Week 26, Part 2–Oliver Twist

I finally finished this book! Everyone knows that Oliver Twist is written by Charles Dickens, and I haven’t met many people who enjoy him as a writer.  It is true that I enjoy some of his works better than others. A Tale of Two Cities is definitely the favorite of the few I’ve read.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0141192496&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrJust in case my readers do not know the plot of the story, it tells the tale of an innocent child, Oliver Twist, who is born into a world of poverty, hunger, and cruelty.  He is shuffled from the poor house to the work house, where he is treated as a naughty child just for being hungry.  Eventually he falls in with a bad crowd, through no fault of his own, and is ensnared by Fagin, a criminal who employs young boys to pickpocket the rich for his own gain.  Through his involvement with these bad men–Sikes and Monks being two more of them–Oliver is bounced back and forth between filth/poverty and happy situations in which he is cared for and well-fed.  The novel ends happily, with the criminals each getting what he deserves, and Oliver finding a home where he is loved and cherished.

Of course, being a work by Dickens, it is long-winded and bombastic.  But it lends an air of the ridiculous to a story that is otherwise without humor.  At any moment, Oliver runs the risk of being sent to the scaffold simply for associating with criminals, despite the fact that he is only twelve. In fact, the noose and the crowd that thirsts for blood are the most prevalent themes of the book.  Dickens purpose in writing this was to direct attention to the social injustices that create criminals and then punish them for being something they cannot help becoming.  Oliver could very well have become a vicious little boy with no heart for anyone else’s life or feelings, as in the case of Sikes, who ends his days as a cold-blooded murderer.

It took me a long time to read the novel.  As I said, it’s bombastic and a little over the top in the language department, so it takes a while to wade through all of the fluff to get to what’s actually happening.  And I attempted to read it as it was originally published (in installments).  One of the nice things about this version is that it breaks up the novel into the exact installments that were published in Bentley’s Miscellany beginning in February of 1837.  It is also printed as true to the first edition as possible, with colloquial dialog and spelling intact.  This is one of the reasons that it took me forever to read. I could only read about 20 pages at a time if I were to stay true to the way it would have originally been read, and I had difficult picking it up sometimes after I had put it down.

Still, it’s a classic, and I would recommend it to any who would like to have a sophisticated book list.  Dickens didn’t just write to entertain or amuse. He wrote to draw attention to the social injustices and current events of the day, and his novels now preserve a moment in history upon which we can look and reflect.  Historical works and primary documents (including literature) are still important sources of information for us in the modern age, for despite our technological advances, our society is for the most part still as arcane and thoughtless as it was in 1837.  It is definitely worth the time spent to read this novel.


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