The good old 1800’s, the century of complete social change, and the time in which the middle class was yet to exist. Oliver Twist happens to be born in this crazy century and he isn’t born into one of the wealthy families you would normally imagine when you think of the 1800s. Oliver was born to the lowest of lows, he was born to someone of whom he knew no name, no address, and no money. His father never shows up to find him and his mother ‘dies from holding him’, causing his life as a child to be miserable.
He grows up in a group home before moving to a workhouse at the age of nine. The children at the workhouse are heavily underfed and eventually decide to draw lots and force the unlucky child picked to go up to Mr. Bumble the parish beadle and ask for more food and of course, Oliver is a lucky tribute. Now due to the fact that we aren’t even a quarter of the way through the book, we don’t imagine that this encounter will end at all well… and we’re right. When Oliver asks for more Mr. Bumble is completely horrified and instantaneously puts up an advertisement out the front of the workhouse offering Oliver and five pounds (about $150 today) to anyone who would take him.
Oliver, being mentally distraught after being beaten for the unremarkable act of merely asking for seconds without any way of him opting out of the predestined flogging he was imminently going to receive, was in no state of mind to be flung into a new circumstance. Consequently, he started doing what any other eleven-year-old would be doing in his situation. He cried and cried and struggled to understand why.
Pretty soon after being flogged for the forgivable act of asking for seconds Oliver is taken in by an undertaker and his wife. In his time at the undertaker’s, he is only liked by the undertaker himself and everyone else in the house sees him as little more than an animal. This misunderstanding of being taken on by the Wife and the couple’s two helping hands consequently causes the male helper to bully Oliver with the full support of the wife and the other helper, which Oliver doesn’t take much of a liking to. Being the stupid boy he is, the other boy, who was only a few years older than Oliver, eventually brings up his heritage and ignites Oliver’s emotions to an unrepairable amount where he lashes out and gives the idiot a rather deserved beating, until the income the justice police in the forms of the wife and the other helper who drag Oliver off the idiot and restrain him letting the other boy punch Oliver a significant amount of times before dumping him in the cellar. Oliver, hemmed in by people who would like nothing better than to see his face purple, escapes at the next opportunity and decides to run off to London.
After his journey of seven days in which he was supplied for by the kindness of strangers, he finally arrives in the famed city of London. The place where rumor had it any able-bodied man could make a living, but he is only a very young pre-teen at this stage and subsequently has absolutely no idea what he’s doing or where he is. Thankfully, a strange boy who dresses as a man and goes by the name of ‘The Artful Dodger’ finds him. Now this dodger fellow, who is a few years older than Oliver takes him to a place where he says Oliver will be welcomed with open arms, and for once fortune smiles upon Oliver, for he has been taken up by the wonderful Fagin, who is just as seemingly wonderful as he was made out to be. The problem with this new scenario is that we still have half the book left, leading us to believe things aren’t as perfect as they seem.
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The reader has by this point in time made some accusations of this new group of friends Oliver has, as it turns out the group is exclusively a boys club, with the only person showing a single hair on their chin being Fagin himself and this group not only acts suspiciously weirdly, but they also appear to be making amazing pocket watches and handkerchiefs with ready-made signatures inscribed into each and everyone all be it badly done, so badly they seem to want Oliver to unpick the signature from the handkerchiefs which raises much less suspicion in the mind of a twelve-year-old boy then it does in the mind of an educated book reader such as the both of us.
Oliver soon finds out that the group indeed thrives off the carelessness of others in the form of lightening the load that the rich men of London have weighed down their pockets and that load sometimes happens to be rather valuable which is rather convenient. So Oliver joins the Dodger and another of the boys on a mission but fails to get the memo about running if anything should go wrong and in their attempt to steal a man’s handkerchief the Dodger triggers the attention of the man in question and they run off at full pelt calling for Oliver who was standing a ways behind the man to follow them. Oliver however is too entranced by the emergency of the situation to grasp the emergency of the situation, causing him to be thought of like the thief, or at least as an accomplice in the crime.
