Charles Dickens Ö 9 CHARACTERS

CHARACTERS Ó Oliver Twist ´ ‘Please sir I want some ’Oliver is an orphan living on the dangerous London streets with no one but himself to rely on Fleeing from poverty and hardship he falls in with a criminal street gang who will not let him go however hard he tries to escapeIn Oliver Twist Dickens graphically conjures up the capital's underworld fullReet gang who will not let him go however hard he tries to escapeIn Oliver Twist Dickens graphically conjures up the capital's underworld full of prostitutes thieves and lost and homeless. I swear Dickens named one of his characters Master Bates on purpose

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Children and gives a voice to the disadvantaged and abusedAlso in the Vintage Classics Dickens Series A Christmas Carol A Tale of Two Cities David Copperfield Great Expectations Hard Tim. Oliver Twist is one of Charles Dickens's best known stories Characters such as the evil Fagin with his band of thieves and villains the Artful Dodger with all the airs and manners of a man the house breaker Sikes and his dog the conscience stricken but flawed Nancy the frail but determined Oliver and the arrogant and hypocritical beadle Mr Bumble have taken on a life of their own and passed into our culture Who does not recognise the sentence Please sir I want some or If the law says that then 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 experienceDramatisations of this story abound and there have been 25 films made of itso far Oliver Twist was appearing in 10 theatres in London before serialisation of the novel was even completed so how does the original novel hold up for a modern reader It seems pointless in this review to retell this famous story The excellent film by David Lean from 1948 is one of the most faithful to the book It stars Alec Guinness as Fagin Robert Newton as Bill Sikes and a young John Howard Davies as Oliver Twist Davis went on to work for the BBC as a producer all his life The subplot with Edward Leeman is largely missed out but that is inevitable in a short dramatisation The essence of the story is there and is true to Dickens as is much of his dialogue It's important to look not only at the writing style and construction but at the social conditions of the time and Dickens's own personal situation Oliver Twist; or the Parish Boy's Progress was written when he was only 25 and first published serially in Bentley's Miscellany where Dickens was editor from February 1837 to April 1839 Interestingly though it was not originally intended as a novel but as part of a series of sketches called the Mudfog Papers These were intended to be similar to the very popular Pickwick Papers Mudfog being heavily based on Chatham in Kent The Pickwick Papers had been phenomenally successful making Dickens famous He therefore decided to give up his job as a parliamentary reporter and journalist in November 1836 and to become a freelance writer But while The Pickwick Papers was still only halfway through being serialised his readers clamoured for a second novelThere must have been a lot of pressure on the young author to maintain such a high standard In addition to his writing and editing Dickens's personal life at the time was typically hectic In March 1837 he moved house Two months later his beloved sister in law Mary Hogarth died tragically young The grief he felt caused him to miss the deadlines for both The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist the only deadlines he ever missed in his entire writing career Four months later in October the final issue of Pickwick was published but the pressure did not let up In January of 1838 Dickens and his friend Hablot Knight Browne Phiz left for Yorkshire to do research for his next novel Nicholas Nickleby which itself started to be serialised two months later Interestingly it was not Browne who illustrated Oliver Twist although he had stepped into the breach before see my review of The Pickwick Papers and also went on to illustrate most of Dickens's further novels It was George Cruikshank and this is the only novel of Dickens he illustrated but that is another dramatic story Also in March Dickens's daughter Mary Mamie was born In November Dickens revised the monthly parts of Oliver Twist for the 3 volume book version the first instance where he was published under Charles Dickens instead of Boz The serial continued until April 1839 alongside serialisation of Nicholas Nickleby If we think that the novel's structure may not be as we would wish it is as well to bear in mind the constraints both of the time and of Dickens's own incredibly complicated personal circumstancesOliver Twist is very much the novel an angry young man would write seething with fury at the social injustices he observed It follows hot on the heels of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and the whole novel is a bitter indictment of that Act even to its satirical