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Oliver Twist  
Olivertwist front.jpg
Frontispiece, first edition 1838
Design by George Cruikshank
Author Charles Dickens ("Boz")
Original title Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress
Illustrator George Cruikshank
Country England
Language English
Series Monthly:
February 1837 – April 1839
Genre(s) Fiction
Social criticism
Publisher Serial:
Bentley's Miscellany
Book: Richard Bentley
Publication date 1837 (in three volumes)
Media type Print (Serial, Hardcover and Paperback)
ISBN 9119372019
OCLC Number 185812519
Preceded by The Pickwick Papers
Followed by Nicholas Nickleby

Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (commonly known as Oliver Twist) (1838) is Charles Dickens' second novel. It is about a boy named Oliver Twist, who escapes from a workhouse and meets a gang of pickpockets in London. The novel is one of Dickens's most well-known works, and has been the subject of numerous film and television adaptations.



Oliver Twist is notable for Dickens' unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives.[1] The book also exposed the cruel treatment of many a waif-child in London, which increased international concern in what is sometimes known as "The Great London Waif Crisis". This was the astounding number of orphans in London in the Dickens era. The book's subtitle, The Parish Boy's Progress alludes to Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and also to a pair of popular 18th-century caricature series by William Hogarth, "A Rake's Progress" and "A Harlot's Progress".[2]

An early example of the social novel, the book calls the public's attention to various contemporary evils, including the Poor Law that stated that poor people should work in workhouses/poorhouses, child labour and the recruitment of children as criminals. Dickens mocks the hypocrisies of the time by surrounding the novel's serious themes with sarcasm and dark humour. The novel may have been inspired by the story of Robert Blincoe, an orphan whose account of his hardships as a child labourer in a cotton mill was widely read in the 1830s. Obviously, Dickens' own early youth—he was vulnerable, and a child labourer—must have also entered.

Oliver Twist has been the subject of numerous film and television adaptations, and is the basis for a highly successful musical play and the multi Academy Award winning motion picture Oliver!


Cover, first edition of serial, entitled "The Adventures of Oliver Twist" January 1846
Design by George Cruikshank

The book was originally published in Bentley's Miscellany as a serial, in monthly instalments that began appearing in the month of February 1837 and continued through April 1839. It was originally intended to form part of Dickens's serial The Mudfog Papers.[3][4][5] It did not appear as its own monthly serial until 1846. George Cruikshank provided one steel etching per month to illustrate each installment.[6] The first novelization appeared six months before the serialization was completed. It was published in three volumes by Richard Bentley, the owner of Bentley's Miscellany, under the author's pseudonym, "Boz" and included 24 steel-engraved plates by Cruikshank.

Plot summary


Workhouse and first jobs

Oliver Twist is born into a life of poverty and misfortune in a workhouse in an unnamed town (although when originally published in Bentley's Miscellany in 1837 the town was called Mudfog and said to be within 75 miles north of London). Orphaned almost from his first breath by his mother’s death in childbirth and his father’s unexplained absence, Oliver is meagerly provided for under the terms of the Poor Law, and spends the first eight years of his life at a baby farm in the 'care' of a woman named Mrs. Mann. Along with other juvenile offenders against the poor laws, Oliver is brought up with little food and few comforts. Around the time of the orphan’s ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble, a parish beadle, removes Oliver from the baby farm and puts him to work picking oakum at the main workhouse (the same one where his mother worked before she died). Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains in the workhouse for six months, until the desperately hungry boys decide to draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. The task falls to Oliver, who at the next meal tremblingly comes forward, bowl in hand, and makes his famous request: "Please, sir, I want some more."

Oliver; "Please, sir, I want some more."

A great uproar ensues. The board of well-fed gentlemen who administer the workhouse, while eating a meal fit for a mighty king, offer five pounds to any person wishing to take on the boy as an apprentice. A brutal chimney sweep almost claims Oliver, but, when he begs despairingly not to be sent away with "that dreadful man" a kindly old magistrate refuses to sign the indentures. Later, Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker employed by the parish, takes Oliver into his service. He treats Oliver better, and, because of the boy's sorrowful countenance, uses him as a mourner, at children's funerals. However, Mr. Sowerberry is in an unhappy marriage, and his wife takes an immediate dislike to Oliver—primarily because her husband seems to like him—and loses few opportunities to underfeed and mistreat him. He also suffers torment at the hands of Noah Claypole, an oafish but bullying fellow apprentice who is jealous of Oliver's promotion to mute, and Charlotte, the Sowerberry's maidservant, who is in love with Noah.