Lucky Oliver though makes it through court without any sentence being made against him, due to the testimony of a watching shopkeeper who witnessed the two boys steal the man’s handkerchief and saw them run past Oliver, indeed leaving Oliver completely innocent.
It is at this point in time that the light of luck shines down on Oliver as saying he has no idea where to go and that he has no parents or home, he lands a spot in the house of the very man who accused him of stealing his handkerchief. Upon going back to the man’s house, Oliver is overcome by the luxury of everything around him. He gets sent to school and quickly reforms into quite the acceptable upper-class boy.
So far in this book, you might have noticed that everything in Oliver’s life rarely ever gets better and when it does it only stays there for a minute amount of time. If you were reading the book you would also notice the remaining quarter of the book and try your hardest to deny the feeling of dread you have around what is to come.
Back at the house for homeless pickpockets run by Fagin, He and his favorite trainee have a meeting about this Boy. Bill Sikes the graduated trainee, who happens to be in the age of chin hair (though not grey chin hair yet that spot is still Fagin’s) is adamant that Oliver cannot remain in the luxury home where their intel has placed him, due to the knowledge that the boy commands. And a mysterious man named Monks who claims to be Oliver’s half-brother has offered up quite the sum for Oliver’s demise, the fury within him fuelled by Monks’ gleaming love of the inheritance coming to him. So Bill and Fagin send Bill’s girlfriend, who Oliver knows from the visits Bill paid throughout the month or so he had been with the pickpockets, Nancy to retrieve him from the luxurious life he had only just settled into.
So after all the effort and work that Oliver put into becoming a gentleman he gets stolen back and taken back to Fagin and Bill, where they make sure that he has said nothing of their business or whereabouts to the police.
Oliver is now recommended by the ever-generous Fagin to go on a mission with Bill and, being threatened at gunpoint the whole way to the house he was about to steal from, he determines to awake the servants and calls the police on Bill, but things don’t go to plan.
One of the servants of the household hears Oliver and promptly shoots him, assuming him to be robbing the house, but Bill drags him out of the house and throws him into a ditch assuming him dead from the wound. When Oliver wakes up in the morning he crawls his way back to the house in which he was shot, hoping for a speck of mercy from those who completely misunderstood his intentions previously. And for only the second time in his life, fate shines upon him. Oliver is cared for and nurtured back to health by the owner of the house and her daughter, who is unexpectedly greeted by a nice cultured boy when Oliver regains his full energy, and yet still we have plenty of books left so back comes that dread and indeed Fagin, Bill, and Monks are preparing a plan to recapture Oliver. One morning they even put Oliver through the horror of waking up with them staring in at him through his window, which I can imagine would not be something I would enjoy waking up to.
The one flaw in the plan for Oliver’s recapture is Nancy, Bill’s girlfriend. She sees all that they’re putting Oliver through and for once sees pity for Oliver, so she decides to tell the women looking after Oliver of the misfortunes planned for him. Unfortunately on the night she goes to tell of Oliver’s half brother, for she refused to snitch on Fagin and Bill, Fagin had sent a boy to spy on her, consequently, when Fagin hears what she had done he tells Bill knowing full well the wrath that Bill will rain down on Nancy and the whole while doubting her chances of survival through the ordeal.
However, the cat had already escaped its bag and wasn’t going back into it any time soon. Monks, Oliver’s half-brother, was arrested and spilled his plan on keeping the inheritance for himself. Fagin was arrested and sentenced to the gallows. And Bill was running for his life, before accidentally carrying out the inevitable sentence he would have gotten if he had been caught. Bill hanged himself when trying to escape a mob of people angry at him, not just for his track record of thievery, but also for the brutal murder of Nancy. His demise came when he accidentally slipped off a rooftop and happened to get his head stuck in a loop of rope.
And finally, we see that the book has mere pages left and wait for the happy ending. Oliver returned to Mr. Brownlow, the man whom he almost stole a handkerchief from, and stays in touch with the nice family that kept him alive after he once again almost stole from them. And they all lived happily ever after.