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- Ages 8 and up
Oliver Twist is the second novel by English author Charles Dickens. The story is about an orphan, Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker. He escapes and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Naïvely unaware of their unlawful activities, Oliver is led to the lair of their elderly criminal trainer Fagin. Oliver Twist is notable for Dickens's unromantic portrayal of criminals and their sordid lives. The book exposed the cruel treatment of the many orphans in London during the Dickensian era.
An early example of the social novel, the book calls the public's attention to various contemporary evils, including child labor, the recruitment of children as criminals, and the presence of street children. Dickens mocks the hypocrisies of his time by surrounding the novel's serious themes with sarcasm and dark humor.
Oliver Twist was born into a life of poverty and misfortune in a workhouse. 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. Oliver is brought up with little food and few comforts. Around the time of Oliver's ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, removes Oliver from the baby farm and puts him to work picking and weaving oakum at the main workhouse. Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains in the workhouse. [more]
Keywords: oliver twist, charles dickens, classic literature, satire, dark humor, black comedy, coming of age, social satire