication of his father. So he is an orphan. He is nine years old when the main story begins. He is naive, innocent, and grateful to those who help me. So, he is good. He is virtuous. He suffers from a long three years suffering in the main plot of the story.
He is a despicable and awful person. He is a church official at the workhouse where Oliver has to live. Dickens makes him unlikable in pretty much every way because of his arrogance and mistreatment to the boys.
He is a career criminal and a Jewish, an aged man. He abuses homeless boys and girls for his benefit, and he employs them as pickpockets. Dickens criticizes Fagin pretty regularly. After all, he is the producer of criminals for his own benefit.
He is also known as Artful Dodger. He introduces Oliver to Fagin. He is one of the best pickpockets. His lifestyle is like an adult even though he is actually not any older than Oliver.
Bill Sikes and Nancy
They are two lovers, and they are associates of Fagin. Sikes is a nasty, violent criminal. Nancy is an expert pickpocket and has been turned into a prostitute. She kidnaps Oliver. She is killed by her lover Sikes who dies by hanging because, while escaping after killing Nancy, he falls from a roof with twisted rope in his neck.
He is the partner of Fagin. He is violent and angry, and there is something mysterious about him. The mystery is that he is the half-brother of Oliver who wants to destroy Oliver’s identity because his father Edward, a bosom friend of Mr. Brownlow, wanted to marry Oliver’s mother Agnes that is why they got intimate and by this way Agnes became pregnant and Oliver was born before marriage that never happened because of Edward’s sudden death. Besides, Edward made a will in which most of the portion of his property was given to Oliver.
He is a wise and wealthy middle-aged man. He takes care of Oliver while Oliver is caught by fever. He wants to make Oliver an educated and well-mannered established man. He cannot primarily fulfill his goal regarding Oliver owing to the conspiracies of Fagin. But finally, he discovers Oliver’s identity and adopts him.
She is just a typically perfect and virtuous young woman. She takes care of Oliver after being shot. She is Oliver’s maternal aunt.
She is wealthy and kind-hearted. Oliver gets his life safe and pure by her care including Rose.
He is Mr. Sowerberry’s older apprentice. And later in London, he steals from children and works as the spy of Fagin.
He is the parish undertaker who takes Oliver as an apprentice. His wife does not like Oliver at all.
Themes of the novel
Severely affected by his poverty as a child, Dickens addresses poverty in Oliver Twist by closely observing the effects of Oliver and its surroundings – including malnutrition and death. He comments on the treatment of heresy in work warehouses and the hypocrisies that often mark the organizations and their representatives who are tasked with caring for them. Dickens also describes the dastardly and sometimes fatal conditions in which the poor must live. Thus, the strong development of the theme of poverty and its consequences of the novel “Oliver Twist” reflects Dickens’ social consciousness and his lifelong interest in curing a major social ill of his period.
Criminality is closely tied with the ideas of evil, poverty, and hypocrisy. When all else fails, the poor may be driven to crime, particularly petty theft. But it is far from the only type of crime that Dickens discovers in Oliver Twist. He shows how greed leads to theft and murdering act. He explores that no boy can commit a crime if they are not trained for criminality.
Child labor and child abuse
In Oliver Twist, child labor is one of the significant themes and child abuse is both personal and institutional. Children are regularly beaten as punishment. Oliver is beaten by both the parish beadle and his master when Noah Claypole accuses him of attempted murder. In Victorian England, a common punishment for child criminal activity was the public whip. Dickens finds the practice disgusting. The “good” people in the novel never punish Oliver because he is never worthy of punishment. Other abuses of children also take place in the novel: they are locked in dark places, publicly harassing, and starvation.
Country life vs city life
The Country life versus city life, which means the idealization of the countryside, is one of the predominant themes of the novel “Oliver Twist”. The novel takes place in two different moral places: country and city. The country is everything outside London and its outlying villages; London is the primary city. For Dickens, a country is a place of peace, quiet, hard work, and strong family structures that ensure that people continue to work hard and avoid criminality. The city is, however, a place of difficult working conditions, where the poor have to struggle to overcome all the difficulties of “modern” industrial life.
The Failure of Charity
Much of the first part of the novel “Oliver Twist” satirizes the organizations of charity that were run by the church and government in Dickens’s time. The system, described by Dickens, was implemented by the Poor Law of 1834, which stipulated that the poor could only receive government assistance if they moved into government workhouses. Residents of those workplaces were essentially like prisoners whose rights were completely sealed by a host of severe regulations. Labor was required, families were almost always separated, and food and clothing rations were meager. This methodology worked on the principle that poverty was the result of laziness and that terrible conditions in the workplace would motivate the poor to improve their conditions.
Keywords of the story
- Oliver’s birth
- Oliver’s escaping from the workshop
- Oliver’s trial
- Oliver’s kidnapping by one of the gangs of Fagin
- Oliver is in with Mrs. Maylie and Rose
- Oliver’s returning to London
- Exposition of the mystery of Monks
Summary of the Novel
In the 1820s, the story of the novel “Oliver Twist” gets started with the birth of a baby boy in a workshop in a small fictional town named Mudfog in England, about 70 miles outside London. He is orphaned in the mysterious absence of his father and the death of his mother Agnes in childbirth. The boy was to be raised by church authorities. One of the lower rank churchmen, beadle, named the boy Oliver Twist. The boy grows up ragged and malnourished on a large baby farm, a place where a fee is paid for the ongoing care of infants and children. At the age of nine, he returns to the workhouse, where he picks oakum to earn his livelihood. He works there for six months. One day when Oliver courageously demands more difficult work so that he can get more foods, the Workhouse Board becomes Surprised and decides to train him.
