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Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · Oliver Twist: The Parish Boy’s Progress

author  · Charles Dickens

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Children’s story; detective story; novel of social protest

language  · English

time and place written  · 1837–38, London

date of first publication  · Published in serial form between February 1837 and April 1839; first book edition published in November 1838

publisher  · First published serially in Bentley’s Miscellany, a periodical edited by Dickens

narrator  · Anonymous narrator

point of view  · The narrator is third person omniscient, and assumes the points of view of various characters in turn. The narrator’s tone is not objective; it is sympathetic to the protagonists and far less so to the novel’s other characters. When dealing with hypocritical or morally objectionable characters, the narrative voice is often ironic or sarcastic.

tone  · Sentimental, sometimes ironic, hyperbolic, crusading

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · 1830s

setting (place)  · London and environs; an unnamed smaller English city; the English countryside

protagonist  · Oliver Twist

major conflict  · Although Oliver is fundamentally righteous, the social environment in which he is raised encourages thievery and prostitution. Oliver struggles to find his identity and rise above the abject conditions of the lower class.

rising action  · Oliver is taken care of by a gang of London thieves, but refuses to participate in their thievery. An upper-class family takes him in, but the thieves and a mysterious character, Monks, continue to pursue him.

climax  · Nancy is murdered for disclosing Monks’s plans to Oliver’s guardians. Mr. Brownlow gets the full story of Oliver’s origins from Monks.

falling action  · Fagin is executed and Sikes dies; Oliver and his new family live out their days in happiness.

themes  · The failures of charity; the folly of individualism; purity in a corrupt city; the countryside idealized

motifs  · Disguised or mistaken identities; hidden family relationships; surrogate families; Oliver’s face

symbols  · Characters’ names; Bull’s-eye; London Bridge

foreshadowing  · The truth about Oliver’s parentage is foreshadowed by the portrait in Mr. Brownlow’s house, by the locket that Old Sally has stolen, and by Monks’s pursuit of Oliver.