Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens

I have only read this title once previously, having largely avoided it because of Bill Sykes. He is just too scary. Fagin is creepy too. Two nasty villains is apparently enough to scare me away. Actually Mr. Bumble makes three. Lots of villains here.

Aside from the bad guys, there is much to love here. We have the usual assortment of humorous character names (like Mrs. Thingummy, the nurse who presides over Oliver’s birth) and wry descriptions. Mr. Giles, a servant, is described as laboring ‘under a very agreeable sense of his own merits and importance’. Brittles, an underservant, ‘has been a slow boy for upward of thirty years, there appeared no great probability of his ever being a fast one.’ Dickens makes me smile, with his distinctive voice.

My heart went out to Oliver, as he passes from tragedy to tragedy. Such an honest, earnest child.

I would like to put in a word for poor Nancy, who has moments of generosity in her sad life. She tries to shield Oliver and, amazingly, still loves the awful Bill Sykes. She expresses pleasure when he shows up, in spite of his habit of beating her up. Perhaps her young death is the best outcome for her tragic situation.

Oliver Twist is not my favorite Dickens but it is well known due to its many film adaptations. My top picks are Our Mutual Friend and Great Expectations (in spite of my high school English teacher doing her best to ruin it for me). Stay away from Barnaby Rudge, Pickwick Papers and Hard Times if you are picking up Dickens for the first time since school.



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