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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist (original 1837; edition 1996)

by Charles Dickens

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13,339125165 (3.84)556
Title:Oliver Twist
Authors:Charles Dickens
Info:Public Domain Books (1996), Kindle Edition, 536 pages
Collections:Your library

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1837)

  1. 74
    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Leishai)
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    Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (KingdomOfOdd)
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    Jack Dawkins by Charlton Daines (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Unauthorised sequel about the life of the Artful Dodger as an adult when he returns to England.
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    The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (derelicious)
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    The Adventures of Nathaniel Swubble: The Story of a Parish Boy's Childhood by Lilian Margaret Spencer (millylitre)

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There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed. In the latter chapters, the action picked up and Dickens did a great job of keeping the intensity up and leading the reader along, something I imagine would be especially important for a book published in episodes.

I also liked how innocent Oliver was, always trying to do the right thing despite the circumstances. He seemed a little too good to be true, but I liked him so much, I didn't mind that he was a bit unbelievable. He just had so much spirit.

One thing I don't quite understand in a lot of these 19th-century books is how easily people fall ill. Emotional strain or just a walk in the cold can put them into fits or lay them low with a life-threatening fever. Were people back then really that delicate, or were the pathogens present in 19th-century London just so dangerous and ready to pounce that people were always a head cold away from death? What were these mysterious fevers people were always getting?

The most unpleasant part about the book is Dickens's insistence on referring to Fagin primarily as "The Jew". According to the notes at the end of my version, Dickens responded to critics who claimed his portrayal of Fagin was anti-Semitic by saying that at the time the story took place, most of those in Fagin's line of work were Jews. I don't know if this is true or not, but the way that he calls him "The Jew" at least as often as he calls him by name suggests that he's actually saying he's in that line of work because he's Jewish, which is a very different thing than just saying he's in that line of work and happens to be Jewish.

In addition, there's a scene in which Oliver sees Fagin and shouts, "The Jew! The Jew!" It seemed strange to me that Oliver would have referred to him like that because I thought other characters generally referred to Fagin by name, and Oliver would have done the same.

And then there's the way that Dickens time and again describes Fagin in ways that suggest he's less than human, like in chapter 47 when Dickens says that Fagin "disclosed among his toothless gums a few such fangs as should have been a dog's or rat's." I don't recall Dickens comparing other non-Jewish characters to animals in this way.

I also considered the possibility that Dickens was just writing about Fagin as the culture at the time would have seen him, but I could buy this notion a lot better if these nasty things were said only by other characters in the story, but by and large, it's not other characters who are saying these things; it's our narrator (whom I read as Dickens). All of this suggests to me that Dickens's portrayal of Fagin wasn't merely a reflection of the demographics of a particular type of criminal in London at that time but truly was (and is) anti-Semitic.

But aside from this admittedly very large part of the book, I enjoyed the story. I nearly always enjoy Dickens's dark storytelling and psychologically tormented characters, and I find the female characters in his book refreshingly strong-willed (refreshing because not every strong-willed woman is punished for it (though most of them are)).
( )
  ImperfectCJ | Nov 6, 2014 |
There were certain points in the story where I found it hard to follow what was going on. I found the ending especially confusing. But other than that, I enjoyed the story. I plan on watching a couple movie renditions to see if I can better understand what was going on. ( )
  boredness | Oct 26, 2014 |
I was a late convert to Charles Dickens. Having recently read and greatly enjoyed Dickens’s Great Expectations, David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities, I elected to purchase several other of his works. Oliver Twist was the first of these novels that I read, and sadly found to be not up to the standards of the three works cited above.

Many have seen the musical Oliver and other are certainly familiar with the story and many of the characters (Fagin, Bill Sykes and the Artful Dodger). Oliver became an orphan soon after birth and found himself in the tragic, hopeless life that met such destitute characters in Victorian England. After finally escaping from an abusive apprenticeship, he finds himself bounced back and forth between the mean streets of London (under the control of Fagin and Sykes) and the tender mercies of upper class patrons who take pity upon his condition (both physical and financial).

Having read several Dickens works prior to this one, I was aware that a period of acclimation is required before becoming comfortable with both the language and the cultural landscape, however the comfort that I eventually attained in the previous novels was more difficult to come by here. Deep into the book I found myself having a problem following some of the prose. Most frustrating, at the key point in the narrative where “all is explained”, I was at great pains to understand much of what was being related.

