Dr. M. Fahmy Raiyah
British novelist Charles Dickens
was born February 7, 1812, in
Portsmouth, England, the second
of eight children.
The family’s financial situation
had grown dire, as Charles’s
father, John Dickens was always
living beyond the family’s means.
In 1822, the Dickens family
moved to Camden Town, a poor
neighborhood in London. John
was then sent to prison for debt
in 1824, when Charles was just 12
years old. All the family, except
Charles, went with him.
To help support the family, Charles Dickens was
forced to leave school to work at a boot-blacking
This early degrading experience had a shattering
and lasting experience on him. He felt abandoned
and neglected. He was also introduced to the
world of the working poor, where child laborers
were abused and ill-treated.
When his father received a family inheritance and
used it to pay off his debts, Dickens was back to
school. But in 1827, he had to drop out of school
and work as an office boy at an attorney's, while
he studied shorthand at night.
From 1830 he worked as a shorthand reporter in
the courts and afterwards as a parliamentary
and newspaper reporter.
In 1833 Dickens began to contribute short
stories and essays to periodicals under the
Dickens's first book, a collection of stories titled
Sketches by Boz, was published in 1836.
In 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth,
daughter of the editor of the Evening Chronicle.
Together they had 10 children before they
separated in 1858.
In 1836, Dickens became editor for Bentley’s
Miscellany of which Pickwick Papers (1836-1837)
was first serialized.
Most of his novels were first serialised in
monthly magazines as was a common practice of
the time. Oliver Twist between 1837 and 1839
was followed by Nicholas Nickleby (1838-
1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841),
and Barnaby Rudge (1841) and A Christmas
From 1849 to 1850, Dickens worked on David
Copperfield. He then published Bleak
House (1852-53), Hard Times (1854), Little
Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859),
and Great Expectations (1861).
In the closing years of his life, Dickens worsened
his declining health by giving numerous readings.
Charles Dickens died at home on June 9, 1870.
Dickens's novels were works of social
commentary. He was a harsh critic of the poverty
and social division of the Victorian society.
Oliver Twist is born in a workhouse, and
his mother dies immediately after his birth.
Oliver’s mother has been found lying in the
streets the night before. The surgeon notices
that she is not wearing a wedding ring.
Authorities at the workhouse send Oliver to a
branch run by Mrs. Mann, who receives a sum
for each child she keeps, but she takes most of
the money and lets the children go hungry, or
even letting them die. On Oliver’s ninth
birthday, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, informs
Mrs. Mann that Oliver is too old to stay anymore
with her and that he must return to the
The narrator sarcastically comments on the
generosity and kindness of the workhouse
authorities, who offer the poor the opportunity
to starve slowly instead of starving quickly on
the streets. Oliver and the boys with him suffer
the “tortures of slow starvation.” One night, a
child tells the others that if he does not have
another bowl of gruel, he might eat one of
them. Terrified, the children cast lots to choose
someone to ask for more food for the boy.
Oliver is selected to ask for more. Mr. Bumble
is shocked and runs to transfer the horrific
news to the board. They decide to offer five
pounds to anyone who will take Oliver.
In the parish, Oliver has been flogged and
locked in a dark room as an example. Mr.
Gamfield, a cruel chimneysweep, offers to take
Oliver on as an apprentice. Because several boys
have died under his supervision, the board
considers five pounds too large a reward, and
they settle on just three pounds. Oliver begs that
they do not send him with this hideous man.
The magistrate refuses to give him to the man.
Mr. Sowerberry, the parish undertaker, takes
Oliver as his apprentice. Mrs. Sowerberry
remarks that Oliver is rather small. Mr. Bumble
assures her that he will grow, but she grumbles
that he will only grow by eating their food. Mrs.
Sowerberry serves Oliver the leftovers that the
dog has declined to eat. Oliver devours the food
as though it were a great feast. After he finishes,
Mrs. Sowerberry leads him to his bed, worrying
that his appetite seems so large.
In the morning he hears someone kicking at the
outside door. It turns out to be Noah Claypole,
Sowerberry’s apprentice, who tells Oliver that he is his
superior. Noah and Charlotte, the maid, tease Oliver
Because of Oliver's melancholy appearance,
Sowerberry makes Oliver serve at children's funerals as a
mute. Noah Claypole becomes jealous. One day, he insults
Oliver’s dead mother. Oliver attacks him in a fury.
Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry rush to Noah’s aid, and the
three of them beat Oliver and lock him in the cellar. Noah
rushes to fetch Mr. Bumble. Mr. Bumble says that this is
the result of feeding meat to Oliver. When Sowerberry
returns home, he beats Oliver, and locks him up again.
Early the next morning, Oliver runs away.
Oliver takes the long trip to London. At the
outskirts of London, he meets a boy named
Jack Dawkins, who buys food for Oliver and
tells him about a gentleman who will let Oliver
stay in his home for free. Jack’s nickname is
“the Artful Dodger.” Dawkins takes Oliver to a
dirty neighborhood and into an old house.
There he meets Fagin and a large group of
boys. Oliver is very tired and sleeps.
The next morning, Fagin takes out a box full of
jewelry and watches. When he notices that Oliver
was observing him, Fagin grabs a knife and asks
Oliver if he has seen anything. Oliver says he was not,
and Fagin regains his kindly conduct. The Artful
Dodger returns with another boy, named Charley
Bates. Fagin asks if they worked hard that morning.
The Dodger produces two pocketbooks, and Charley
pulls out four handkerchiefs. Dodger and Charley
practice picking Fagin’s pockets. Two young women,
Bet and Nancy, drop in. Fagin lets Oliver practice
taking a handkerchief out of his pocket and gives him
a shilling for a job well done.
• Why do you think Dodger takes Oliver to
Why is Fagin angry, to begin with, when Oliver
• Why do Fagin, Dodger and Charley play a game
Finally, Fagin sends Oliver out with the Dodger
and Charley to “work.” After some time, the
Dodger notices a gentleman absorbed in reading at
a bookstall. Oliver watches with horror as Charley
and the Dodger sneak up behind the man and steal
his handkerchief. Thinking that Oliver is the thief,
the gentleman raises a cry. The Dodger and Charley
see Oliver running past them, so they join in, crying,
“Stop thief!” A large crowd joins the pursuit. A
police officer arrives and takes Oliver to the police
station. The gentleman who was robbed asks the
police officer not to hurt Oliver and follows them to
the police station.
Oliver is put in a cell before his appearance
before Mr. Fang, the judge. Mr. Brownlow, the
gentleman, says that he does not want to press
charges. Oliver faints in the courtroom, and Mr.
Fang sentences him to three months of hard
labor. The owner of the bookstall comes to the
court and tells Mr. Fang that he saw two other
boys stealing. So, Oliver is cleared of all charges.
Brownlow takes Oliver home with him.
Oliver has a fever for days. When he awakes,
Mrs. Bedwin, Brownlow’s housekeeper, is
watching over him. because she is so kind to him,
Oliver says that he feels as if his mother has come
to sit by him. Oliver’s story makes Mrs. Bedwin
weep. Oliver sees a portrait of a young woman
which affects him greatly.
Mr. Brownlow notices with astonishment that
Oliver closely resembles the young lady in the
Fagin is enraged when the Dodger and Charley
return without Oliver. Bill Sikes, a rough, cruel man,
who makes his living by robbing houses, enters. They
are determined to find Oliver before he tells about
them to the authorities. They want Nancy to go to
the police station to find out what happened to him.
Nancy goes to the police station, pretending to
be Oliver’s sister. She knows that Oliver is taken by
the gentleman home because the boy had fallen ill
during the trial. Fagin sends Charley, Jack, and Nancy
to Pentonville to find Oliver.
Fagin prepares to move to another place.
Mr. Brownlow wants to send Oliver to
the bookstall with some returned books
and a payment. Mr. Grimwig, Brownlow’s
friend, hints that Oliver might steal the
payment and the books. To prove Grimwig
wrong, Brownlow sends Oliver on the
errand. It grows dark and Oliver does not
Nancy appears in Oliver’s way to the
bookstall. She tells everyone on the street
that Oliver is her runaway brother who joined
a band of thieves, and that she is taking him
back home to their parents. Everyone ignores
Oliver’s protests. Bill Sikes joins, and he and
Nancy drag Oliver through the dark
• Mr. Brownlow notices that Oliver bears a close resemblance
• Why are Fagin and Sikes keen to bring Oliver back?
• How does Nancy get information about Oliver’s whereabouts?
• On what errand does Oliver leave Mr Brownlow’s house?
• What happened to Oliver on his errand for Mr. Brownlow?
Nancy, Sikes, and Oliver arrive at an old
house. Oliver calls for help and flees, but Sikes
threatens to set his vicious dog, Bullseye, on
him. Nancy defends Oliver, saying that they have
ruined the boy’s life like they did with hers.
