Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Victorian stereotypes about the poor asserted that poverty and vice were fundamentally connected and that, moreover, both were hereditary traits: the poor were supposedly bad from birth. How does Dickens approach such stereotypes?
2. Consider the female characters of Nancy, Rose Maylie, and Agnes Fleming. How are the three women different? How are they similar? What do their differences and similarities suggest about Dickens’s ideas about women?
3. Discuss the portrait of the criminal justice system presented in Oliver Twist.
Suggested Essay Topics
1. In Chapters 48 and 52, Dickens explores the consequences of Sikes’s and Fagin’s crimes. Is the narrative technique in these chapters different from that in the rest of the novel? If so, how? How does the reader’s perspective on Sikes and Fagin change in these chapters? How do these chapters address the issues of guilt and punishment?
2. Discuss the character of Fagin. To what extent does anti-Semitism influence Dickens’s portrait of him? Should Fagin be taken to represent all Jews? May he be taken to represent anything else?
3. Oliver Twist is full of thievery. Some of it is committed by criminals like Sikes against respectable people like the Maylies, while some of it is committed by “respectable” people like Mrs. Mann and Mr. Bumble against the poor. How are these two types of thievery different? What do they have in common? Also, consider the various ways in which other people “rob” Oliver of his identity. What does the prevalence of thievery in the novel say about the world that it portrays?
4. What role does clothing play in the various characters’ identities? Consider Nancy’s disguise, the new suit that Brownlow purchases for Oliver, and Mr. Bumble’s regret at giving up the office of parish beadle.
5. How does Dickens represent marriage in Oliver Twist? Compare and contrast the marriages of Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, of Rose and Harry, and of Mr. Leeford and Monks’s mother. Consider also the prevalence of “families” that do not center around a marriage: for example, Oliver, Brownlow, Grimwig, and Mrs. Bedwin; or Mrs. Maylie, Rose, and Mr. Losberne.
by DanMitchell23, January 01, 2013
This is my favourite ever book!
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