Oliver Twist

by: Charles Dickens

Identity

Quotes Identity
“We name our fondlings in alphabetical order. The last was a S,—Swubble, I named him. This was a T,—Twist, I named him.”

The beadle Mr. Bumble reveals his method for naming the orphans born in the parish. Oliver acquired his name not as representative of his family or his background, but from an arbitrary system. This scenario highlights the illusory nature of Oliver’s identity: An uncaring man names the boy “Oliver Twist” on a whim. The name itself does not reflect Oliver’s character, background, or significance.

“This child,” said Mr. Brownlow, drawing Oliver to him, and laying his hand upon his head, “is your half-brother; the illegitimate son of your father . . . by poor young Agnes Fleming, who died in giving him birth.”

As Mr. Brownlow reveals the relationship between Oliver and Monks, Oliver’s identity becomes clearer. Though Oliver learns the identities of his parents—a gentleman and the daughter of a naval officer—he remains, in the words of Monks, a “bastard,” and thereby carries a stain upon his name. When Mr. Brownlow adopts him, however, he gives Oliver a new name and lineage, which will allow the boy to escape the burdensome terms of his birth.

“Not aunt,” cried Oliver, throwing his arms about her neck; “I’ll never call her aunt—sister, my own dear sister, that something taught my heart to love so dearly from the first! Rose, dear, darling Rose!”

Oliver reacts to learning his true relation to Rose. From Monks, Oliver discovers another piece in the mystery of his identity: He is Rose’s nephew. While Oliver already loves Rose dearly, this information connects the two in a new way and also provides Oliver with the family he never had. Discovering a true relative, combined with his adoption by Mr. Brownlow, changes Oliver’s identity completely. At the beginning of the story, he was an unloved, impoverished orphan. Now he lives as a child with an inheritance and a loving family.