Oliver Twist! (June, 2012)

I’m thinking I might change tack on the way I put up these posts, I’ll try to make it more like a proper analysis column.


Anyway, on to business. I just finished Oliver Twist the other day.


Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.


Dickens has a unique way of putting his point across. Oliver Twist is a work which comments on British society in a most sarcastic way, with two clear contrasts between the negative and positive aspects of both Oliver’s life and society. As a reader, I often found myself wanting to hug Oliver because of his constantly worsening situation throughout the novel, and it’s that emotional connection which I believe is a big part of what makes this work popular and timeless.


Another interesting point about the work is the way that Dickens concludes the work, with the death of Sikes, Fagin and their other compatriots’ downfalls. This rounds off the work neatly, and gives the reader that sense of assurance that Oliver will live on happily ever after. I found this assurance was constantly left wanting throughout the work, until about halfway when he meets Rose Maylie after the burglary. Even then, there is still a lingering sense of worry and panic when he is recovering from his ordeal at the hands of the ‘robbers’, as Dickens so simply calls the gang which kept Oliver down. Given that, it was a massive relief to finally see Oliver’s story end on a more positive note.


Dickens’ writing style… that’s a bit to get used to. I’m guessing it’s just a commonality of old-style English, where they use a lot of words but don’t necessarily get to the point until about eight sentences later. I found myself having to read a few passages twice, even three times, to garner their complete meaning. I think if I read more of his works, then I might get used to it. It’s a bit like Shakespeare- the more you read, the easier it becomes to understand what they’re talking about.


Favourite characters… Oliver for starters. Mr Brownlow, Mrs Maylie. I found Rose slightly too feminine and earnest, though noble in her purpose. Despite Sikes being an antagonist, I appreciated the way that Dickens took careful attention to detail with his description, as well as with Fagin but not quite so much. The full power of just how nasty the man was came through quite clearly, especially when he first turned up. The impact was palpable.


I think Monks’ role in the work would have come across more clearly had Dickens not danced around his character with words so much. But, on the flipside this ambiguity was necessary. If it hadn’t been there (the ambiguity, that is) then when his role finally was revealed (I won’t say it, spoilers!) it wouldn’t have had as much impact.


Other quirks with the work were Dickens’ use of chapter headings, and writing with the voice of a biographer. It gives a much more personal aspect to the story and makes it more believable for the reader, as if they’re reading a draft copy of a work that will be published. On this level, Dickens allows the reader to form a connection with him, as the author, as well as Oliver as the main character.


So I hope that was informative. I’ve got a few other Dickens works, which I’ll definitely have to read once I’m through my other books.


All the best for the week and happy reading!


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