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Oliver Twist (Norton Critical Edition) by…
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Oliver Twist (Norton Critical Edition)

by Charles Dickens

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I am not at all an admirer of Dickens. (I think him mawkishly sentimental.) I have rated this edition of Oliver Twist with three-and-a-half***, however, basing my rating primarily on the quality of the Norton Critical Edition rather than my personal liking or disliking of the novel itself.

Three-and-a-half based on the quality of the supplementary materials and critical essays, including brief excerpts from Henry James and George Gissing. Among more recent work, I particularly liked "The Loves of Oliver Twist" by Garry Wills.

Two quarrels. I would have liked to have seen the complete set of Cruikshank illustrations rather than the few samples. Considering that these illustrations should all be readily available in public domain, I see no reason for their omission.

Also, there could have been a better map of London. The Huntingdon Library version, apparently a copy or facsimile of an 1828 map, is difficult to read, aggravated by its being split between two facing pages.

Overall, this NCE is a worthwhile addition to any academic library, but it could bear being supplemented with an edition (Oxford?) with complete Cruikshank illustrations. ( )
  CurrerBell | Apr 28, 2012 |
This book was quite a shift from my previous reads for this month (The Kite Runner and The Confession). Being over 500 pages long, this book is faced with the difficult task of capturing not only a reader’s attention, but quickly and enough so that its daunting length won’t discourage a hopeful mind from reaching the second chapter. Fortunately, Dickens does a splendid job of immediately placing Oliver in a situation that is bound to bring trouble. Oliver becomes a ward of the state when his mother dies in childbirth and, due to Dickens’ masterful use of foreshadowing and “doom and gloom”, readers are constantly turning the page wondering what horrid spot Oliver will find himself in next. I wouldn’t recommend this book for someone who likes a fast read because one does need to follow the story carefully to pick up the subtleties that are woven into each chapter; Dickens doesn’t have chapters for the sake of having chapters. Oddly enough, the narrator even informs the reader at one point that the chapter might appear to be pointless, but then adds that it most certainly is not and should be paid close attention to. I picked this book off the shelf because I recognized the title as a classic and I definitely was not disappointed after completing it. I would recommend Oliver Twist to anyone who has a little (well, maybe more than a little…) time on their hands and is looking for a tale about the adventures of a young boy.

Blake G.
  FolkeB | Jan 30, 2011 |
The opening chapters of Oliver are excellent, which includes the famous "Please sir, may I have some more". Essentially the book was intended as a social criticism of the "Poor Law" of 1835 which forced the working or non-working poor who needed public assistance into "workhouses".

Dickens began writing it as a series of short stories in a weekly paper, thus it has cliff hangers like a TV show, and mid-way he en devoured to make it a novel. Plot wise, the story is at times overly complicated, but it is an easy page turner. The plot is unbelievable, it relies heavily on extra-ordinary circumstances and coincidences, not unlike a TV show. The characters and descriptions of London are the strong points.

Dickens believed that everyone was born either good or evil and could not change their nature--because Oliver is born good, he is incorruptible--the plot revolves around Olivers attempted corruption by a bevy of dastardly characters. Thus, Oliver is essentially a flat uninteresting character, while all the interesting fully fleshed out characters are the evil ones who have free reign to do whatever they wished. Who can forget the Artful Dodger? Fagin the Jew?

England during this time was undergoing the early phases of the Industrial Revolution as well as the effects of the Enclosure Acts which meant London was being flooded with poor peasants from the countryside ("greens") who had no way to earn a living from the land anymore which had been "closed off" to them. This excess rural population was essentially exterminated through the severe laws, such as the Poor Law, and living conditions of London (many die in the book of "sickness"), and the novel portrays the history at a grassroots personal level. Many of these folks naturally turned to crime and Dickens shows how it was sometimes (not always) a result of circumstances and not innate moral defect.

Most of the book takes place in the black holes of London's seedy side of thieves, prostitutes and murderers. The dialog and cockney accents are priceless. The descriptions of places are so good clearly Dickens went there himself which makes the book historical fiction and worthy of study on the account of time travel and feel for a place and time.

I read the book with a Norton Critical Edition by sheer luck, it contains excellent footnotes on English terminology that would have otherwise been lost and made it a much richer experience.

The 1948 movie follows the book exactly including dialog. It is abridged of course, but thats a good thing since Dickens added so much fluff the screenplay makes for a more gripping story by keeping to the essentials of the plot. The costumes and set props really bring Dickensian London to life. Best of all is Robert Newton who plays Billy Sykes.. Newton is of course beady eyed Long John Silver from Disney's movie adaption, and the International Talk Like A Pirate Day mascot. He is one of my favorite actors (and should be yours too). Get it, rent it, buy it.. but read the book first so you'll appreciate it even more.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Twist ( )
  Stbalbach | Jul 2, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 039396292X, Paperback)

This Norton Critical Edition of a Dickens favorite reprints the 1846 text, the last edition of the novel substantially revised by Dickens and the one that most clearly reflects his authorial intentions.

The editor has corrected printers’ errors and annotated unfamiliar terms and allusions.

Three illustrations by George Cruikshank and a map of Oliver's London accompany the text.

"Backgrounds and Sources" focuses on The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, central both to Dickens and to the characters in Oliver Twist. The act’s far-reaching implications are considered in source materials that include parlimentary debates on The Poor Laws, a harrowing account of an 1835 Bedfordshire riot, and "An Appeal to Fallen Women," Dickens’ 1847 open letter to London’s prostitutes urging them to turn their backs on "debauchery and neglect."

Ten letters on Oliver Twist, written between 1837 and 1864, are reprinted, including those to the novel’s publisher, the novel’s illustrator, and John Forster, Dickens’ close friend and future biographer.

In addition, readers can trace the evolution of the novel by examining Dickens’ installment and chapter-division plans and enjoy "Sikes and Nancy," the text of a public reading Dickens composed and performed often to large audiences.

"Early Reviews" provides eight witty, insightful, and at times impassioned responses to the novel and to Oliver’s plight by William Makepeace Thackeray and John Forster (anonymously), among others.

"Criticism" includes twenty of the most significant interpretations of Oliver Twist published in this century. Included are essays by Henry James, George Gissing, Graham Greene, J. Hillis Miller, Harry Stone, Philip Collins, John Bayley, Keith Hollingsworth, Steven Marcus, Monroe Engel, James R. Kincaid, Michael Slater, Dennis Walder, Burton M. Wheeler, Janet Larson, Fred Kaplan, Robert Tracy, David Miller, John O. Jordan, and Gary Wills.

A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:23 -0400)

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