One day, in an attempt to bait Oliver, Noah insults the orphan’s late mother, calling her "a regular right-down bad 'un". Oliver flies into an unexpected passion, attacking and even besting the much bigger boy. Mrs. Sowerberry takes Noah's side, helps him subdue Oliver, punches and beats Oliver, and later compels her husband and Mr. Bumble, who has been sent for in the aftermath of the fight, into beating Oliver again. Once Oliver is sent to his room for the night, he does something that he hadn't done since babyhood—breaks down and weeps. Alone that night, Oliver finally decides to run away. He wanders aimlessly for a time, until a well-placed milestone sets his wandering feet towards London.

The Artful Dodger and Fagin

George Cruikshank original engraving of the Artful Dodger (centre), here introducing Oliver (right) to Fagin (left)

During his journey to London, Oliver encounters Jack Dawkins, more commonly known by the nickname the "Artful Dodger", although Oliver's innocent nature prevents him from recognising this hint that the boy may be dishonest. Dodger provides Oliver with a free meal and tells him of a gentleman in London who will "give him lodgings for nothing, and never ask for change". Grateful for the unexpected assistance, Oliver follows Dodger to the "old gentleman"'s residence. In this way, Oliver unwittingly falls in with an infamous Jewish criminal known as Fagin, the so-called gentleman of whom the Artful Dodger spoke. Ensnared, Oliver lives with Fagin and his gang of juvenile pickpockets in their lair at Saffron Hill for some time, naively unaware of their criminal occupations. He believes they make wallets and handkerchiefs.

Later, Oliver innocently goes out to "make handkerchiefs" because of no income coming in, with two of Fagin’s underlings: The Artful Dodger and a boy of a humorous nature named Charley Bates. Oliver realises too late that their real mission is to pick pockets. Dodger and Charley steal the handkerchief of an old gentleman named Mr. Brownlow, and promptly flee. When he finds his handkerchief missing, Mr. Brownlow turns round, sees Oliver, and pursues him. Others join the chase and Oliver is caught and taken before the magistrate. Curiously, Mr. Brownlow has second thoughts about the boy—he seems reluctant to believe he is a pickpocket. To the judge's evident disappointment, a bookstall holder who saw Dodger commit the crime clears Oliver, who, by now actually ill, faints in the courtroom. Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver home and, along with his housekeeper Mrs. Bedwin, cares for him.

Oliver stays with Mr. Brownlow, recovers rapidly, and blossoms from the unaccustomed kindness. His bliss, however, is interrupted when Fagin, fearing Oliver might "peach" on his criminal gang, decides that Oliver must be brought back to his hideout. When Mr. Brownlow sends Oliver out to pay for some books, one of the gang, a young girl named Nancy, whom Oliver had previously met at Fagin's, accosts him with help from her abusive lover, a brutal robber named Bill Sikes, and Oliver is quickly bundled back to Fagin's lair. The thieves take the five pound note Mr. Brownlow had entrusted to him, and strip him of his fine new clothes. Oliver, dismayed, flees and attempts to call for police assistance, but is ruthlessly dragged back by the Dodger, Charley and Fagin. Nancy, however, is sympathetic towards Oliver and saves him from beatings by Fagin and Sikes.

In a renewed attempt to draw Oliver into a life of crime, Fagin forces him to participate in a burglary. Nancy reluctantly assists in recruiting him, all the while assuring the boy that she will help him if she can. Sikes, after threatening to kill him if he does not cooperate, sends Oliver through a small window and orders him to unlock the front door. The robbery goes wrong, however, and Oliver is shot. After being abandoned by Sikes, the wounded Oliver ends up under the care of the people he was supposed to rob: Rose Maylie, her guardian Mrs. Maylie (unrelated to Rose and raising her as her own niece), and Harry Maylie (Mrs. Maylie's son who loves Rose). Convinced of Oliver’s innocence, Rose takes the boy in and nurses him back to health in 1837.


Meanwhile, a mysterious man named Monks has found Fagin and is plotting with him to destroy Oliver's reputation. Monks denounces Fagin's failure to turn Oliver into a criminal and the two of them agree on a plan to make sure he does not find out about his past. Monks is apparently related to Oliver in some manner, although it's not mentioned until later.

Back In Oliver's hometown, Mr Bumble has married Ms Corney, the wealthy matron of the workhouse, only to find himself constantly arguing with his unhappy wife. After one such argument, Mr Bumble walks over to a pub, where he meets Monks, who informs him about a boy named Oliver Twist. Later the two of them arrange to take a locket and ring which had once belonged to Oliver's mother and toss it into a nearby river. Monks relates this to Fagin as part of the plot to destroy Oliver, unaware that Nancy has eavesdropped on their conversation and gone ahead to inform Oliver's benefactors.