Fagin tries to beat Oliver for his escape attempt,
and Nancy attacks Fagin in a rage. Sikes catches
Nancy by the wrists, and she faints. They take
Oliver’s new fine clothes, Brownlow’s money,
and the books.
Mr. Brownlow publishes an advertisement
offering a reward for information about Oliver’s
place or his past. Mr. Bumble notices it in the
paper and quickly goes to Brownlow’s home.
Mr. Bumble tells about Oliver’s immoral
behaviour and treachery. Although Mr.
Brownlow is deeply hurt by Bumble's
information about Oliver, he believes it and says
that he never wants to hear Oliver’s name
mentioned again. Mrs. Bedwin, however,
refuses to believe Mr. Bumble.
For many days, Oliver is locked in his room.
Fagin gradually allows Oliver to spend more
time in the other boys’ company, who try to
convince him of learning to be a thief from
Fagin and talk about the profits of their type of
CHAPTERS 19- 21
Sikes plans to rob a house, but he needs a
small boy for the job. Fagin suggests that Oliver
be used in this job. Nancy brings Oliver to
Sikes’ home. Oliver considers calling for help
on the streets, but Nancy warns him that he
could get both of them into deep trouble. They
arrive at Sikes’s residence, and Sikes warns
Oliver that if he causes any trouble, he will kill
him. At five in the morning, they prepare to
leave for the job. Sikes takes Oliver on a long
journey to the town of Shepperton. They arrive
Sikes goes with Oliver and Toby Crackit,
Sikes’ partner, to rob the house. Sikes tells
Oliver to enter the house through a tiny
window and open the street door to let them
in. Oliver plans to go upstairs and warn the
family. Sikes lowers him through the window.
However, the residents of the house awake,
and one shoots Oliver’s arm. Sikes pulls Oliver
back through the window. He flees with the
CHAPTERS 23 - 24
Old Sally, a woman under Mrs. Corney’s
care, is close to death and wishes to tell Mrs.
Corney, the matron of the workhouse,
something. She confesses that she once robbed
a woman in her care. The woman had been
found pregnant on the road, and Sally had
attended the childbirth. The woman had given
Sally a gold locket, saying it might lead to
people who would care for the child. The child’s
name was Oliver.
CHAPTER 25 - 26
Crackit arrives at Fagin’s. Fagin has learned
from the newspapers that the robbery has
failed. Crackit informs Fagin that Oliver has
been shot and that he and Sikes fled, leaving
Oliver in a ditch.
Fagin tells Nancy what happened to Oliver,
and Nancy cries that she hopes Oliver is dead,
because she believes that living with Fagin is
worse than death.
Monks goes to Fagin. Monks was looking
Mr. Bumble tells Mrs. Corney that he
might become master of the workhouse as
the current master is dying. He promises to
marry Mrs. Corney.
Oliver manages to reach the gate of the
house that Sikes took him to rob and knocks
at the door. The servants allow him in and the
niece of the house owner orders him upstairs.
Mrs. Maylie, the mistress of the house at
which Oliver is shot is a kindly, elderly woman.
Miss Rose, her niece, is a beautiful girl of
seventeen. When Miss Rose sees Oliver, she says
that he cannot be a burglar. She begs her aunt
not to send the child to prison. Oliver tells them
his life story. Summoned by the servants, the
police officers arrive.
The servants tell the police that Oliver is not
one of the thieves, and the police officers
leave. Oliver slowly begins to recover. Mrs.
Maylie and Miss Rose then take him to the
countryside, which helps improve Oliver’s
health greatly. Oliver learns to read and write
with the Maylies. He becomes greatly attached
to Mrs Maylie and Rose during the months
they spend there.
Rose falls ill, and Harry Maylie, Mrs. Maylie’s
son, arrives to see her. Rose loves Harry but cannot
marry him because of the uncertainty of her birth.
One day Oliver dreams that Fagin and a man are
pointing at him and whispering. Fagin says, “It is he,
sure enough!” Oliver awakes to see Fagin and a
stranger peering through the window. They
disappear rapidly as Oliver calls for help.
Before Harry departs, he asks that Oliver
secretly write him a letter every two weeks, telling
him everything Oliver and the ladies do and say.
