Oliver Twist


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Victorian England was not a congenial place for an orphan boy to grow up. Charles Dickens enlightens his audience on the darker side of life in London with his story of the adventures of Oliver Twist, an orphan of dubious parantage. Oliver's mother was found on the street and brought to a workhouse (or poor house) just before giving birth to her son. She dies in childbirth and poor Oliver is left to the kindness (or lack thereof) of strangers. After spending nine years in a horrifying orphanage, Oliver, is punished for having the temerity to ask for a second serving of the disgusting gruel served to the boys. His punishment is to be apprenticed to the local undertaker. After a fight with the other apprentice undertaker, Oliver runs away to London. There he is befriended by Jack Dawkins, also known as the "Artful Dodger" and his master, Fagin. Fagin runs a school for pickpockets, but Oliver is not a successful student. He is caught on his first atttempt at theft. Mr. Brownlow, the victim, is stricken by the resemblance of the boy to a painting he owns. He is also stricken by the ragged and unhealthy appearance of Oliver so rather than charging him with theft, he takes him home and has him nursed back to health.

Oliver was very happy in the Brownlow's home, but his adventures were not over. A mysterious man named Monks wants Fagin to recapture Oliver. Fagin sends a thief named Bill Sikes and his lover, the prostitute Nancy, to kidnap Olive and bring him to Fagin> Fagin then sends Oliver with Sikes to rob a house. Again, Oliver is caught while Sikes escapes. Oliver is again nursed back to health by those he tried to rob (however unwillingly, and he spends a wonderful summer with Mrs. Maylie, and her adopted niece Rose. However, the still mysterious Monks persists in trying to capture Oliver and when Nancy tries to warn Rose, she is brutally murdered by Sikes who later dies escaping as he accidentally hangs himself. Finally after Nancy is murdered all of the truth is revealed. Monks is Oliver's half brother. Oliver knew nothing about his father but it seems that he was the product of an adulterous affair between wealthy Mr. Leeford and a woman named Agnes Fleming. His father had died and had left money to Oliver on the condition that he have a good reputation. Rose is actually the sister of Oliver's mother and thus his aunt. Fagin is executed. Monks goes to the United States and the Artful Dodger is sent to Australia. Dickens uses the Artful Dodger's trial to make a strong statement on the lack of opportunity for the poor and the evils of industrialization in England. Oliver is adopted by the Brownlow's and most assuredly lives happily ever after.