Nancy, by this time ashamed of her role in Oliver's kidnapping, and fearful for the boy's safety, goes to Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow to warn them. She knows that Monks and Fagin are plotting to get their hands on the boy again and holds some secret meetings on the subject with Oliver's benefactors. One night Nancy tries to leave for one of the meetings but Sikes refuses permission when she doesn't state exactly where she's going. Fagin realizes that Nancy is up to something and resolves to find out what her secret is.

Meanwhile Noah Claypole has fallen out with the undertaker Mr. Sowerberry, stolen money from him and moved to London. Charlotte has accompanied him—they are now in a relationship. Using the name "Morris Bolter", he joins Fagin's gang for protection. During Noah's stay with Fagin, the Artful Dodger is caught with a stolen silver snuff box, convicted (in a very humorous courtroom scene) and transported to Australia. Later, Noah is sent by Fagin to "dodge" (spy on) Nancy, and discovers her secret: she has been meeting secretly with Rose and Mr. Brownlow to discuss how to save Oliver from Fagin and Monks. Fagin angrily passes the information on to Sikes, twisting the story just enough to make it sound as if Nancy had informed on him (in reality, she had shielded Sikes, whom she loves despite his brutal character). Believing her to be a traitor, Sikes beats Nancy to death in a fit of rage, and is himself killed when he accidentally hangs himself while fleeing across a rooftop from an angry mob.


Fagin in his cell.

Monks is forced by Mr. Brownlow (an old friend of Oliver's father) to divulge his secrets: his real name is Edward Leeford, and he is Oliver's paternal half-brother and, although he is legitimate, he was born of a loveless marriage. Oliver's mother, Agnes, was their father's true love. Mr. Brownlow has a picture of her, and began making inquiries when he noticed a marked resemblance between her face, and the face of Oliver. Monks has spent many years searching for his father's child—not to befriend him, but to destroy him (see Henry Fielding's Tom Jones for similar circumstances). Brownlow asks Oliver to give half his inheritance (which proves to be meagre) to Monks because he wants to give him a second chance; and Oliver, being prone to giving second chances, is more than happy to comply. Monks then moves to America, where he squanders his money, reverts to crime, and ultimately dies in prison. Fagin is arrested and condemned to the gallows; in an emotional scene, Oliver goes to Newgate Gaol to visit the old reprobate on the eve of his hanging, (where Fagin's terror at being hanged has caused him to come down with fever).

On a happier note, Rose Maylie turns out to be the long-lost sister of Oliver's mother Agnes; she is therefore Oliver's aunt. She marries her long-time sweetheart Harry, and Oliver lives happily with his saviour, Mr. Brownlow. Noah becomes a paid, semi-professional informer to the police (a "stoolie", or "stoolpigeon" in American terminology). The Bumbles lose their jobs (under circumstances that cause him to utter the well-known line "The law is a ass") and are reduced to great poverty, eventually ending up in the same workhouse where they once lorded it over Oliver and the other boys; and Charley Bates, horrified by Sikes's murder of Nancy, becomes an honest citizen, moves to the country, and works his way up to prosperity.

Major themes and symbols


In Oliver Twist, Dickens mixes grim realism, and merciless satire as a way to describe the effects of industrialism on 19th-century England and to criticise the harsh new Poor Laws. Oliver, an innocent child, is trapped in a world where his only options seem to be the workhouse, Fagin's thieves, a prison or an early grave. From this unpromising industrial/institutional setting, however, a fairy tale also emerges: In the midst of corruption and degradation, the essentially passive Oliver remains pure-hearted; he steers away from evil when those around him give in to it; and, in proper fairy-tale fashion, he eventually receives his reward—leaving for a peaceful life in the country, surrounded by kind friends. On the way to this happy ending, Dickens explores the kind of life an orphan, outcast boy could expect to lead in 1830s London.[7]

Poverty and social class

Poverty is a prominent concern in Oliver Twist. Throughout the novel, Dickens enlarges on this theme, describing slums so decrepit that whole rows of houses are on the point of ruin. In an early chapter, Oliver attends a pauper's funeral with Mr. Sowerberry and sees a whole family crowded together in one miserable room.