subtitle A Parish Boy's Progress This Act was a draconian tightening up of the Poor Law ensuring that poor people were no longer able to live at home and work at outside jobs The only help from the parish available to them now was to become inmates in the workhouse which operated on the principle that poverty was the conseuence of laziness; the dreadful conditions in the workhouse were intended to inspire the poor to better their own circumstancesDickens himself in these chapters constantly makes negative remarks about philosophers in this context It is possible he was thinking about the principles of Utilitarianism; a fashionable philosophy of the time responsible for such things as the high positioning of windows in many Victorian buildings placed so that children and workers would not be distracted by looking out of them According to Jeremy Bentham man's actions were governed by the will to avoid pain and strive for pleasure so the government's task was to increase the benefits of society by punishing and rewarding people according to their actionsBut as Dickens tells us with bitter sarcasm in chapter 2 the workhouse was little than a prison for the poor Civil liberties were denied families were separated and human dignity was destroyed The inadeuate diet instituted in the workhouse prompted his ironic comment that all poor people should have the alternative of being starved by a gradual process in the house or by a uick one out of itThe workhouse functions here as a sign of the moral hypocrisy of the working class The authorities in charge of the workhouse joke among themselves about feeding minute portions so that the inmates would stay small and thin thereby needing smaller coffins They complain about having to pay for burials again hoping for smaller corpses to bury Dickens writes a passionate diatribe against both the social conditions and the institutions His humour is there but it is a very black biting humour Sarcasm and irony are on every page; it's a far cry from The Pickwick Papers In these scenes set in the workhouse Dickens makes use of deep satire and hyperbolic statements Absurd characters and situations are presented as normal; he uses heavy sarcasm often saying the opposite of what he really means For example in describing the men of the parish board Dickens writes that they were very sage deep philosophical men who discover about the workhouse that the poor people liked it It was a regular place of public entertainment for the poorer classes; a tavern where there was nothing to payThe other recent legislation which is clearly in Dickens's mind in writing this novel is the Anatomy Act of 1832 Before 1832 only the bodies of murderers could be legally be used for dissection by medical students This had been partly responsible for the brisk trade in bodysnatching But after the Anatomy Act unclaimed bodies from prisons and workhouses were used The terrifying thought of having their bodies dissected after death became yet another powerful deterrent to entering the workhouse system Dickens is clearly thinking of this recent Act in the first few pages when Oliver's mother's body disappears The fact that the poor young woman who dies in its opening pages was being dissected while her son was being starved has a grotesue significanceThere is uite a marked difference in style when the character of Oliver moves away from the workhouse The author's voice becomes less acrimonious and bitter There is concentration on the story and also gross exaggeration of the characters for comic effect rather than proselytising Apparently when Dickens was writing instalments of both The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist he would sit down to write the sardonic early episodes of Oliver Twist first and then reward himself with a little light relief of The Pickwick Papers The change in style probably coincides with the conclusion of The Pickwick PapersSurprisingly many of the grotesue characters were based on people in real life who performed similar unbelievably atrocious acts The character of Fagin for instance was modelled on a notorious Jewish fence by the name of Ikey Solomon Dickens also sited him in a real location where the notorious eighteenth century thief Jonathan Wild had his hideout Its shops were well known for selling silk handkerchiefs bought from pickpockets Dickens' letters allude to this when my handkerchief is gone that I may see it flaunting with renovated beauty in Field lane There's also the ruthless magistrate Mr Fang who is entirely based on an actual person who could well have been even severe in reality In a letter dated June 3 1837 Dickens wrote to his friend Thomas Haines In my next number of Oliver Twist I must have a magistratewhose harshness and insolence would render him a fit subject to be shewn upI havestumbled upon Mr Laing of Hatton Garden celebrity Laing was a police magistrate but was dismissed by the Home Secretary for abuse of his power