Oliver Twist: Notes

Oliver Twist: Notes

Oliver Twist: Notes

Oliver Twist: Notes


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background.


  • Life and Background of the Author
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • A Brief Synopsis
  • List of Characters
  • Critical Commentaries
  • Character Analyses
  • Critical Essays
  • Essay Topics and Review Questions
  • Selected Bibliography

    Oliver Twist’s mother dies after the birth of her child in a workhouse. The infant’s father is unknown, and the orphan is placed in a private juvenile home. After nine years of mistreatment, the boy is returned to the workhouse for more of the same. For representing his fellow sufferers in an attempt to get more food, Oliver is punished and is apprenticed to Sowerberry, an undertaker. Noah Claypole, a charity boy working for Oliver’s master, goads Oliver to rebellion, for which Oliver is savagely flogged. Consequently, he runs away and heads for London.

    Near London, Oliver joins company with John Dawkins, The Artful Dodger, a questionable character who conducts the boy to Fagin, the ringleader of an infamous gang of criminals. Oliver’s liberty is curtailed while he is drilled in the art of picking pockets. When Oliver goes out with Charles Bates and the Dodger, his companions pick an old gentleman’s pocket and flee, and Oliver is for their offense. At the police station, the terrified boy is cleared by the testimony of the bookseller who witnessed the theft. Oliver collapses and is taken home by Mr. Brownlow, the victim of the crime.

    While Oliver recovers at his benefactor’s home, Brownlow is puzzled by the resemblance between Oliver’s features and the portrait of a young woman. Fagin is apprehensive and furious at Oliver’s rescue. Nancy, one of his trusty retainers, is set on the boy’s trail as the gang shifts headquarters.

    Mr. Grimwig, Brownlow’s friend, has no faith in Oliver, so Oliver is sent on an errand to test his honesty. The boy is recaptured by Nancy and her friend Bill Sikes, a vicious lawbreaker. Oliver is restored to Fagin, who holds him in strict captivity for a while. In the meantime, Bumble, the parish beadle from Oliver’s birthplace, answers Brownlow’s advertisement inquiring about Oliver. Bumble turns Oliver’s benefactor against him by grossly misrepresenting the boy’s history and character.

    Fagin is eager to get Oliver completely in his power by thoroughly involving the child in some crime. So the old man convinces Sikes to use Oliver in a major burglary that is being contemplated. Accordingly, Sikes takes the boy westward through the city to a rendezvous near Chertsey with Toby Crackit.

    At the house that is to be burglarized, Oliver is hoisted through a small window. The occupants are aroused and in the ensuing melee, Oliver is shot. The robbers run off with the wounded Oliver but abandon him in a ditch.

    In the workhouse, Sally, the old pauper who attended Oliver’s mother, is dying. At her urgent request, Mrs. Corney, the matron, sees the old woman alone before she expires. Immediately thereafter Bumble and the matron agree to marry.

    Fagin is greatly upset when Toby Crackit returns alone. Fagin makes anxious inquiries about Sikes. He then has an ominous meeting with a person called Monks. Monks is angry with the old man, who he claims...

  • Excerpt

    In his preface to Oliver Twist, Dickens emphatically declares an article of his artistic credo. He expressed resentment at the practice in popular literature of depicting rogues, like Macheath in The Beggar’s Opera, as dashing figures leading gay and colorful lives. He considers such misrepresentations as a potentially baneful influence on impressionable minds. Dickens firmly maintains that the nature and behavior of his depraved characters reflect truth without distortion, however implausible they may seem.

    Dickens is frequently charged with offering a view of the world that does violence to reality. A novelist, however, communicates his interpretation of life through the medium of fiction. His accomplishment grows out of an amalgam of experience and imagination. In judging the writer’s success, we have to grant his purposes and goal. Dickens was fascinated by the grotesque and had a peculiar talent for exaggeration. For . . .

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