This ubiquitous misery makes Oliver's few encounters with charity and love more poignant. Oliver owes his life several times over to kindness both large and small.[8] The apparent plague of poverty that Dickens describes also conveyed to his middle-class readers how much of the London population was stricken with poverty and disease. Nonetheless, in Oliver Twist he delivers a somewhat mixed message about social caste and social injustice. Oliver's illegitimate workhouse origins place him at the nadir of society; as an orphan without friends, he is routinely despised. His "sturdy spirit" keeps him alive despite the torment he must endure. Most of his associates, however, deserve their place among society's dregs and seem very much at home in the depths. Noah Claypole, a charity boy like Oliver, is idle, stupid, and cowardly; Sikes is a thug; Fagin lives by corrupting children; and the Artful Dodger seems born for a life of crime. Many of the middle-class people Oliver encounters—Mrs. Sowerberry, Mr. Bumble, and the savagely hypocritical "gentlemen" of the workhouse board, for example; are, if anything, worse.

Oliver, on the other hand, who has an air of refinement remarkable for a workhouse boy, proves to be of gentle birth. Although he has been abused and neglected all his life, he recoils, aghast, at the idea of victimizing anyone else. This apparently hereditary gentlemanliness makes Oliver Twist something of a changeling tale, not just an indictment of social injustice. Oliver, born for better things, struggles to survive in the savage world of the underclass before finally being rescued by his family and returned to his proper place—a commodious country house.

In a recent film adaptation of the novel, Roman Polanski dispenses with the problem of Oliver's genteel origins by making him an anonymous orphan, like the rest of Fagin's gang.

Oliver is wounded in a burglary.


Dickens makes considerable use of symbolism. The many symbols Oliver faces are primarily good versus evil, with evil continually trying to corrupt and exploit good, but good winning out in the end. The "merry old gentleman" Fagin, for example, has satanic characteristics: he is a veteran corrupter of young boys who presides over his own corner of the criminal world; he makes his first appearance standing over a fire holding a toasting-fork; and he refuses to pray on the night before his execution.[9] The London slums, too, have a suffocating, infernal aspect; the dark deeds and dark passions are concretely characterised by dim rooms, and pitch-black nights, while the governing mood of terror and brutality may be identified with uncommonly cold weather. In contrast, the countryside where the Maylies take Oliver is a pastoral heaven.

Food is another important symbol; Oliver's odyssey begins with a simple request for more gruel, and Mr. Bumble's shocked exclamation, represents he may be after more than just gruel.[10] Chapter 8—which contains the last mention of food in the form of Fagin's dinner—marks the first time Oliver eats his share and represents the transformation in his life that occurs after he joins Fagin's gang.

The novel is also shot through with a related motif, obesity, which calls attention to the stark injustice of Oliver's world. When the half-starved child dares to ask for more, the men who punish him are fat. It is interesting to observe the large number of characters who are overweight.

Toward the end of the novel, the gaze of knowing eyes becomes a potent symbol. For years, Fagin avoids daylight, crowds, and open spaces, concealing himself in a dark lair most of the time: when his luck runs out at last, he squirms in the "living light" of too many eyes as he stands in the dock, awaiting sentence. After Sikes kills Nancy, he flees into the countryside but is unable to escape the memory of her dead eyes. Charley Bates turns his back on crime when he sees the murderous cruelty of the man who has been held up to him as a model.

Nancy’s decision to meet Brownlow and Rose on London Bridge reveals the symbolic aspect of this bridge in Oliver Twist. Bridges exist to link two places that would otherwise be separated by an uncrossable void. The meeting on London Bridge represents the collision of two worlds unlikely ever to come into contact—the idyllic world of Brownlow and Rose, and the atmosphere of degradation in which Nancy lives. On the bridge, Nancy is given the chance to cross over to the better way of life that the others represent, but she rejects that opportunity, and by the time the three have all left the bridge, that possibility has vanished forever.

When Rose gives Nancy her handkerchief, and when Nancy holds it up as she dies, Nancy has gone over to the "good" side against the thieves. Her position on the ground is as if she is in prayer, this showing her godly or good position.[11]


The Last Chance.

In the tradition of Restoration Comedy and Henry Fielding, Dickens fits his characters with appropriate names. Oliver himself, though "badged and ticketed" as a lowly orphan and named according to an alphabetical system, is, in fact, "all of a twist."[12] Mr. Grimwig is so called because his seemingly "grim", pessimistic outlook is actually a protective cover for his kind, sentimental soul. Other character names mark their bearers as semi-monstrous caricatures. Mrs. Mann, who has charge of the infant Oliver, is not the most motherly of women; Mr. Bumble, despite his impressive sense of his own dignity, continually mangles the king's English he tries to use; and the Sowerberries are, of course, "sour berries", a reference to Mrs. Sowerberry's perpetual scowl, to Mr. Sowerberry's profession as an undertaker, and to the poor provender Oliver receives from them. Rose Maylie’s name echoes her association with flowers and springtime, youth and beauty, while Toby Crackit’s is a reference to his chosen profession–housebreaking.

