Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens

Synopsis

This synopsis will contain spoilers!

Oliver is born into a workhouse in a village outside London, but his mother soon passes away. He is raised in the workhouse, but is treated very poorly (in particular by Mr. Bumble, the Parish Beadle) and is sent to the poorhouse after asking for more soup once at mealtime. The administrators of the facilities offer money if anyone will take him into an apprenticeship. He eventually ends up working for an undertaker. He dislikes working there, but things take a turn for the worse when Noah Claypole, who also works with the undertaker, insults Oliver's mother. Oliver hits Noah, and then flees the village, and heads towards London.

On the way to London, Oliver meets Jack Dawkins (the Artful Dodger) who brings Oliver to Fagin (the Jew). Fagin runs a house of child thieves, and he welcomes Oliver into the group, though Oliver is not yet aware of what the group does. Fagin plays games with Oliver, the Dodger, and Charley Bates to improve their stealing skills. Oliver eventually goes out with the Dodger and Master Bates, but when he discovers they are stealing he is shocked. The Dodger and Master Bates steal from a gentleman (Mr. Brownlow), but the theft is noticed, and Oliver is accused. He tries to flee, but is captured and brought before the authorities. Just before he is convicted, a witness comes forward and testifies that Oliver is innocent, so he is released.

Oliver passes out from the stress, but Mr. Brownlow sees this and takes him back to his home. He takes care of Oliver who rapidly begins to recover and to grow into a fine gentleman. There is, in particular, a picture in the house that Oliver loves to look upon. One day, Mr. Brownlow gives Oliver five pounds (to purchase more books) and several books to return. While on the errand, however, Nancy (a member of Fagin's crew) sees Oliver and takes him back to Fagin's against his will. Oliver is heartbroken to think that Mr. Brownlow might believe he stole the books and money.

Fagin decides to continue training Oliver to become a thief, and a new character is revealed who is paying Fagin to complete this task. Fagin soon decides to send Oliver off with Bill Sikes (a housebreaker and Nancy's lover) to break into a house. Oliver goes, though he does not know exactly why he is being sent. When they arrive at the house, Oliver is forced through a small entrance and told to unlock the front door. He decides, instead, to seek help from the residents, but before he can he is shot by the house butler. Sikes grabs him and flees, but drops him in order to make his own escape. At dawn, Oliver drags himself to the nearest house (the one he broke into).

When he is discovered, he is brought inside and when the lady of the house (Mrs. Maylie) sees him, he is tended to. A doctor is brought in, and once Oliver begins to recover he reveals his entire story. Mrs. Maylie and Rose (her adopted neice) decide they will keep Oliver and care for him, but the police had already been called. The doctor is able to deflect their attention and Oliver begins his new, happy life with Mrs. Maylie.

Oliver goes to Mr. Brownlow's to tell him that he is safe, but they discover he has gone overseas. Oliver is devastated. Some months later Rose becomes sick and nearly dies. Harry Maylie, Mrs. Maylie's son, returns and confesses his love to Rose. She, however, says she cannot marry Harry because it will do too much harm to his noble station in life. While Rose is recovering, Oliver goes into town where he is seen by a strange man, who we learn is Monks, the same man who was paying Fagin to turn Oliver into a thief.

Meanwhile, back at the poorhouse where Oliver was born, the old woman in charge is called into to be at the side of a dying woman. The dying woman confesses she stole something from Oliver's mother after she died. Mr. Bumble and the old woman decide to get married.

Sometime later Mr. Bumble meets with Monks who says he is looking for information about Oliver and, in particular, about something that may have been left behind by his mother. Mr. Bumble brings his wife to a secret meeting with Monks where they hand over the item (jewelry) to Monks for 25 pounds. Monks proceeds to drop it into a river.

Monks returns to Fagin to tell him everything that happened, including the fact that Monks is Oliver's brother, and the news is overheard by Nancy (who sneaks up to the door to spy on them). She takes this information to Rose Maylie (after drugging Sike with laudanum) who wonders how she can use it to help Oliver. Just then, Oliver returns saying he has seen Mr. Brownlow. Rose takes Oliver to see him, and reveals to Mr. Brownlow everything she has discovered. Mr. Brownlow then sets in motion a plan to capture Monks and restore Oliver's inheritance to him.

Nancy meets with Rose and Mr. Brownlow two weeks later where she reveals when, where, and how Monks can be found. Unfortunately, however, Nancy was followed (by Noah Claypole who recently joined up with Fagin). Mr. Brownlow, though, realizes that he knows who Monks is.

When the news is brought to Fagin about Nancy's betrayal, he is furious and frightened. He tells Sikes, who runs off and confronts Nancy. He kills her by striking her head with a club and then flees.

Monks is captured and Mr. Brownlow is able to arrange Oliver's restoration. It is revealed how Oliver is the illegitimate child of Edward Leeford (Mr. Brownlow was his life-long friend) and a young woman who was, coincidentally, Rose Maylie's sister (thus making Oliver Rose's nephew). The revelation of Rose's heritage is also enough to bring about the marriage of Rose and Harry.

Meanwhile, Sikes is killed while attempting to evade capture, Fagin is arrested and hung on the gallows, and Charley Bates turns over to an honest life. (The Artful Dodger was arrested some time back for stealing a snuff box). Oliver is adopted by Mr. Brownlow and lives a happy life.

Reviews

Oliver Twist - Paperback

Oliver Twist is a funny entertaining book that reminded me a lot of Don Quixote, especially in terms of the subtle irony and humorous chapter titles. It also had the ...

- July 15, 2011

Quotes

"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."

Charles Dickens the First Line of Oliver Twist

"[P]ride - the vice of the lowest and most debased creatures no less than of the high and self-assured. The miserable companion of thieves and ruffians, the fallen outcast of low haunts, the associate of the scourings of the jails and hulks, living within the shadow of the gallows itself."

Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist

Originally Published Jan. 1, 1837

Paperback edition:

428 pages - June 30, 2009

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