Charles DIckens – Oliver Twist (1836-37)

Oliver Twist is born to Agnes (who immediately dies) in a workhouse. He is raised by Mrs. Mann until moving to a workhouse run by the beadle Mr. Bumble. While there, he asks for more soup. He gets into a skirmish with Noah Claypole, who insulted Agnes, and after being beaten by Bumble (the Sowerberries are also complicit) runs  away to London. He has heard that there are new and unimaginable ways of life to be led there. He runs into the Artful Dodger (John Sawkins), who introduces him to Fagin, along with Charley Bates,  Nancy, Charlotte, and eventually Bill Sikes. He gets picked up by Mr. Bromlow after Dodger and Bates attempt to rob him. He thrives while there but is soon captured by Nancy and Bill. Fagin lets Oliver go on a robbery with Sikes in the country side. Oliver gets shot and takes shelter with people he attempted to rob (this is where he meets Rose Maylie). He thinks he sees Fagin and Monks at some point in time, but they can’t track them down. Monks (who turns out to be Oliver’s half-brother by a different mother) has conspired with Fagin to sully Oliver’s reputation because his inheritance depends on maintaining perfect morality. Nancy, who feels awful about recapturing Oliver, confesses to Rosa and Bromlow and tells them that Fagin and Monks are attempting another kidnapping. Noah Claypole overhears this and tells Fagin, who tell Sikes, who then kills Nancy. He flees the city. He returns to the city where he holes up with the others (the Dodger has already been imprisoned) but somehow hangs himself. His dog jumps off the roof. Harry Maylie marries Rosa (who cares!), and Oliver grows up comfortably under Bromlow. Fagin is executed.

The 1834 New Poor Law: Dickens critiques new law by registering its effects on a child. Strict dietary regimes, etc, are satirized in the opening sequences, but much of that drops out in the latter London sections.

Narrative structure: sloppy overall, with a hidden subplot (Monks) that comes with its own humungous backstory only towards the end of the novel. This is not a Bildungsroman, because Oliver has no choice; rather, he is knocked about by various social forces.

Characters: Dickens has nto yet masted the art of the secondary character. Here they take on great vibrancy (Dodger, Monks, Bumble, etc.) but they do not effectively complicate the dynamics of central plot. Curious to acces in terms of narrative desiring-production. How are these characters excessive in ways that they are not in Bleak House or Copperfield. In Our Mutual Friend, the writing becomes excessive.

Orphan: As counterexample to peter Brooks characterization of bildungsroman.

Omniscient and self-conscious narrator: at times clumsy, drawing attention to important events in ways that undercut their narrative power.

Mob: Half of London tracks down Bill Sikes and calls for his death. A mob with its heart in the right place.

Violence: blow-by-blow account of Nancy’s murder.

Anti-Semitism in portrait of Fagin

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