Bill Sikes’s dog, Bull’s-eye, has “faults of temper in common with his owner” and is an emblem of his owner’s character. The dog’s viciousness represents Sikes’s animal-like brutality, while Sikes's self-destructiveness is evident in the dog's many scars. The dog, with its willingness to harm anyone on Sikes's whim, shows the mindless brutality of the master. Sikes himself senses that the dog is a reflection of himself and that is why he tries to drown the dog. He is really trying to run away from who he is.[citation needed] This is also illustrated when Sikes dies and the dog does immediately also.[13] After Sikes murders Nancy, Bull’s-eye also comes to represent Sikes’s guilt. The dog leaves bloody footprints on the floor of the room where the murder is committed. Not long after, Sikes becomes desperate to get rid of the dog, convinced that the dog’s presence will give him away. Yet, just as Sikes cannot shake off his guilt, he cannot shake off Bull’s-eye, who arrives at the house of Sikes’s demise before Sikes himself does. Bull’s-eye’s name also conjures up the image of Nancy’s eyes, which haunts Sikes until the bitter end and eventually causes him to hang himself accidentally.

Dickens employs polarised sets of characters to explore various dual themes throughout the novel;[citation needed] Mr. Brownlow and Fagin, for example, personify 'Good vs. Evil'. Dickens also juxtaposes honest, law-abiding characters such as Oliver himself with those who, like the Artful Dodger, seem more comfortable on the wrong side of the law. 'Crime and Punishment' is another important pair of themes, as is 'Sin and Redemption': Dickens describes criminal acts ranging from picking pockets to murder (suggesting that this sort of thing went on continually in 1830's London) only to hand out punishments with a liberal hand at the end. Most obviously, he shows Bill Sikes hounded to death by a mob for his brutal acts, and sends Fagin to cower in the condemned cell, sentenced to death by due process. Neither character achieves redemption; Sikes dies trying to run away from his guilt, and on his last night alive, the terrified Fagin refuses to see a rabbi or to pray, instead asking Oliver to help him escape. Nancy, by contrast, redeems herself at the cost of her own life, and dies in a prayerful pose.

Nancy is also one of the few characters in Oliver Twist to display much ambivalence. Although she is a full-fledged criminal, indoctrinated and trained by Fagin since childhood, she retains enough empathy to repent her role in Oliver's kidnapping, and to take steps to try to atone. As one of Fagin's victims, corrupted but not yet morally dead, she gives eloquent voice to the horrors of the old man's little criminal empire. She wants to save Oliver from a similar fate; at the same time, she recoils from the idea of turning traitor, especially to Bill Sikes, whom she loves. When he was later criticised for giving a "thieving, whoring slut of the streets" such an unaccountable reversal of character, Dickens ascribed her change of heart to "the last fair drop of water at the bottom of a dried-up, weed-choked well".[14]

See also


  1. ^ Donovan, Frank. The Children of Charles Dickens. London: Leslie Frewin, 1968, pp. 61–62.
  2. ^ Dunn, Richard J.. Oliver Twist: Whole Heart and Soul (Twayne's Masterwork Series No. 118). New York: Macmillan, p. 37.
  3. ^ Oliver Twist, Or, The Parish Boy's Progress By Charles Dickens, Contributor Philip Horne, Published by Penguin Classics, 2003, pg 486. ISBN 0141439742.
  4. ^ Ackroyd, Peter, Dickens, London, Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990, pg 216. ISBN 1856190005.
  5. ^ Bentley's Miscellany, 1837.
  6. ^ Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens (Paul Schlicke, Editor). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 141.
  7. ^ Miller, J. Hillis. "The Dark World of Oliver Twist" in Charles Dickens (Harold Bloom, editor), New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987, p. 35
  8. ^ Walder, Dennis, "Oliver Twist and Charity" in Oliver Twist: a Norton Critical Edition (Fred Kaplan, Editor). New York: W.W. Norton, 1993, pp. 515-525
  9. ^ Miller, ibid, p. 48
  10. ^ Miller, ibid, p. 31
  11. ^ NovelGuide
  12. ^ Ashley, Leonard. What's in a name?: Everything you wanted to know. Genealogical Publishing, 1989, p. 200.
  13. ^ NovelGuide
  14. ^ Donovan, Frank, The Children of Charles Dickens, p. 79.

