The novel Oliver Twist tells the story of Oliver, an orphan raised in a workhouse. When he cannot take any more abuse, he escapes to London. In London, he is hooked into a den of thieves and undergoes many hardships before getting free with the help of various kind Samaritans. Oliver doesn’t know the identity of his father but finally discovers the truth about his birth. The author Charles Dickens created this kind-hearted protagonist whose life is beset with tragedy. In so doing, Dickens won the love and sympathy of countless readers. By telling Oliver’s story, Dickens revealed darkness and injustices endemic in English society at the time.
Author : Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is one of the most celebrated English novelists of the 19th century. During his life, he wrote a total of 15 full-length novels, more than a hundred short stories, dozens of novellas, and numerous essays, travel journals, and plays. He was one of the most prolific writers the world has ever known, creating works in almost every genre apart from poetry. Dickens’ novels reflect the social conditions of his times, evoking them in vivid detail. Through his works, Dickens articulated the views and outlooks of his contemporaries and exposed the stark societal conflicts and hypocrisies of his age.
Overview | Chapter 1
Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the novel Oliver Twist.
In England, in 1837, when Victoria came to the throne, it signaled the dawn of the “Victorian era”. It was a period of relative domestic peace with few international conflicts. Tranquility and stability lasted, and in 1851, the Great Exhibition was staged in London, consolidating the achievements of the Queen’s reign and establishing England’s position as the leading power in the world. Charles Dickens was a rising star on the literary scene at the time. He had established his reputation with the publication of his novel The Pickwick Papers. In that founding year of the Victorian era, 1837, Dickens began writing a serialized novel for the monthly magazine Bentley’s Miscellany. The two-year-long series later became his novel Oliver Twist.
This book tells the story of an orphan raised in an abusive workhouse who later escapes to London. His name is Oliver Twist. In the city, Oliver chances upon a group of thieves who want to use him as an accomplice. In their company, he suffers many hardships. Finally, good Samaritans come to his aid and rescue him, and Oliver discovers the true circumstances of his birth. In Oliver, Dickens created a tragic but kind-hearted protagonist who won the love and sympathy of countless readers. In telling Oliver’s tale, Dickens also reveals the darkness and injustices common in English society at the time, especially when it comes to treating the underclasses. Although Victorian England is remembered today as a powerful state, Dickens’ writing presents the era as, in equal parts, good and evil. Under the same sun, the palatial estates of the wealthy sat beside the filthy slums of the poor. At any moment, both the upstanding and the wretched could be on their way up to heaven or on a descent toward the gates of hell.
Dickens was born in 1812 in the town of Portsmouth in the southeast of England. There, his father worked as a minor clerk at the Navy Pay Office. In 1823, the family moved to London, but their finances were in dire straits. The entire family of eight adults and children lived in a cramped little shack in Camden, a district in North London. Their situation was so grave that by the start of the following year, Dickens’ father was sent to the Marshalsea debtors’ prison, a working punishment for owing money. The family moved there with him, but not Dickens. He remained in London. Two weeks before his father was taken away, Dickens had entered Warren’s Blacking Warehouse near The Hungerford Stairs on the Thames. There he was put to work as a child laborer. He toiled 12 hours a day, sticking labels on bottles of shoe polish. Through this personal experience, he was able to easily empathize with the misfortunes of helpless and oppressed children suffering a similar plight. He gained first-hand experience of the filth and corruption in the underbelly of London. This would later inform his writing, providing him with a wealth of creative material for his future career as a writer.
Over almost two centuries, Oliver Twist has withstood the test of time. The book has become one of the world’s most highly celebrated English-language novels. It continues to be loved by countless readers to this day.
In this bookey, we will explain Oliver Twist’s significant and timeless appeal in three parts:
Part One introduces Oliver’s traumatic early life as a workhouse apprentice and at an undertaker’s premises. This part introduces the welfare system used in England at the time to support the poor.
Part Two recounts how Oliver accidentally ventures into a den of thieves after arriving in London. Along the way we will also analyze Dickens’ vivid depictions of London’s underbelly.
Finally, Part Three unravels the mystery surrounding Oliver’s birth and briefly discusses aspects of weakness in the novel.