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Oliver Twist

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File:OliverTwist 6957.jpg
Please, sir, I want some more.
Oliver Twist

Novel by Charles Dickens, originally published as a serial in Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1839. Oliver Twist is born an orphan and raised to a young age in a cruel workhouse that exploits the poor. Eventually he escapes the workhouse, only to run afoul of the London underworld. He's recruited into a pickpocket gang, but rescued by a kindly gentlemen who discovers Oliver's real identity and finally finds him a happy home.

The story is one of Dickens' most famous tales and includes some of his most enduring characters, including the crooked Jewish ringleader Fagin and the sly Artful Dodger. Like many of Dickens' works, the novel contains a great deal of social criticism on the way British society at the time treated its poor. Of particular note is the famous scene in which the starving Oliver begs for more gruel from the workhouse cook and is harshly punished.

The story has been adapted many times throughout the years, with some adaptations taking more liberties than others. One in particular, the 1960 musical version, Oliver!; the 1968 film version was successful enough to win Best Picture that year.


This book contains examples of: Edit

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with. Nancy is fiercely loyal to the abusive Sikes, though she has no illusions about what he is. On the other hand, Rose falls for the Incorruptibly Pure Harry.
  • The Artful Dodger: The Trope Namer
  • Being Evil Sucks
  • Being Watched: Sikes suffers from this after he murders Nancy.
  • Berserk Button: Don't even think about insulting Oliver's mother.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Just check out what Oliver's dad, Edwin Leeford, had to deal with.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Break the Cutie: This is exactly what the bad guys want to do to Oliver. They almost succeed.
  • Broken Bird: Nancy, Agnes at the time of her death.
  • The Bully: Noah Claypole.
  • Cain and Abel: Oliver and his half-brother, Monks/Edward Leeford.
  • Catch Phrase: Lots of the characters have them. Perhaps the most memorable is "I'll eat my head!"
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Nancy, Noah . . .
  • Children Are Innocent: Played straight and subverted. The pickpockets are streetwise crooks, but they're desperate for survival and guided by malicious adults who exploit them.
  • Cliff Hanger: Since the novel was published as a serial, Dickens was naturally fond of this - how else are you going to make sure the readers buy the next issue?
  • Consummate Liar: Nancy is perfectly capable of fooling police officers, her lover Bill, and even Fagin.
  • Contrived Coincidence: By an amazing stroke of luck, Sikes and Oliver set out to rob the home of Oliver's aunt Rose. Having previously attempted to pick the pocket of Oliver's dad's best friend, Brownlow.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Maylie, in a Purity Sue kind of way.
  • Crapsack World: Played straight, with London and the Workhouse, but subverted when Oliver lives in the country with the Maylies.
  • Death by Childbirth: Oliver's mother Agnes. Who also is Rose's deceased older sister.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Oliver asks for a second helping of food and is severely punished for it. (This was intended as a cutting Satire on social conditions, of course.)
  • Domestic Abuser: Bill Sikes, to Nancy; Noah Claypole, to Charlotte (to a certain extent, anyway; it's verbal, not phsyical); Widow Corney, to Mr Bumble; and Mrs Sowerberry, to Mr Sowerberry. The last two probably qualify more as Henpecked Husband, but it's still portrayed as somewhat abusive.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Charley may be a pickpocket and street urchin, but he's VERY upset when Sikes kills Nancy.
  • Evil Mentor: Fagin.
  • The Fagin: Trope Namer.
  • Females Are More Innocent: Most of the women are wholesome, decent people (special mention goes to The Ingenue Rose), save for Nancy, who is a Love Martyr for Bill Sykes, someone who is less than pleasant
  • Film of the Book: Multiple.
  • Greedy Jew: Dickens indulges in this trope to the hilt with Fagin, however it does not appear that Dickens himself held any grudge against Jews. Creating exaggerated characters out of all walks of life was his stock in trade. He also claimed that he only made Fagin Jewish because he legitimately believed that most London "kidsmen" were Jewish. Later in life, Dickens befriended some Jewish people and discovered that they were offended by the character. By way of apology, he want back and excised many references to Fagin's faith.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Charley Bates is frequently called "Master Bates." This is probably supposed to be amusing for another reason, in that Charley is a street urchin unlikely to deserve such an honorific.
  • Heartwarming Orphan
  • Heel Face Turn: After helping kidnap him, Nancy starts to care for Oliver and betrays Fagin in order to protect the child. Note: she does not turn on Sikes, and refuses to leave him. If only he knew that . . .
  • Henpecked Husband:
    • The eventual outcome of Mr. Bumble's marriage to the Widow Corney.
    • Also Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: The Dodger and Charley Bates, Brownlow and Grimwig, the Doctor and Grimwig (they become this after the events of the book, anyway), possibly Bet and Nancy, though we don't see them interact enough to tell.
    • Also Brownlow and Edwin Leeford, to the point of becoming his Secret Keeper.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Nancy is not specifically stated to be a prostitute, but she's implied to be, and partly fulfills the requirements of the character type.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Oliver and the Maylies.
  • Jerkass: Near the beginning, most authority figures.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After years of tyrannizing over the workhouse, the Bumbles end the novel in it.
  • Lemony Narrator: Dickens' authorial voice is well known for this trope.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Or better said, "Oliver, I'm your Disappeared Dad's best friend".
  • May-December Romance. Edwin Leefort was on both ends of this. First he married a much older woman ( Monks's mother) and theirs was a very unhappy union. Later he met a young girl named Agnes and they hit it off, but he suddenly died and Agnes ran away from her family. And we all know what happened to her.
  • Meaningful Name: Many, as Dickens is known for this.
  • Missing Mom: Oliver's mother Agnes dies at the beginning of the novel.
  • Name's the Same: Fagin was named after a fellow factory worker Dickens knew in his youth. Although the memory of those days was clearly painful for Dickens, Fagin himself was actually a friend.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Though it's actually a workhouse, Oliver Twist features probably the most infamous orphanage in literature.
  • Orphan's Ordeal
  • Parental Abandonment: And how.
  • Parental Substitute: Many, good and bad, including: Fagin, Nancy, Mr. Brownlow, his housekeeper, Rose Maylie, and Mrs. Maylie.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Justified.
  • Purple Prose: The beginning of the first chapter is a very Egregious example of this. Though not all of the book is Purple Prose, it and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness still occur quite often - for example, a face is hardly ever, if at all, called a face - it's always a "countenance".
    • At times, it seems this trope is invoked intentionally, particularly in the scenes where Oliver is clearly getting screwed over, so as to add an extra element of detachment to the text, which makes Oliver's suffering all the more horrifying given the clinical prose.
    • Much of the reason for this, as in Dickens' other work, is that Dickens was paid by the word.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Nancy, who goes from kidnapping crook to martyr through her death.
  • Revealing Coverup: If Sikes et al hadn't been so concerned about getting Oliver back so he couldn't implicate them, then they probably would have continued unnoticed and lived. Of course as soon as they kidnap him the whole house of cards starts to collapse.
  • Right on the Tick: Used in a bit of foreshadowing when Nancy pays attention to clock stiking eight p.m. Eight a.m. was when friends/colleagues of hers were to be executed the next day.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The book was famously quite cynical and critical about the plight of the poor in England at the time, yet is also typically idealistic in its regard for incorruptible youth.
  • Street Urchin: The Artful Dodger, Charley Bates and the rest of Fagin's pickpockets, including Oliver.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Mr. Brownlow started to have thoughts about Oliver's true identity when he noticed that he looked a LOT like the portrait of Agnes that he kept at his home...
  • This Bed of Roses: Nancy takes Oliver under her wing and is determined to raise him to be a respectable young man.
  • Trap Door: Monks meets Mr and Mrs Bumble in his derelict warehouse hideout, and after their conversation reveals that they had been sitting on a trapdoor that he could have used to drop them in the river had he wished.
  • Truth in Television: Charles Dickens wrote the book based on many problems that were prevalent in English society at the time.
    • Fagin was a representative of a type of criminal found in the slums of that day, called a "kidsman." They would train young runaways and "throwaway" children to pick pockets, and pay them for the proceeds, as well as providing a place to sleep. Oliver Twist himself gets used as what was called a "snakesman"---a young child or very small adult who could insinuate himself into places where an adult could not pass, to open doors and allow older, larger confederates to enter.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The character Fagin who is depicted as a Greedy Jew, something that wasn't that uncommon in Victorian literature, but since World War Two has caused a lot of controversy with modern readers.
    • On the other hand, Dickens vivid and social descriptions of the problems of the poor people in society were something that actually shocked 19th century readers, who weren't used to hearing about all this hidden atrocities.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Sikes after murdering Nancy; Fagin while awaiting execution.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Sikes, who physically abuses Nancy. This includes the fatal beating of her toward the end of the novel.