External links

Online Text

Critical analysis


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Oliver Twist is an 1838 novel by Charles Dickens, probably one of the best-known of all his works.

  • 'Please, sir, I want some more.'
    • Chapter 2, "Treats Of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, And Board", said by Oliver Twist
  • Oliver Twist has asked for more!
    • Chapter 2.
  • 'Come,' said Mr. Bumble, somewhat less pompously, for it was gratifying to his feelings to observe the effect his eloquence had produced; 'Come, Oliver! Wipe your eyes with the cuffs of your jacket, and don't cry into your gruel; that's a very foolish action, Oliver.'
    • Chapter 3, "Relates How Oliver Twist Was Very Near Getting A Place Which Would Not Have Been A Sinecure"
  • 'Let him alone!' said Noah. 'Why everybody lets him alone enough, for the matter of that. Neither his father nor his mother will ever interfere with him. All his relations let him have his own way pretty well. Eh, Charlotte? He! he! he!'
    • Chapter 5, "Oliver Mingles With New Associates. Going To A Funeral For The First Time, He Forms An Unfavourable Notion Of His Master's Business"
  • 'A regular right-down bad 'un, Work'us,' replied Noah, coolly. 'And it's a great deal better, Work'us, that she died when she did, or else she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung; which is more likely than either, isn't it?'
    • Chapter 6, "Oliver, Being Goaded By The Taunts Of Noah, Rouses Into Action, And Rather Astonishes Him"
  • Noah writhed and twisted his body into an extensive variety of eel-like positions; thereby giving Mr. Bumble to understand that, from the violent and sanguinary onset of Oliver Twist, he had sustained severe internal injury and damage, from which he was at that moment suffering the acutest torture.
    • Chapter 7, "Oliver Continues Refractory"
  • 'I am very hungry and tired,' replied Oliver: the tears standing in his eyes as he spoke. 'I have walked a long way. I have been walking these seven days.'
    • Chapter 8, "Oliver Walks To London. He Encounters On The Road A Strange Sort Of Young Gentleman"
  • 'What's that?' said the Jew. 'What do you watch me for? Why are you awake? What have you seen? Speak out, boy! Quick--quick! for your life.
    • Chapter 9, "Containing Further Particulars Concerning The Pleasant Old Gentleman, And His Hopeful Pupils"
  • Although Oliver had been brought up by philosophers, he was not theoretically acquainted with the beautiful axiom that self-preservation is the first law of nature.
    • Chapter 10, "Oliver Becomes Better Acquainted With The Characters Of His New Associates; And Purchases Experience At A High Price. Being A Short, But Very Important Chapter, In This History"
  • There is a passion for hunting something deeply implanted in the human breast.
    • Chapter 10.
  • I only know two sorts of boys. Mealy boys, and beef-faced boys.
    • Chapter 10.
  • By what, or by whom, nobody knows, for the clerk and jailor coughed very loud, just at the right moment; and the former dropped a heavy book upon the floor, thus preventing the word from being heard--accidently, of course.
    • Chapter 11.
  • 'Fair, or not fair,' retorted Sikes, 'hand over, I tell you! Do you think Nancy and me has got nothing else to do with our precious time but to spend it in scouting arter, and kidnapping, every young boy as gets grabbed through you? Give it here, you avaricious old skeleton, give it here!'
    • Chapter 16, "Relates What Became Of Oliver Twist, After He Had Been Claimed By Nancy"
  • But death, fires, and burglary, make all men equals...
    • Ch. 28
  • "It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper," said Mr. Bumble. "So cry away."
    • Ch. 37
  • Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine.
    • Ch. 37
  • "If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass — a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience."
    • Chapter 51.

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Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
or, the Parish Boy's Progress
First published in 1867.

