Oliver Twist is the second novel by Charles Dickens. The plot of the story revolves around the life of Oliver, an innocent orphan boy, who encounters Fagin and his child gang of thieves. Oliver faces many obstacles and lives through many horrors throughout the novel. In a nutshell, the story reveals the atrocious treatment of many orphans and paupers in London during Dickens’s time.
Oliver’s mother died during his birth at a workhouse, so he is sent to an orphanage where he is physically abused and poorly fed. Due to his defiance, particularly to the authoritarian Mr. Bumble, he is sent out of the orphanage. He later on escapes from his foster family to seek a better life in London.
Oliver is trained as a pickpocket by Fagin’s gang in London, and is almost jailed on his first job. Unexpectedly, the person whom they robbed is kind enough to take him to the philanthropic man’s home. However, Bill Sakes and Nancy, members of the gang, get him back. This time, he is tasked to assist Sikes on a burglary where Oliver is shot. Once again, Oliver is taken in by the Maylies, the family that they robbed, but Fagin’s gang looks for him. Nancy tells the Maylies of the plan, and is murdered by the gang for her treacherous act.
As mentioned earlier, Oliver Twist is a vivid representation of the difficult social circumstances during the author’s time: the Industrial Revolution. Charles Dickens’s works are generally characterized by their political and social relevance. They provide a significant documentation of social history, portraying the political oppressions and social injustices that the helpless people experienced in nineteenth century England. Oliver Twist is a satirical work of art that depicts an emphatic protest against the Poor Law of 1834 that implemented inhumane and harsh measures in the workhouses, making sure the poor people never uplift themselves from the pangs of poverty. The novel clearly bares the middle class’s complacency and hypocrisy that scourge society.
Psychology of its Characters
From a macro analysis of Charles Dickens’s work, going into its psychology deserves keen attention as well. Dickens creates very human characters in his well-known satirical novel. Oliver, the novel’s main character, is an epitome of every human’s desire for a convenient life. Imagine a poor young boy who runs away from oppression and moves to another place to search for a pampered life. Nancy, in spite of her worries about Oliver, is not that convincing, given all her participation in capturing him over and over again. And Fagin is a stealthy and cruel villain who best exemplifies the social injustice and antagonism of the times on which the novel was written.