In addition, the book is very predictable and strains credibility in several instances. Quite simply, this is by far the weakest of the Dickens books I have sampled to date. ( )
1 vote santhony | Oct 23, 2014 |
Six-word review: Deservedly classic tale of orphan's survival.

Extended review:

Despite its verbosity, sentimentality, and exaggerated characterizations, how can you not love this book? Like a dog at your feet, it's there to be loved. What else are you going to do with it?

It also turns out to be much more satirical than I ever realized. Social commentary, yes, expected; but satire? I didn't know. For example:

Mr. Bumble...had a decided propensity for bullying: derived no inconsiderable pleasure from the exercise of petty cruelty; and, consequently, was (it is needless to say) a coward. This is by no means a disparagement to his character; for many official personages, who are held in high respect and admiration, are the victims of similar infirmities. The remark is made, indeed, rather in his favour than otherwise, and with a view of impressing the reader with a just sense of his qualifications for office.

Dickens misses no opportunity to underscore the social ills of his time and place and to distribute ample helpings of blame freely up and down the social scale. He also holds us captive with a story that keeps us reading and soaking up his message.

So here they all are, the characters we know so well in so many incarnations, embedded as they are in the cultures of the English-speaking world and probably well beyond: the ever-so-good good guys: tender, mistreated Oliver; kindly, open-hearted Mr. Brownlow; sweet, sweet Rose, so impossibly angelic that it's a wonder she doesn't suffocate of her own virtue; and poor brave, doomed Nancy, without whom nothing could have turned out right; and the bad guys, not one of whom is without at least some small spark of sympathetic humanity to argue for redemption: sadistic Mr. Bumble; cocky Artful Dodger; unregenerate, duplicitous Fagin; mysterious, menacing Monks; and cruel, brutal Bill Sikes, a monster who comes to a fitting end that yet inspires horror.

Of the rambling story with its odd, protracted word-count-stretching digressions and amazing coincidences I have no comment to add to the immense body of commentary on the literature of Dickens: but to say that the story is brightest in single scenes and episodes, with the long arc serving mainly to string those together. It's in those vignettes that the brilliance of Dickens' characterization is displayed, and that, indeed, is why we fall in love. ( )
1 vote Meredy | Sep 1, 2014 |
Yet another Dickens down. The 1001 list is cram full of them. Twist is bit like Pride & Prejudice; a lot of us know the storyline but have never actually read the novel. Well, now I have. So there.

I was quite surprised at how different the novel was from what I remember having seen it in various film and theatre versions. There’s a lot more focus on Oliver himself and less on his peers (e.g. the Artful Dodger) than I thought there would be. And he spends far less time in the hands of criminals than I expected too. But these issues could just be caused by my faulty memory of what I’ve seen.

The storyline is pretty fast-paced, making it, unlike other Dickens on the list you might pick up, a pretty quick read. But it’s not as gripping as some others because this, being Dickens’ second novel, doesn’t have characters that are as fleshed out and intriguing as later efforts by the genius.

It’s the first time that he gets his teeth into the social and class issues that would be a major theme of his work and you can see the genesis of later characters such as the also orphaned Pip from Great Expectations. The plot however, is a little contrived with a few too many coincidences for my comfort.

On the whole, if you’ve read works such as that which are far longer and far more detailed, Twist will probably disappoint. It’s great characters probably owe more to later visual depictions of them in film and on stage than from the novel itself. This is a very good novel mostly due to the foundation it laid for greater works, but it’s not as good as one might perhaps expect it to be. ( )
  arukiyomi | Aug 22, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (188 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cruikshank, GeorgeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fairclough, PeterEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ghiuselev, IassenIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heilig, Matthias R.abridged bysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoppé, E.O.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horne, PhillipEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
House, HumphryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howe, IrvingIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EdgarIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelk, C.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Comte, EdwardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Méndez Herrera, JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mahoneij, J.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Margolyes, MiriamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nix, GarthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oddera, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Lawrence BeallIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, AngusIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.
Please, sir, I want some more.
If the law supposes that, the law is a ass-- a idiot.
What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It's quite enough that we let 'em have live bodies.
"We have none of us long to wait for Death. Patience, patience! He'll be here soon enough for us all."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439742, Paperback)

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters—the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery. 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:55 -0400)

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Scathing in its indictment of a cruel society and pervaded by a sense of threat and mystery, this novel is peopled with some of the most famous characters in literature. Elements of the Gothic Romance jostle with those of the Newgate novel and popular melodrama forging a style entirely Dickens'.… (more)

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8 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439742, 0140439447, 0451529715, 0141031719, 0141322438, 0141192496, 0141198885, 1409311252

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