Mr. Bumble has married Mrs. Corney and
become master of the workhouse. One day, a
man in a dark cape offers Mr. Bumble money
for information about Old Sally, the woman
who attended Oliver’s birth. Mr. Bumble
mentions that he knows a woman who spoke
to the old woman on her deathbed. The
stranger asks that Mr. Bumble bring this
woman to see him the following evening. He
gives his name as Monks.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumble meet Monks. Mrs.
Bumble wants twenty-five pounds for her
information. Mrs. Bumble relates how Old Sally
robbed Oliver’s mother. Mrs. Bumble gives
Monks a gold locket, inside which he finds a
wedding ring and two locks of hair. The name
“Agnes” is engraved on the ring. Monks drops it
into the river.
Monks arrives to meet Fagin alone. Nancy
follows them and listens in. Nancy goes to meet
Miss Maylie. She tells Rose that she overheard
Monks tell Fagin that he is Oliver’s brother. Monks
wants Oliver’s identity to remain unknown so that
Monks himself can keep their family’s inheritance to
himself. Monks would kill Oliver.
Rose offers to help Nancy leave her life of crime,
but Nancy replies that she cannot because she loves
Sikes. She refuses Rose’s money. Before leaving,
Nancy informs Rose that she can be found on
London Bridge between eleven and twelve every
Rose takes Oliver to Mr. Brownlow’s house.
She tells Brownlow Nancy’s story. They decide to
contact Nancy the following Sunday on London
Bridge. Fagin is visiting Sikes when Nancy tries to
leave for London Bridge at eleven on Sunday.
Fagin sends Noah Claypole, who had run away
from Sowerberry and joined the gang, behind
her. Nancy meets Mr. Brownlow and Rose on
London Bridge. Noah hears Nancy tell them when
and where they can find Monks. They hope to
catch Monks and know about Oliver from him.
Nancy cries violently and then heads for home.
Noah hurries to Fagin’s house.
Fagin and Noah tell Sikes about the details of
Nancy’s trip. In a rage, Sikes rushes home and
beats Nancy to death while she begs for mercy.
In the morning, he flees London into the
countryside. He then decides to return. He tries
to drown Bull’s-eye because he is afraid that his
dog, will give him away, but it escapes.
With the help of two other men, Mr. Brownlow
manages to kidnap Monks and take him to his
home. Brownlow confronts Monks and wrings the
truth about Oliver from him. Monks’ real name
turns out to be Edward Leeford and that he is
Oliver’s half brother. Their father, Mr. Leeford, was
unhappily married to a wealthy woman and had an
affair with Oliver’s mother, Agnes Fleming. Monks
has been pursuing Oliver all along in the hopes of
ensuring that his half-brother is deprived of his
share of the family inheritance.
Mr. Brownlow forces Monks to sign over
Oliver’s share to Oliver. Moreover, it is
discovered that Rose is Agnes’s younger sister,
hence Oliver’s aunt.
Followed by the police and a huge crowd of
people, Sikes accidently hangs himself with a
rope that tries to use to escape. Fagin is tried
and hung for his crimes.
Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver, and they and
the Maylies retire to the countryside.
SUMMARY OF THE PLOT
• Oliver is born in a workhouse.
• His mother dies in giving birth to him.
• He is ill-treated in the workhouse, especially by Mr
Bumble, the beadle.
• He asks for food and is given to Mr Sowerberry,
• He runs away to London.
• In London, he meets the Artful Dodger, who takes
him to Fagin.
• He joins a gang of thieves, run by Fagin.
• Among the boys in the gang, there is the Artful
dodger and Charley Bates.
• Nancy, a girl in Fagin’s gang, sympathizes with Oliver.
• On his first thieving expedition, Oliver is caught and the
other boys run away.
• Oliver is brought to trial. He faints and Mr. Brownlow,
the man who was robbed, feels pity for him and takes
him to his house.
• Brownlow trusts Oliver, against the warnings of his
friend Mr. Grimwig, to take money and books to the
• Oliver is kidnapped by Nancy and Bill Sikes and taken
back to Fagin.
• Sikes takes Oliver to burgle a house. He is shot and
Sikes abandons him in a ditch.
• Oliver returns to the house of Mrs Maylie and her
niece Rose, who treat him very kindly.
• Mr Brownlow makes an ad in the papers, asking
for information about Oliver, and Mr Bumble gives
him negative reports of him.
• Monks gets information from Bumble. Mrs
Bumble tells him about the woman who attended
the death of Oliver’s mother. Mrs Bumble gives
Monks the gold locket and the ring inside it, which
were with the mother on her dying. Monks throws
them in the river.
