novel’s protagonist. Oliver is an orphan born in a workhouse, and
Dickens uses his situation to criticize public policy toward the
poor in 1830
s England. Oliver is between
nine and twelve years old when the main action of the novel occurs.
Though treated with cruelty and surrounded by coarseness for most
of his life, he is a pious, innocent child, and his charms draw the
attention of several wealthy benefactors. His true identity is the
central mystery of the novel.
in-depth analysis of Oliver Twist.
conniving career criminal. Fagin takes in homeless children and
trains them to pick pockets for him. He is also a buyer of other
people’s stolen goods. He rarely commits crimes himself, preferring
to employ others to commit them—and often suffer legal retribution—in his
place. Dickens’s portrait of Fagin displays the influence of anti-Semitic
in-depth analysis of Fagin.
young prostitute and one of Fagin’s former child pickpockets. Nancy
is also Bill Sikes’s lover. Her love for Sikes and her sense of
moral decency come into conflict when Sikes abuses Oliver. Despite
her criminal lifestyle, she is among the noblest characters in the novel.
In effect, she gives her life for Oliver when Sikes murders her
for revealing Monks’s plots.
in-depth analysis of Nancy.
Fleming’s sister, raised by Mrs. Maylie after the death of Rose’s
father. A beautiful, compassionate, and forgiving young woman, Rose
is the novel’s model of female virtue. She establishes a loving
relationship with Oliver even before it is revealed that the two are related.
well-off, erudite gentleman who serves as Oliver’s first benefactor.
Mr. Brownlow owns a portrait of Agnes Fleming and was engaged to
Mr. Leeford’s sister when she died. Throughout the novel, he behaves with
compassion and common sense and emerges as a natural leader.
sickly, vicious young man, prone to violent fits and teeming with
inexplicable hatred. With Fagin, he schemes to give Oliver a bad
brutal professional burglar brought up in Fagin’s gang. Sikes is Nancy's pimp and lover, and he treats both her and his dog Bull’s-eye
with an odd combination of cruelty and grudging affection. His
murder of Nancy is the most heinous of the many crimes that occur
in the novel.
pompous, self-important beadle—a minor church official—for the workhouse
where Oliver is born. Though Mr. Bumble preaches Christian morality, he
behaves without compassion toward the paupers under his care. Dickens
mercilessly satirizes his self-righteousness, greed, hypocrisy,
and folly, of which his name is an obvious symbol.
mother. After falling in love with and becoming pregnant by Mr.
Leeford, she chooses to die anonymously in a workhouse rather than
stain her family’s reputation. A retired naval officer’s daughter, she
was a beautiful, loving woman. Oliver’s face closely resembles hers.
and Monks’s father, who dies long before the events of the novel.
He was an intelligent, high-minded man whose family forced him into
an unhappy marriage with a wealthy woman. He eventually separated
from his wife and had an illicit love affair with Agnes Fleming.
He intended to flee the country with Agnes but died before he could
Maylie’s family physician. A hot-tempered but good-hearted old bachelor,
Mr. Losberne is fiercely loyal to the Maylies and, eventually, to
kind, wealthy older woman, the mother of Harry Maylie and adoptive
“aunt” of Rose.
Maylie’s son. Harry is a dashing young man with grand political
ambitions and career prospects, which he eventually gives up to
The Artful Dodger
- The cleverest of Fagin’s pickpockets. The Dodger’s
real name is Jack Dawkins. Though no older than Oliver, the Dodger
talks and dresses like a grown man. He introduces Oliver to Fagin.
of Fagin’s pickpockets. Charley is ready to laugh at anything.
elderly pauper who serves as the nurse at Oliver’s birth. Old Sally
steals Agnes’s gold locket, the only clue to Oliver’s identity.
matron of the workhouse where Oliver is born. Mrs. Corney is hypocritical,
callous, and materialistic. After she marries Mr. Bumble, she hounds
charity boy and Mr. Sowerberry’s apprentice. Noah is an overgrown,
cowardly bully who mistreats Oliver and eventually joins Fagin’s
Sowerberrys’ maid. Charlotte becomes romantically involved with
Noah Claypole and follows him about slavishly.
of Fagin and Sikes’s associates, crass and not too bright. Toby
participates in the attempted burglary of Mrs. Maylie’s home.
Brownlow’s kindhearted housekeeper. Mrs. Bedwin is unwilling to
believe Mr. Bumble’s negative report of Oliver’s character.
Sikes’s dog. As vicious as his master, Bull’s-eye functions as Sikes’s
heiress who lived a decadent life and alienated her husband, Mr.
Leeford. Monks’s mother destroyed Mr. Leeford’s will, which left
part of his property to Oliver. Much of Monks’s nastiness is presumably
inherited from her.
- The undertaker to whom Oliver is apprenticed. Though
Mr. Sowerberry makes a grotesque living arranging cut-rate burials
for paupers, he is a decent man who is kind to Oliver.
- Sowerberry’s wife. Mrs. Sowerberry is a mean, judgmental
woman who henpecks her husband.
pessimistic, curmudgeonly friend. Mr. Grimwig is essentially good-hearted,
and his pessimism is mostly just a provocative character quirk.
Maylie’s loyal, though somewhat pompous, butler.
sort of handyman for Mrs. Maylie’s estate. It is implied that Mr.
Brittles is slightly mentally handicapped.
superintendent of the juvenile workhouse where Oliver is raised.
Mrs. Mann physically abuses and half-starves the children in her
brutal chimney sweep. Oliver almost becomes Mr. Gamfield’s apprentice.
of Fagin’s former child pickpockets, now a prostitute.
harsh, irrational, power-hungry magistrate who presides over Oliver’s
trial for pickpocketing.
of Fagin’s criminal associates. Like Fagin, Barney is Jewish.
Duff and Blathers
- Two bumbling police officers who investigate the
attempted burglary of Mrs. Maylie’s home.
rather dim member of Fagin’s gang. Tom has served time in jail for
doing Fagin’s bidding.