Oliver Twist is the classic Dickens novel. In fact, it’s the classic orphan novel. I read this while travelling down to England in the car during the summer holidays one year, and I really enjoyed it.
In case you don’t know the story, here’s the simple version. An orphan boy named Oliver is in the workhouse, and asks for some more food. As a result he is sold to work at an under-taker’s. After a period there where he is mistreated and beaten, he runs away to London. Upon arriving in London, he is picked up by a boy who is revealed to be The Artful Dodger. Oliver follows him to his hideaway, and meets Fagin, the leader of a group of pick-pockets. He goes to pickpocket with the boys, but gets caught by the police for taking a gentleman called Mr Brownlow’s handkerchief. However, Oliver was cleared of the crime, as it was Dodger who stole the handkerchief, and he is taken home with Mr Brownlow. However, he is not allowed to stay with Mr Brownlow for long, as Fagin is worried that he might have snitched about the gang, he sends Nancy and Bill Sykes to check on Oliver and bring him back. He is then forced to take part in a burglary with Bill Sykes, which goes wrong. Oliver then ends up being looked after by the people he was supposed to rob, Miss Rose and her guardian Mrs. Maylie. A man named Monks plots with Fagin to ruin Oliver, where he plots to throw some valuables of Oliver’s mother into the river. However, this is scrapped as Nancy has listened into their conversation, and tells Mrs. Maylie and Rose. She tries to stop the plot to hurt Oliver, but is discovered, and Sykes beats her to death. However, he is plagued with visions of Nancy as a ghost, and accidently hangs himself. Monk is revealed to be Oliver’s half paternal brother, where Oliver is illegitimate and loved, he is legitimate, but loveless. Mr Brownlow tells Oliver to give Monks half his inheritance to give him a second chance. Fagin and Monk both die in prison eventually. Mrs. Maylie turns out to be Oliver’s aunt, and Oliver stays with Mr Brownlow. (Yes, this is the SIMPLE version!)
It’s a beautiful tale of rags to riches, but it has a darker edge to it. There are numerous points in the novel where crime, prostitution, rape and extreme poverty are abundant. In fact, most of the book is like that. It really shows off the difference between the classes in Victorian London, and what poorness drives people to do. Perhaps not the most appropriate subject matter for a 11/12 year old, but whatever. I really enjoyed reading it, and I do recommend it to anyone’s reading list.
What other rags to riches stories can you name? Comment below.