Dickens even went so far as to ask Haines who was an influential police reporter to smuggle him into the office so he could get an accurate physical description of Laing It makes the reader wonder whether Mrs Corney Mrs Sowerberry and others also have their counterparts in reality Dickens had previously studied and sketched the office of beadle in Sketches by Boz so the harsh hypocritical behaviour of Mr Bumble could well have started with thatSome of the action too is based on real events For example when Nancy went to the gaol to enuire after Oliver she had a conversation with a prisoner who was in there for playing the flute This sounds very far fetched But in November 1835 Dickens had reported on Mr Laing throwing a muffin boy in jail for ringing a muffin bell in Hatton Garden while Laing's court was sitting Again the reader wonders if other parts of Dickens's story had some basis in fact It says a lot for Dickens's prodigious talent that he could take such examples and weave them into such a captivating whole Sometimes he employs deus ex machina Where the plot seems to be impossible to resolve without a contrived and unexpected intervention he will create some new event character or object to surprise his audience or as a comedic device For all the readers' willing suspension of disbelief it sometimes seems clear that Dickens has painted himself into a corner and sees no other way out Dickens is often criticised for his use of coincidence and he uses deus ex machina here to bring the tale of Oliver Twist to a happy ending We are told that characters whom we have been following know each other or happen to be related It does not really seem necessary to excuse the use of this device as it has so many precedents in literature of the Ancient Greeks and also gives us the happy ending we so much desire The goodies live happily ever after the baddies get an entertaining variety of just desserts As well as the criticism of coincidences that is often levelled at Dickens one of the main criticisms of Oliver Twist has always been the apparent antisemitism shown in the author's portrayal of Fagin as a dirty Jew Fagin is introduced in the first chapters; Dickens often using symbols and descriptions which are normally reserved for the Devil When we first meet Fagin we find him roasting some sausages on an open fire with a toasting fork in his hand which is then mentioned twice In the next chapter we find Fagin holding a fire shovel Also the term the merry old gentleman seems to be a euphemistic term for the DevilIn the original text it is clear that Fagin is a personification of evil both by his intentions and by his behaviour In short the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils Having prepared his mind by solitude and gloom to prefer any society to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary place he was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it and change its hue forever And in this description he seems barely human It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad As he glided stealthily along creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved crawling forth by night in search of some rich offal for a mealThere is a further interpretation of Fagin Victorian society placed a lot of value and emphasis on industry capitalism and individualism And who embodies this most successfully Fagin who operates in the illicit businesses of theft and prostitution His philosophy is that the group's interests are best maintained if every individual looks out for himself saying a regard for number one holds us all together and must do so unless we would all go to pieces in company This is indeed heavy irony on Dickens's part and adds to Fagin's multi layered personalityApparently Dickens expressed surprise when the Jewish community immediately complained about the depiction of Fagin Sadly in 1837 antisemitism was still rife and ingrained into English society With all great authors we hope that they will somehow manage to step outside the s of their time but maybe we expect too much Up to a point Dickens did manage to do that later When he eventually came to sell his London residence he sold the lease of Tavistock House to a Jewish family he had befriended as an attempt to make restitution Letters of Charles Dickens 1833 1870 include this sentence in the narrative to 1860 This winter was the last spent at Tavistock HouseHe made arrangements for the sale of Tavistock House to Mr Davis a Jewish gentleman and he gave up possession of it in SeptemberThere is other additional evidence of a rethink When editing Oliver Twist for the Charles Dickens edition of his works in 1846 he substantially revised the work for this single volume eliminating most references to Fagin as the Jew And in his last completed novel Our Mutual Friend 1864 Dickens created Riah a positive Jewish character There are not many shades of grey in this highly coloured melodrama Of the