This past week, Dickens accompanied me to my local Jiffy Lube because the oil needed to be changed in my car, and I wondered what Dickens thought of cars in general. I came across this post, which claims that Dickens would drive a Gurney One-Horse Steam Carriage, and I have to admit, the writer makes some good points. Charlie was amused that I couldn’t take care of the maintenance on my car myself, but then I didn’t see him jumping at the chance to do it for me. So the Jiffy Lube was helpful.
Oliver Twist is pretty much the exact opposite of The Pickwick Papers, or at least seems to be at the beginning. Instead of a wealthy, old man, our hero is a poor, young orphan. Instead of a lighthearted, amusing story made up of short adventures, we have one continuous adventure filled with serious moments and a critique on society. Oliver Twist also reads a lot faster than The Pickwick Papers and is considerably shorter.
However, similar to The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist was serialized. The first monthly installment appeared in February 1837 in a magazine that Dickens was editing, called Bentley’s Miscellany. Dickens wrote this novel in response to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which allowed the poor to be given charity only through workhouses, though the power there was much abused. Oliver Twist was well-received, though not quite with the fervor of The Pickwick Papers. Dickens was also criticized for including criminals and prostitutes in his novel. He had no shame though, and, in a preface to an edition published in 1858, he wrote, “I saw no reason, when I wrote this book, why the very dregs of life, so long as their speech did not offend the ear, should not serve the purpose of a moral, at least as well as its froth and cream.”*
Oliver Twist is probably the most well-known Dickens novel, perhaps due to the roughly 30 different film versions of the story that have been made since 1906. Multiple stage adaptations appeared in London before the serialization of the novel had even been completed. Dickens was a master of this rags-to-riches tale and one of the first to make it a popular story-line.
The latest adaptation of this famous novel
In the story, you can’t help but like Oliver and feel sorry for his pitiable lot in life. He is never treated fairly; yet when he is finally treated somewhat kindly by a group of thieves, he still refuses to think well of thievery and asks to be thrown out in the streets again before made into a thief. Little Oliver, at times, is an unbelievable character because he seems to never do wrong, though others are always believing that he does do wrong. For instance, whenever anyone treats him with goodness, he says things like this:
“Dear lady, if I could but work for you; if I could only give you pleasure by watering your flowers, or watching your birds, or running up and down the whole day long, to make you happy; what would I give to do it!” (Chapter 32)
I guess Oliver just never seems to act like any young boy that I’ve ever known, but then I’ve never known an orphan boy who grew up on his own, always hungry and never loved. I’m not sure if he’s realistic or not.
But perhaps he’ll become more so with more reading!