Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens
Main Ideas

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.