Table of Contents

  1. Chapter 1: Treats Of The Place Where Oliver Twist Was Born And Of The Circumstances Attending His Birth
  2. Chapter 2: Treats Of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, And Board
  3. Chapter 3: Relates How Oliver Twist Was Very Near Getting A Place Which Would Not Have Been A Sinecure
  4. Chapter 4: Oliver, Being Offered Another Place, Makes His First Entry Into Public Life
  5. Chapter 5: Oliver Mingles With New Associates. Going To A Funeral For The First Time, He Forms An Unfavourable Notion Of His Master's Business
  6. Chapter 6: Oliver, Being Goaded By The Taunts Of Noah, Rouses Into Action, And Rather Astonishes Him
  7. Chapter 7: Oliver Continues Refractory
  8. Chapter 8: Oliver Walks To London. He Encounters On The Road A Strange Sort Of Young Gentleman
  9. Chapter 9: Containing Further Particulars Concerning The Pleasant Old Gentleman, And His Hopeful Pupils
  10. Chapter 10: Oliver Becomes Better Acquainted With The Characters Of His New Associates; And Purchases Experience At A High Price. Being A Short, But Very Important Chapter, In This History
  11. Chapter 11: Treats Of Mr. Fang The Police Magistrate; And Furnishes A Slight Specimen Of His Mode Of Administering Justice
  12. Chapter 12: In Which Oliver Is Taken Better Care Of Than He Ever Was Before. And In Which The Narrative Reverts To The Merry Old Gentleman And His Youthful Friends.
  13. Chapter 13: Some New Acquaintances Are Introduced To The Intelligent Reader, Connected With Whom Various Pleasant Matters Are Related, Appertaining To This History
  14. Chapter 14: Comprising Further Particulars Of Oliver's Stay At Mr. Brownlow's, With The Remarkable Prediction Which One Mr. Grimwig Uttered Concerning Him, When He Went Out On An Errand
  15. Chapter 15: Showing How Very Fond Of Oliver Twist, The Merry Old Jew And Miss Nancy Were
  16. Chapter 16: Relates What Became Of Oliver Twist, After He Had Been Claimed By Nancy
  17. Chapter 17: Oliver's Destiny Continuing Unpropitious, Brings A Great Man To London To Injure His Reputation
  18. Chapter 18: How Oliver Passed His Time In The Improving Society Of His Reputable Friends
  19. Chapter 19: In Which A Notable Plan Is Discussed And Determined On
  20. Chapter 20: Wherein Oliver Is Delivered Over To Mr. William Sikes
  21. Chapter 21: The Expedition
  22. Chapter 22: The Burglary
  23. Chapter 23: Which Contains The Substance Of A Pleasant Conversation Between Mr. Bumble And A Lady; And Shows That Even A Beadle May Be Susceptible On Some Points
  24. Chapter 24: Treats On A Very Poor Subject. But Is A Short One, And May Be Found Of Importance In This History
  25. Chapter 25: Wherein This History Reverts To Mr. Fagin And Company
  26. Chapter 26: In Which A Mysterious Character Appears Upon The Scene; And Many Things, Inseparable From This History, Are Done And Performed
  27. Chapter 27: Atones For The Unpoliteness Of A Former Chapter; Which Deserted A Lady, Most Unceremoniously
  28. Chapter 28: Looks After Oliver, And Proceeds With His Adventures
  29. Chapter 29: Has An Introductory Account Of The Inmates Of The House, To Which Oliver Resorted
  30. Chapter 30: Relates What Oliver's New Visitors Thought Of Him
  31. Chapter 31: Involves A Critical Position
  32. Chapter 32: Of The Happy Life Oliver Began To Lead With His Kind Friends
  33. Chapter 33: Wherein The Happiness Of Oliver And His Friends, Experiences A Sudden Check
  34. Chapter 34: Contains Some Introductory Particulars Relative To A Young Gentleman Who Now Arrives Upon The Scene; And A New Adventure Which Happened To Oliver
  35. Chapter 35: Containing The Unsatisfactory Result Of Oliver's Adventure; And A Conversation Of Some Importance Between Harry Maylie And Rose
  36. Chapter 36: Is A Very Short One, And May Appear Of No Great Importance In Its Place, But It Should Be Read Notwithstanding, As A Sequel To The Last, And A Key To One That Will Follow When Its Time Arrives
  37. Chapter 37: In Which The Reader May Perceive A Contrast, Not Uncommon In Matrimonial Cases
  38. Chapter 38: Containing An Account Of What Passed Between Mr. And Mrs. Bumble, And Mr. Monks, At Their Nocturnal Interview
  39. Chapter 39: Introduces Some Respectable Characters With Whom The Reader Is Already Acquainted, And Shows How Monks And The Jew Laid Their Worthy Heads Together
  40. Chapter 40: A Strange Interview, Which Is A Sequel To The Last Chamber
  41. Chapter 41: Containing Fresh Discoveries, And Showing That Surprises, Like Misfortunes, Seldom Come Alone
  42. Chapter 42: An Old Acquaintance Of Oliver's, Exhibiting Decided Marks Of Genius, Becomes A Public Character In The Metropolis
  43. Chapter 43: Wherein Is Shown How The Artful Dodger Got Into Trouble
  44. Chapter 44: The Time Arrives For Nancy To Redeem Her Pledge To Rose Maylie. She Fails.
  45. Chapter 45: Noah Claypole Is Employed By Fagin On A Secret Mission
  46. Chapter 46: The Appointment Kept
  47. Chapter 47: Fatal Consequences
  48. Chapter 48: The Flight Of Sikes
  49. Chapter 49: Monks And Mr. Brownlow At Length Meet. Their Conversation, And The Intelligence That Interrupts It
  50. Chapter 50: The Pursuit And Escape
  51. Chapter 51: Affording An Explanation Of More Mysteries Than One, And Comprehending A Proposal Of Marriage With No Word Of Settlement Or Pin-Money
  52. Chapter 52: Fagin's Last Night Alive
  53. Chapter 53: And Last
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

