Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver was born in a workhouse orphanage. His mother died at childbirth without revealing her identity. At age 9, after being transferred to the workhouse proper, Oliver draws the short straw and has to ask for more gruel. ("Please, sir, I want some more.") This gets him branded a troublemaker. He's put in solitary and notice is placed offering 5 pounds to anyone who will take him.

Oliver is soon placed as an apprentice to an undertaker. But after several months of abuse from his coworkers and the undertakers wife he runs away. On the outskirts of London he meets the Artful Dodger who takes him to Fagin, who trains boys to be thieves and pickpockets.

But Oliver hasn't got the heart to be a criminal. He finds a benefactor but is kidnapped and returned to Fagin. Eventually assigned to help with a burglary, he is wounded and left for dead when he cries out and warns the occupants of the house. He winds up living in the house with a new benefactor.

"Oliver Twist" is a sentimental novel. Dickens paints a harsh, but accurate picture of living conditions for the poor. Oliver is just a poor little boy trying to get by but it seems the entire English system is against him.

This is my third Dickens novel and I have to say they all exceed "great." And for some reason I really liked the photograph on the cover of the B&N edition I have.

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