I first read Oliver Twist when I was in third grade. Mind you, it was the very downplayed version of the book that left out all the gory bits and covered Charles Dickens’ second masterpiece in a mere 30-40 pages, using large font and pictures. I was a fan then and I’m still a fan now. Over the years, I’ve read many versions of the book, always abridged and occasionally annotated. For my Dickens’ challenge, I decided to finally tackle the unabridged version.
I thought this would take a tad longer than it actually did–I finished the book in a day and a half. This is largely attributed to the fact that I unexpectedly spent an entire day at my boyfriend’s office, with only my Kindle for company. So I flew through the sordid pages of Oliver’s dark childhood.
Dickens doesn’t mince his words or soften the blows in this book. From start to finish it is grimly realistic, a stark contrast to the beautiful musical inspired by the book, which won 6 Oscars. Dickens explores poverty, child abuse, death, guilt, and social hypocrisy all with a dark sarcasm. His tone of narration was especially interesting because he presented every horrid fact with a twisted sense of sarcastic humour. I quite enjoyed it because it afforded opportunities for me to laugh, but only at the irony of the words. I suppose that’s a better approach to such harsh topics rather than being immersed in it with complete seriousness.
The novel is an English major’s paradise. Heavily laden with symbolism and unique characters, there’s no want of analysis here. I only wish I could have had it as one of my texts in college or that I could have taught it myself during my teaching stint in India for three months. The novel explores both good and evil in a rather obvious sense using setting, but I appreciated and enjoyed the contrasts. One thing I did not enjoy, and feel that I should give fair warning about, is that there are a couple of rather disturbing depictions of cruelty towards a dog. Those were parts that definitely made me feel very uneasy. Fair warning; but don’t let that stop you from reading the book!
The plot of Oliver Twist pulls you in to the story but frustrates you immensely. You will fall in love with the poor little boy and feel a pang every time his chances for a better future get thwarted. Dickens definitely knows how to tell a story. Of course, all the characters tie in a little too well. However, after all the darkness in the novel, the convenience with which certain things fall into place isn’t so bad after all.Dickens can be a little long-winded here and there, but overall it delivers on it’s promise to be an interesting read and a classic that must be explored.