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Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist is Charles Dickens' second novel and the first novel in the English language to center throughout on a child protagonist and is also notable for Dickens' unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives. The book's subtitle, The Parish Boy's Progress alludes to Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and also to a pair of popular 18th-century caricature series by William Hogarth, "A Rake's Progress" and "A Harlot's Progress".

An early example of the social novel, the book calls the public's attention to various contemporary social evils, including the Poor Law that states that poor people should work in workhouses, child labour and the recruitment of children as criminals. Dickens mocks the hypocrisies of the time by surrounding the novel's serious themes with sarcasm and dark humour. The novel may have been inspired by the story of Robert Blincoe, an orphan whose account of his hardships as a child labourer in a cotton mill was widely read in the 1830s.

Oliver Twist has been the subject of numerous film and television adaptations, and is the basis for a highly successful musical, Oliver!.

Plot Summary

Oliver Twist is born into a life of poverty and misfortune in a workhouse in an unnamed town within 75 miles of London. Orphaned almost from his first breath by his mother’s death in childbirth and his father’s unexplained absence, Oliver is meagerly provided for under the terms of the Poor Law, and spends the first nine years of his life at a "baby farm" in the 'care' of a woman named Mrs. Mann. Along with other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, Oliver is brought up with little food and few comforts...

(From Wikipedia, description text under GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL))

Pennsylvania State University electronic Edition

Free ebook to download in PDF format - 961 Kb - 405 pages


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