Oliver Twist


Oliver Twist

  1. The main character in the eponymous novel by Charles Dickens.


Oliver Twist (comparative more Oliver Twist, superlative most Oliver Twist)

Oliver Twist

more Oliver Twist

most Oliver Twist

  1. (Cockney rhyming slang) Drunk, pissed.



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

A page in an Oliver Twist book

Oliver Twist is a title-character novel, written in 1838. It was written by Charles Dickens.


Oliver Twist is a nine-year-old orphan boy who doesn't know who his parents were. He escapes from a workhouse to London where he meets Fagin, the leader of a criminal gang of boys. At the end of the story he has escaped and is living with his Aunt Rose, and "Great-Uncle" Edward Brownlow.


In Victorian times, a young woman named Agnus Leeford is pregnant and walks all the way to a workhouse in an unnamed city in England. She enters the workhouse and then has her baby - a boy. She dies before she can name him. Sally, and old woman who worked at the workhouse, takes care of Oliver. Mr Bumble, the head of the workhouse, surnames the new workhouse children by alphabetical order. He comes to 'T' and names him Oliver Twist.
Nine years later, Oliver is a workhouse-boy. In his room, the boys have a dare and Oliver got the shortest straw. Because of this, he has to ask Mr Bumble for more Gruel. This angers Mr Bumble and he sells Oliver for £5, wanting rid of him. A man named Mr Sowerberry buys him. When Oliver is at his house, a teenager named Noah Claypole bullies Oliver about his mother. Oliver punches Noah, but only gets himself into trouble with Mr Bumble, who Noah tells to come round. Oliver is let out of the cellar and is whipped by Mr Sowerberry. He escapes and walks for seven days to London. When he is there, a boy named Jack Dawkins (who is better known as the "Artful Dodger") takes Oliver to the loft where he lives with other boys. Oliver meets Fagin; an old man; Nancy, a woman who grows to care a lot about Oliver, and Bill Sykes, Nancy's boyfriend who is a murderer. Fagin, Dodger, and a boy named Charley Bates teach Oliver how to steal. Oliver doesn't realise they are thieves. The next day Oliver, Dodger and Charley go out to steal. Dodger and Charley steal a handkerchief from an old man called Mr Brownlow. They give it to Oliver and run off. Mr Brownlow orders the police to chase Oliver. When they do, they take him to court and a man tells everyone he saw the real thieves (Dodger and Charley).

Oliver faints and the next thing he knows, he is on a bed. He sees two women. Rose (his Aunt) and Mrs Bedwin (the housekeeper). He explains his life and they understand. Meanwhile, Fagin and Bill get really angry with Dodger. Bill tells Nancy to look for Oliver and bring him back. Oliver is told to go to the library but Nancy catches him. Oliver screams saying he doesn't know them, but nobody believes him. When he returns, the other boys bully him for his fancy clothes.
Edward Brownlow (known as Monks), Oliver's half-brother wants Oliver dead. They had the same father. Monks secretly tells Fagin if he wants a few coins, he'll have to murder Oliver, and if not then Monks will do it himself. Nancy hears all this so she tells Mr Brownlow at the old bridge at midnight. Dodger hears this, and tells Fagin that Nancy has betrayed everyone. Sykes secretly hears this and murders Nancy. He takes Oliver for a long walk with his dog Bullseye. When Bill is trying to escape, he accidentally hangs himself. Oliver is reunited with Mr Brownlow and Rose.

Simple English

Page from the book, Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (commonly known as Oliver Twist) (1838) is a novel by Charles Dickens. It was first published in 1839 and is one of the most popular English novels. It is the first book whose protagonist is a child.[1]


  1. Ackroyd, Peter; Dickens. New York: HarperCollins, 1990, pp. 216-7


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