Title: Oliver Twist
Author: Charles Dickens
This fiercely comic tale stands in marked contrast to its genial predecessor, “The Pickwick Papers.” Set against London’s seedy back street slums, “Oliver Twist” is the saga of a workhouse orphan captured and thrust into a thieves’ den, where some of Dickens’s most depraved villains preside: the incorrigible Artful Dodger, the murderous bully Sikes, and the terrible Fagin, that treacherous ringleader whose grinning knavery threatens to send them all to the “ghostly gallows.” Yet at the heart of this drama is the orphan Oliver, whose unsullied goodness leads him at last to salvation. In 1838 the publication of “Oliver Twist” firmly established the literary eminence of young Dickens. It was, according to Edgar Johnson, “a clarion peal announcing to the world that in Charles Dickens the rejected and forgotten and misused of the world had a champion.” (from Goodreads)
Thoughts: Oliver Twist is an orphaned boy born in a workhouse in a nameless English town. After running away from ill-treatment he suffered as an undertaker apprentice, Oliver repairs to London where he falls in with Fagin, a Jewish thief, and his little band of pickpockets and other criminals, including the Artful Dodger, Bill Sikes, and Nancy. A good boy at heart, Oliver makes the acquaintance of several respectful members of society who take an interest in him. With the realization that the mystery surrounding Oliver’s birth could lead to a dramatic change in the poor boy’s circumstances if it could only be solved, Oliver and his friends begin their detective work, racing to unravel the origins of his birth before Fagin and his schemers come to the truth first.
This is the third book I’ve read by Dickens. I read Great Expectations as a Freshman in high school- I thought it was ok but I remember thinking that there were way too many long descriptions (lol!). I read Bleak House earlier this year which I was skeptical about and a bit intimidated considering its length. Luckily, I adored Bleak House! I absolutely loved it! So, when I decided to read Oliver Twist last month I was optimistic. I had seen the 60s musical version several times, and my middle school actually put on a production of it so I was familiar with the story and how it ends, but I was still excited to actually read it for the first time.
I read this book in the first half of November; it took me about a week and a half. After finishing, my thoughts were something like: “This was ok but … meh.” And this still sums of my feelings of this book: I don’t have anything bad or good to say about it. My main impression was… underwhelming. I guess my main point of contention was the characters: I never got the feeling that any of them were real. Oliver is too good, too unchanging in his innocence; his rescuers are too kind, too quick to love him to be believable. I never understood Nancy’s motivation for acting as she did, other than that it was necessary for the plot. I felt that the villains of the book were too one-sided; too much of cardboard cut outs to be likable or relatable. To be honest, I thought one of the ending chapters, when Fagin is contemplating his fate, was the most successful, and believable, moment of the book. I had trouble liking any character, and some I found just pain annoying- Mr. and Mrs. Bumble for example. I also thought that the resolution of the plot was somewhat unbelievable, and that the beginning of the book, which was meant to show the horrors of the workhouse and the poor living there, I found too exaggerated to be effective, and I found myself chuckling at some of the things that happened to Oliver instead of being appalled as I know Dickens wanted me to be.
This was Dickens’ second book, written in his early 20s, and it shows. I felt that there was a lot of things that could have been cut or improved upon and, unfortunately for me, I found the execution somewhat lacking. The book wasn’t bad by any means, but I found it lacking anything to make me completely absorbed or interested in the story. So this one was sort of ho-hum for me. But while I admit that I was a little disappointed in this, I am still excited about Dickens! I loved Bleak House too much to stop now just because the next book I read by him did not enamor me as I had hoped. I am not sure if it was just this book in general that fell a little short for me, or if I will find that I will like Dickens’ mature work more than his earlier ones, or if some of his books will just speak to me while others won’t- I guess I will find out! As for what I will read next of his I am not sure, but most likely it will be one of his more popular novels such as David Copperfield or A Christmas Carol. Or maybe I’ll read something completely different! I don’t know! We’ll see!
While this book was a bit of a miss with me, I am still glad that I read it, and not just so I can say that I have finally read ‘it.’ Overall though, I think it is fair to say that I prefer the musical version to the original.
Also, I have never been so far behind on reviews! Ok, I’m now only two reviews behind but that rarely happens with me! I’m hoping to get those finished up and posted this week along with some other things!