Bookish Discussions · Reviews

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist:


‘It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded’

Spoiler free | Rating: 4.5 stars | Read: 19 August – 23 August, 2018

I know the story of Oliver Twist, a workhouse orphan turned criminal, like the back of my hand. I grew up watching the 1960’s musical, I’ve seen it a couple of times on stage, and I was even in a production of it (as a chimney sweep) when I was younger. It’s ingrained in my memory. Oliver, Fagin, Sikes, Nancy and the Artful Dodger are well known to me. But, ashamedly, I hadn’t read the book until now.

…and, let me tell you, I loved it. A lot more than I expected, actually.

Oliver Twist is exactly what it says on the tin: ‘an angry indictment of poverty, and an adventure filled with an air of threat and pervasive evil’. Oliver is a tool for Dickens to explore these radical ideas through. As a child, Oliver is completely unaware of how the mid-19th century society operates. He is constantly exploited: starved, forced to do labour, and forced to become a criminal. Dickens depicts the lowest of society in brutal realism and merciless satire, and does so through an innocent child.

There was so much packed into this book, and that’s the main reason I enjoyed reading it so much. Each page, chapter and volume brought something new to the story. There was brutal depictions of the workhouses and the poor conditions of London; there was a scornful portrayal of thievery and fraud that was rife in the mid-19th century; as well as powerful explorations into age and gender dynamics. I loved having the opportunity to unpick and find meaning behind everything the characters said and did.

The only thing I found difficult at times was the blatant anti-semitism. Fagin was both portrayed and illustrated as a stereotypical Jew, and was often just labelled as ‘the Jew’. Dickens, whether intentionally or unintentionally, erased Fagin’s character because of his faith. Unfortunately, this was not an uncommon occurrence in the Victorian society. I have read that Dickens addressed the issue, stating that he meant no harm in his portrayal, but that doesn’t make it okay. It perpetuates the issue.

All in all, this was a brilliant read. It was brutal and real, yet it was also like a fairy-tale. Despite everything Oliver experienced, he still had compassion and love in his heart. He wanted to help those who wronged him, and continually turned away from the corruption forced upon him. Some may say this takes away from the novel’s realism, but I don’t think I would have handled the story otherwise. I would definitely recommend this – it’s become a new favourite of mine!

Have you read Oliver Twist? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


2 thoughts on “Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist:

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