goodies and baddies it is the baddies whom we mostly remember Even Sikes's dog Bullseye falls into the baddies' camp Mr Sikes's dog having faults of temper in common with his owner and labouring perhaps at this moment under a powerful sense of injuryfixed his teeth in one of the halfboots By this amusing uip Dickens makes the dog a symbolic emblem of his owner's character He is vicious just as Sikes has an animal like brutality In fact many of the characters are named according to their vices There is the vicious magistrate Mr FangMrs Mann who farms the infants sent to her is named to show that she has none of the maternal instincts Dickens considers necessary for this task Mr Bumble is a greedy arrogant bumbling hypocritical procrastinator proposing marriage by these words Coals candles and house rent freeOh Mrs Corney what a angel you areSuch porochial perfectionBlathers and Duff are two fairly incompetent coppers and incidentally possibly the earliest example in fiction of police detectives Rose Maylie echoes the character's association with flowers and springtime youth and beauty Toby Crackit refers humorously to his chosen profession of breaking into houses The curmudgeonly Mr Grimwig has only a superficial grimness which can be removed as easily as a wigBut the main character's name of Oliver Twist is the most obvious example Although it was given him by accident it alludes to the outrageous twists of fortune that he will experience Yet another connotation comes from an English card game called pontoon where a player asks the dealer for cards to try to total exactly 21 points Originally it was a French gambling game called vingt et un and favoured by Napoleon who died in 1821 well before this novel was written In the English version the player asks for ie another card by saying the word Twist Dickens is clearly having a little joke with his readers Oliver Twist himself isn't a fully rounded character He is of a mouthpiece or a character created to arouse public emotion and anger against the treatment of poor children The whole novel is a a vehicle of criticism a social commentary entertaining but overcoloured and melodramatic It is very much the sort of thing Dickens would imagine performed on stageThe hyperbole gets a bit much sometimes and there are sentimental speeches such as this one from Little Dick written entirely for effect to pull at our heart strings I heard them tell the doctor I was dying replied the child with a faint smile I am very glad to see you dear; but don't stopI know the doctor must be right Oliver because I dream so much of Heaven and Angels and kind faces that I never see when I am awake Kiss meGoodb'ye dear God bless youOliver Twist is a perfect example of persuasive fiction It is like a morality play in narrative form with the author continually instructing his readers about the iniuities of social conditions But it has the faults of a young man's novel He has not yet learnt how to tailor his passions to the purpose creating either characters as a sort of Everyman or grotesues the comic characters we love so muchSome of the writing is mawkishly oversentimental But some episodes are gripping view spoilerFagin's desperate and terrified descent into madness when he is about to be hanged and Sikes's murder of Nancy hide spoiler

SUMMARY Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist‘Please sir I want some ’Oliver is an orphan living on the dangerous London streets with no one but himself to rely on Fleeing from poverty and hardship he falls in with a criminal st. Oliver Twist THE BOOK is crap and has NO songs in it I couldn't believe it So I googled and get this it turns out they put those in the movie and Dickens had nothing to do with it But since they were the best bit of the film you can understand my horror and bereft sense of disappointment when I finally came to pick up the book How could Dickens NOT have thought of having little Oliver sing Where Is Love when chucked into the cellar or Who Will Buy This Loverly Morning when he wakes up in his posh houseI mean yeah he was supposed to be good wasn't he And please note the edition I read was not a Readers Digest Condensed Edition When you DON'T have Fagin capering about warbling In this life one thing counts In the bank large amountsI'm afraid these don't grow on treesYou got to pick a pocket or two with that pederastic twinkle in his eyes as he surveys his small boys then alas I'm sorry to say that what you're left with is a bit of an antisemitic caricature lashed to a morality tale whose immoral moral appears to be that rich is good poor is bad and you better get yourself a deus ex machina in the form of a very unlikely sugardaddy to magic you out of the poorhouse or the rats will eat your bollocks your bones will turn to dust and be blown away and no one will ever hire cute kids to pretend to be you on stage or screen and melt our hearts and win Oscars and Tonys Which I think we all knew