I Content - Characterizations
Oliver Twist - A loving, innocent orphan child; the son of Edwin Leeford and
Agnes Fleming. He is generally quiet and shy rather than aggressive. Oliver's
affectionate nature, along with his weakness and innocence, earn him the pity and
love of the good people he meets. Dicken's choice of Oliver's name is very
revealing, because the boy's story is full of "twists" and turns. Dickens uses his
skills at creating character to make Oliver particularly appealing.
Mr. Bumble - The parish beadle; a rat man and a choleric with a great idea of his
oratorical powers and his importance. He has a decided propensity for bullying.
He derived no inconsiderable pressure from the exercise of petty cruelty and
consequently was a coward. Halfway through the book, Bumble changes. When
he marries Mrs. Corney, he loses authority. She makes all the decisions.
The Artful Dodger - A talented pickpocket, recruiter, cheat and wit. Jack
Dawkins, known as the artful dodger, is a charming rogue. Fagin's most esteemed
pupil. A dirty snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy (short for his age).
Dickens makes Dodger look more appealing by describing his outrageous clothes
and uninhibited manners.
Fagin - A master criminal, whose specialty is fenang (selling stolen property). He
employs a gang of thieves and is always looking for new recruits. He is a man of
considerable intelligence, though corrupted by his self-interest. His conscience
bothers him after he is condemned to hang. He does have a wry sense of humor
and an uncanny ability to understand people. He's a very old shrivelled Jew, whose
villainous looking repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair.
Mr. Brownlow - A generous man, concerned for other people. A very
respectable looking person with a heart large enough for any six ordinary old
gentleman of humane disposition.
Bill Sikes - A bully, a robber and a murderer. He is an ally of Fagin. Fagin plans
the crimes and Sikes carries them out. Sike's evil is so frightening because it is so
physical. He is compares to a beast. A stoutly built fellow with legs that always
look like they are in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to
Monks - Also known as Edward Leeford (son of Edwin Leeford and his legal
wife). Oliver's half brother. He wants to destroy Olivers chance of inheriting their
fathers estate. Monks is a stock villain, lurking in shadows and uttering curses
with a sneer. He lacks family love and moral upbringing. He is a tall, dark
blackguard, subject to fits of cowardice and epilepsy.
Nancy - She is the hapless product of the slums, the pupil of Fagin, and the
abused mistress of Sikes. Although she is a prostitute and an accomplice of
crooks, she has the instincts of a good person. She is part of a few of the most
memorable scenes (when she visits Fagin's Den, when she waits for Bill to come
home or when she meets with Rose Maylie and Brownlow to help save Oliver).
She is untidy and free in manner, but there was something of the woman's original
nature left in her still.
Rose Maylie - On the surface, Rose is very different from Nancy. Both were
orphans, but Rose grew up secure and protected. She is compassionate to Oliver,
but unlike Nancy, rose is innocent of the evils of the world. Dickens makes clear
that she is a pure flower. Agnes Flemings younger sister, thus Oliver's aunt.
Accepted as Mrs. Maylie's niece: later becomes her daughter-in-law.
Sally Thingummy - A pauper, nurses Oliver's mother. She steals the locket and
ring that holds the key to the oprhans identity.
Agnes Flemming - Oliver's mother; daughter of a retired naval officer. She left
home in shame and died when her illegitimate son was born.
Mr. Sowerberry - An undertaker; He accepts Oliver as an apprentice mourner.
He is forced by his wife's cruelty to abuse the boy until Oliver runs away.
Noah Claypolea - Charity boy. He torments Oliver. He is employed by Fagin,
under the alias of Bolter, and spies on Nancy. He ends up as a police informer.
Charley Bates - He belongs to Fagin's gang. He is so disgusted by Sike's evil
ways that he gives up crime and becomes a farmer.
Bet - Her full name is Betsy. She is required to identify Nancy's corpse.
Fang - A police magistrate and represents the worst abuses of judicial power. A
lean long-backed, stiff-necked, middle-sized man, with no great quantity of hair.
Mrs. Bedwin - She is Brownlow's housekeeper. She cares for Oliver and
provides his first real mothering, when Brownlow rescues him from Fang.
