Born into poverty and hardship, Oliver Twist is an unfortunate young boy. His mother is found very sick in the street, and she gives birth to Oliver just before she dies. Oliver spends the first nine years of his life in a badly run home for young orphans and then is transferred to a workhouse for adults. After the other boys bully Oliver into asking for more gruel at the end of a meal, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, offers five pounds to anyone who will take the boy away from the workhouse. Oliver is soon taken in as an undertaker's apprentice.
Soon realising that his fate has become no less desperate, Oliver runs away to London where he is picked up by Jack Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger. The Artful Dodger takes Oliver to Fagin’s den in the London slums, and Oliver, who innocently does not understand that he is among criminals, becomes one of Fagin’s boys.
Along with other young thieves working for Fagin, Oliver turns to a life of crime against his better judgment. Narrowly escaping being convicted of theft, Oliver faces no such luck in escaping the gang as Bill Sikes and his lover Nancy, capture Oliver and return him to Fagin.
Although it is here, in the midst of wickedness, that he finds the only kindness he has known, Oliver's destiny is far from complete. Will these criminals succeed in their attempts at ruining the life of a child? Or will Oliver’s true identity be revealed freeing him from a life of degradation, poverty and enforced crime? All these questions and more are answered as the story unfolds in this powerful work.
Characters To Personalise
Oliver Twist - Oliver is the hero of the novel. A naive desperate boy whose desperate struggle for acceptance blurs his vision when it comes to right and wrong. It is this vulnerability that makes him an easy target for the artful dodger and Fagin to recruit. His adventures make him the best of friends and the worst of enemies. Agnes Fleming - Oliver’s mother. After falling in love with and becoming pregnant by Mr. Leeford, she chooses to die anonymously in a workhouse rather than stain her family’s reputation. The only thing she left was a locket with her name inscribed.
John (Jack) Dawkins - "Artful Dodger" is a young accomplished thief who finds Oliver on the road to London and introduces him to Fagin. A pickpocket and thief, he teaches Oliver the tricks of the trade and leads the cohorts of youngsters as the ultimate example they should all be aspiring to. Ultimately the Dodger has to answer for is crimes as he is finally caught and sent to jail.
Fagin - The main antagonist in the story, "The Jew" takes Oliver under his wing and tries to make a pickpocket out of him. He is a powerful crime leader, controlling the orphaned children as pickpockets and the adults like Bill Sikes as thieves. His role in the novel appears to be to expose the questionable character and the corruption to which poverty can bring a man. He has affection for only money and will kill anyone who stands in his way.
Nancy - Is one of the kinder characters who immediately warms to Oliver and his innocence. She works for Fagin and is the “girlfriend” of Bill Sikes who she longs to stay with despite his brutality. She is the unlikely heroine of the story, helping Oliver escape the life that she cannot. But this will eventually lead to her downfall.
Mr. Bumble - Mr. Bumble is the overseer of the orphanage and workhouse where Oliver lives. Mr. Bumble likes power, and he likes to use it. He mistreats the residents in his care and becomes the symbol of Dickens' distaste for the workhouse system. He displays characteristics of self-righteousness, greed and hypocrisy.
Bill Sikes - A brutal professional burglar brought up in Fagin’s gang, he is the feared villain of the novel. Bill has a dark, austere appearance and a black heart and cares for no one and nothing except money and possessions. However, he will look after people if he needs something from them. For example, he ensures Oliver is fed before taking him out thieving. But his cruelty knows no bounds as when he catches Nancy trying to help young Oliver escape, he beats her to death.
Bulls-Eye - Bill Sikes’s dog. As vicious as his master, Bull’s-eye functions as Sikes’s alter ego.
Mr. Brownlow - Is the benevolent old gentleman of the story, who serves as Oliver’s first benefactor. He takes care of Oliver giving him kindness and love, the two things that he has been denied of for his entire life. He instinctively trusts Oliver and decides to take him into his home and take his part against Bill Sikes and Mr. Bumble. He behaves with compassion and common sense and emerges as a natural leader.