Adaptations with their own trope pages include: Edit

The other adaptations contain examples of: Edit

  • Adaptation Distillation: Like most of Dickens' stories, it's fairly long and plot heavy, leading to very abridged adaptations.
  • Animated Adaptation: 1974 by Filmation, in which Oliver gets a frog for a companion throughout the whole story.
    • Disney's Oliver and Company is an extremely loose adaptation of Oliver Twist, where everyone but Fagin and Sikes are animals and it takes place in 1980's New York.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"
  • Compressed Adaptation: The Maylies? Who are they?
    • Edward "Monks" Leeford. Where is he?
  • Loveable Rogue: Some adaptations turn Fagin into one of these to de-emphazise his ludicrously Un-PC Greedy Jew characterization in the original.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: All of the recent adaptations have reworked Fagin to make his criminality partly or entirely a product of nineteenth-century antisemitism.
  • Race Lift: In a recent BBC adaptation with Timothy Spall as Fagin, Nancy is inexplicably turned into a black woman. This is entirely ignoring the fact that Sikes, being a Nineteenth Century Politically-Incorrect Villain, would have nothing to do with black people. This also provides a case of Politically-Correct History.
  • Recycled in Space: Twist is Oliver Twist IF EVERYONE WAS GAAAAY!
  • Spared by the Adaptation: No one has the heart to kill off Fagin anymore, although the most recent BBC adaption averts this (while making the execution about his race/religion instead of him being evil).

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