• Nancy meets Rose Maylie and tells her of the
danger that Oliver faces from Fagin and Monks.
• Rose tells Mr Brownlow, who welcomes the good
reports about Oliver’s character.
• Nancy meets Mr Brownlow and Rose on London
Bridge, but she is followed by Noah Claypole, who
was sent by Fagin to spy on her.
• Nancy is killed by Bill Sikes.
• Sikes is followed by the police and accidentally
• Mr Brownlow captures Monks and gets
information from him about Oliver.
• Oliver turns out to be Monks half brother. Monk’s
father had an affair with Oliver’s mother, Agnes
Fleming. Monks wanted to cover this information
to get the father’s inheritance alone.
• Fagin is tried and hung for his crimes.
• Mr Brownlow adopts Oliver. Rose and Harry,
Rose’s cousin, get married. They all retire to
The place mainly London, but there are
episodes in the English countryside. The time
is the nineteenth century.
POINT OF VIEW
Third personal omniscient
POVERTY AND THE WORKHOUSE
Oliver Twist depicts the conditions of the poor and the
miseries of poverty with great realism. The novel shows
the spread of poverty during the nineteenth century in
England and the failure of social institutions in dealing
with this problem. Dickens' description of the
workhouses serves to show that the workhouse is not an
effective remedy for it. There was a common belief
among the Victorians that the poor were responsible for
their poverty because they were lazy. According to the
1834 Poor Law, the poor and homeless were provided a
place to live and received food. However, the
workhouses were very hated and feared by the poor
The hateful conditions in the workhouse included
the splitting of families, unpleasant and hard jobs,
and tasteless and meager food. Moreover,
workhouses did not provide the poor any chances to
improve their conditions. The workhouse was
purposefully made horrible so as to discourage the
poor from dependence on charity.
Charles Dickens exposes the injustices of the
workhouse officials, such as Mr. Bumble and Mrs.
Corney and their practices through grotesque
realism. The workhouse did not even prevent
hunger as seen in the episode in which Oliver asks
for more, to the horror of the supervisors.
Dickens is also concerned to show that the
poor are not necessarily wicked or morally
degenerate, as was widely believed during the
Victorian period. Oliver is an example of a poor
person who is an epitome of innocence and
purity in a corrupt environment. Nancy is
another example of a good girl who sacrifices
herself for the sake of saving Oliver from the
world of crime. Vice is rather the outcome of the
corrupt environment and the result of
upbringing, as shown in the examples of Nancy,
Bill Sikes, and the children in Fagin’s gang.
Dickens provides in Oliver Twist a realistic portrayal
of the injustices and cruelty against children during the
Victorian period. The book begins with Oliver’s
experience in the workhouse, revealing the cruelty that
children received there, to the point of reducing them
When Oliver asks for more food, he is sent out of
the workhouse into the world of child labor, which is
not in any way better than life in the workhouse. Trade
masters, as Mr. Gamfield are shown as typically cruel,
treating their child apprentices brutally and subjecting
them to the most dangerous work conditions, resulting
in their death.
Oliver escapes from the world of apprenticeship to
find himself in the world of crime. He is taken to
Fagin’s gang, to learn pickpocketing and crime. Fagin
ruins the lives of those children who find him the only
supporter and protector.
Oliver is an example of abused childhood during the Victorian
period. He is mistreated in the workhouse and treated cruelly by
his wok master. He then runs off to London, where he is taken in
by a gang of thieves.
Oliver’s character challenges the Victorian common opinion
that the poor are essentially criminal. Good-hearted, and kind, he
never loses his sense of morality or kindness.
However, Oliver’s is not a believable character, because
although he is raised in corrupt surroundings, his purity and virtue
are absolute. He is shocked when he sees the Artful Dodger and
Charley Bates steal from Mr. Brownlow and when he is forced to
participate in a burglary. He also uses standard English instead of
the cockney slang that all others with him use.
Fagin is the leader of a gang of thieves. He is
ugly, miserly, very greedy and vicious Jew. He trains
the boys for stealing and takes the stolen goods. He
has mad criminals out of a large number of children,
ruining their lives forever. Although Dickens relies in
his portrayal of Fagin on the stereotypical Jew, Fagin
is not a mere stereotype. He is rather a complex
character in whom there’s a mixture of the
grotesque and the funny. He is often referred to as
"the merry old gentleman.“ On many occasions, he
shows kindness towards the children and towards
Oliver in particular. He is finally tried and executed.