As an apprentice, Oliver is sent to a local undertaker named Mr. Sowerberry, who makes Oliver a professional for children’s funerals. This promotion of Oliver rises Jealousy within Noah Claypole., one of the senior apprentices. One day Noah tells Oliver nastic words about his dead mother whom Oliver never sees. For this, Oliver fights with Noah who gets knocked down while fighting. Noah objects to the Workhouse Board that Oliver tries to kill him, the serving girl, and the undertaker’s wife. He claims that Oliver had threatened to kill The Undertaker. Oliver decides to leave the city before being captured by cruel authority.
Seven days later Oliver arrives in London, where he meets Jack Dawkins. Jack introduces Oliver to Fagin, an old man who provides room and food to the boys in exchange for work. At first, Oliver believes that the boys make handkerchiefs and wallets and thinks that Fagin is obviously a very generous man. But the two boys take Oliver out one day and Oliver is shocked to see them picking up a gentleman’s pocket. They flee, leaving Oliver to blame. Oliver gets scared and starts to run to flee.
Oliver is arrested and taken to a magistrate. Oliver is caught by fever during the trial. Oliver is released for being innocent and Mr. Brownlow, the victim of pickpocketing, takes Oliver home with him, where he notices that the boy is like a portrait of a woman hanging in his room. The portrait woman was the wife of a deceased friend of Mr. Brownlow. Oliver is happy and grateful to Mr. Brownlow and his housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin. Oliver recovers rapidly staying with Mr. Brownlow. His happiness does not last long because of Fagin, who fears Oliver might tell the police about his criminal gang. Fagin decides that Oliver must be brought back to his hideout. One day Oliver is kidnapped by Fagin’s gang when he is sent outside by Mr. Brownlow to pay for some books.
Persuaded by a mysterious associate named Monks, Fagin concocts a plan to draw Oliver into a life of crime. Fagin also thinks that his plan seems to be going well but it is unknown to Fagin that Oliver longs to return to Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin. He threatens Oliver to kill. However, Fagin’s hopes get dashed when Bill Sikes takes Oliver to help out with burglary because just after Oliver enters the house through the broken window to open the front door of the house, the inhabitants wake up and discover him, and Oliver is shot. Sikes carries Oliver away, but he is forced to leave the boy unconscious in a ditch.
Oliver subconsciously gets up from the ditch and comes back to that house where he was shot. There, the owner of the house named Mrs. Maylie, and her niece named Rose nurse Oliver back to health with the help of the local doctor, Mr. Losberne. The boy tells his life story to them, and all three dedicate themselves to helping him.
Mrs. Maylie takes Oliver to live in her country cottage, where he grows strong and healthy. Rose, however, gets ill. Oliver goes to post a letter to Mr. Losberne asking for his help for the treatment of Rose and, while returning, meets a stranger. Later Oliver sees Fagin and the stranger outside his window.
Monks meets with Mr. Bumble and his wife, who is the workhouse matron. She shows Monks a locket that was stolen from Oliver’s mother’s dead body. Monks buys the locket and throws it in the river. In the meantime, Fagin has got a new member for his gang, Noah Claypole who stole money from the undertaker Mr. Sowerberry and flew to London and has taken shelter to Fagin. Now, Noah steals from children and works as a spy for Fagin.
Rose, Mrs. Maylie, Oliver, and Mr. Losberne are in London when Nancy comes to Rose’s hotel room and tells her that she overheard Fagin talking with Monks and that Monks called Oliver his brother. Rose takes Oliver to see Mr. Brownlow and tells the old gentleman what she learned from Nancy. Rose and Mr. Brownlow later meet Nancy near London Bridge, where they ask her to turn in Fagin’s gang. She refuses. The meeting is overheard by Noah Claypole, who reports back to Fagin.
Fagin tells Bill Sikes that Nancy has cheated the gang that is why Bill gets furious and kills her. He then escapes by running but while trying to flee from pursuers, falls from a roof with a noose around his neck and dies by hanging. Based on evidence from Noah Claypole, Fagin is arrested, blamed as an accomplice to murder, and sentenced to hang.
Mr. Brownlow catches Monks and forces him to disclose and confess all his machinations against Oliver, and has him sign a confession. From Monks’s confession, it comes to learn that Oliver’s mother was the great love of Monks’s father, who was Mr. Brownlow’s close friend. Monks’s father wanted to marry Oliver’s mother that is why they get intimate and Oliver’s mother was pregnant. But it was ironic that Monks’ father became ill and died before he could do marry Oliver’s mother. He had left a written will leaving most of his money to Oliver, but Monks’s mother made sure that it was never found. Oliver finally receives his inheritance, Mr. Brownlow adopts him, and Oliver and his friends all end up living happily in a village.
Symbols of the novel
Nancy’s decision to meet Brownlow and Rose on London Bridge reveals the symbolic side of the bridge in Oliver Twist. The London Bridge meeting represents a clash of two worlds that can never be communicated – Brownlow and Rose’s Idyllic World and Nancy’s criminal world.
In Oliver Twist, darkness is involved with crime and mischief. The work of criminals is best done at night. Their crimes are planned in the smoky rooms and so the darkness of the setting reflects the darkness of their thoughts and actions.
In contrast to the dark streets on the weaker side of London, the countryside is lit up with sun-drenched open spaces and colorful flowers. In Oliver Twist, it is a place of health, happiness, and safety, while the city is a place of disease, despair, and danger.
Oliver’s similarity with the portrait of Agnes in Mr. Brownlow’s house in Oliver Twist first gives an idea that Oliver may in fact be the son of Agnes and Edward Leeford.
Coffin crop has been raised repeatedly in the novel, and throughout Oliver Twist, there is a real possibility that Oliver himself will soon be able to realize his high birth and receive his proper inheritance.
Agnes’ ring and locket
In Oliver Twist, the ring and locket simply represent an incomplete union.