Mr. Grimwig - He is Brownlow's friend. He has a tender heart under his gruff
exterior and joins the effort to secure Oliver's inheritance after initially doubting
Toby Crackit - A house breaker who works with Sikes.
Mrs. Corney (later Mrs. Bumble) - She runs the workhouse where Oliver was
born. A greedy person, she retrieves Agnes Flemings treasures from Old Sally and
sells them to Monks.
Dr. Losberne - The Maylies's physician. He is part of the group that insures
Olivers future. He has grown fat, more from good humor than from good living.
Henry (Harry) Maylie - He loves Rose and wants to marry her, but she refuses
because she believes she is illegitimate and therefore might hurt his chances to win
elections. To win Rose, Henry gives ups a political career and becomes a
II Content - Setting
The major action of Oliver Twist moves back and forth between two
worlds: The filthy slums of London and the clean, comfortable house of
Brownlow and the Maylies. The first world is real and frightening. While
the other is idealized, almost dreamlike, in its safety and beauty. The world of
London is a world of crime. Things happen there at night, in dark
alleys and in abandoned, dark buildings. You can find examples of this (in
the book) in Chapter XV, when Oliver is kidnapped and then again in Chapter
XXVI, when Fagin meets Monks. Such darkness suggests that evil dominates
this world. Dickens often uses weather conditions to aid in setting a scene.
In Oliver Twist, bad things happen in bad weather. In contrast to
Fagin's London, the sunlit days and fragrant flowers of the Maylies cottage or the
handsome library at Brownlow's teem with goodness and health.
III Critical Observations - Style
Dickens uses lots of symbolism in this book. One use is the allusion to
obesity, which in an inverse way, symbolizes hunger by calling attention to its
absence. It is interesting to observe the large number of characters who are
corpulent. Those who may be considered prosperous enough to be reasonably well fed
pose a symbolic contrast to poverty and undernourishment. For example, the parish
board is made up of "eight or ten fat gentleman"; the workhouse master is a "fat,
healthy man"; Bumble is a "portly person"; Giles is fat and Brittles "by no means of a
slim figure"; Mr. Losberne is "a fat gentleman"; and one of the Bow street runners is "a
portly man". Other uses are how evil people are described as dangerous animals or
as typical stage villains. The weather is usually cold and rainy when bad
IV Critical Observations - Audience and Diction
Most of the language may seem stilted and artificial because there are long,
winding sentences full of colons, semicolons, and parentheses. Dicken's language can
also be very sentimental. For example; the love scenes between Rose and Henry or
the description of Oliver at the beginning of Chapter XXX. though Dickens was
trying to describe the world realistically, the language doesn't always show how people in
the slums talked. Not even Sikes uses four-letter words. Explicit sexual scenes
are left out too. Dickens wanted Oliver Twist to appeal to as wide an audience as
possible, and he didn't want to offend his readers. On the otherhand, Dickens uses some
street slang, especially the slang of thieves, which adds a distinct flavor to the story.
For example; look at the way the Artful Dodger talks and the way Oliver Twist talks.
Oliver isn't hard to understand.
What is the author's attitude in presenting males, females and or minorities?
Charles Dickens presents the women in the story as varieties of things. For
example: whores, barmaids, thieves and housekeepers. There is such a diversity, but
most are compassionate at some point. The men were also very diverse. Fagin and all
his gang of thieves has little regard to anyone or anything. Fagin's red hair links him to
descriptions of Judas, the betrayer of Jews. To Victorian readers, the fact that he is
a Jew would have indicated that he was greedy, alienated and unsympathetic.
to modern readers, it may just mean that he's been a victim of prejudice.
VI Content - Interesting Incidents
There are two bold things that change Olivers life and thus change the book.
The first is: At the workhouse, when he asks for more food. The second is: when
he's an apprentice, he beats up Noah Claypole and runs away. After those incidents,
most of the things that happen to him are out of his control. In the first incident,
Dickens focuses on the inadequate diet of the youngsters in the parish's care to
suggest a whole range of mistreatment. Not only in this chapter, but ion the ones
that follow. If Oliver didn't run away, than he would never have met Fagin or any
of his gang.
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