- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141439742
- ISBN-13: 978-0141439747
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,307 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003
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"The power of [Dickens] is so amazing, that the reader at once becomes his captive, and must follow him whithersoever he leads."
--William Makepeace Thackeray
About the Author
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation,but also the horror of the infamous debtors’ prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and “slave” factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years’ formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney’s clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.
Philip Horne is a Reader in English at UCL. He is author of the acclaimed Henry James: A Life in Letters and editor of James' The Tragic Muse for Penguin.
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However, the production does reflect an additional, curious irony: lots of violence, but no cussing. In the book, Oliver suffers physical and psychological abuse as an orphan, a child laborer, and a child criminal. The audio presentation is unsparing in its depiction of this sadistic underworld of Industrial England, but don't expect the novel's occasional profanity.
Most of the time, the intensity of the criminal characters, such as Fagin, Monks, and Bill Sikes, covers the fact that all the actors are minding their verbal manners, but it does seem odd that Mr. Bumble isn't allowed to famously protest "...the law is a ass --a idiot," (sic). Instead, Focus on the Family uses the lesser known novel quote "...the law is a bachelor..."
At any rate, the five CDs include an interpretive foreword and afterword, which serve as bookends of the Radio Theatre production. There's also a DVD of a behind-the-scenes look, as well as a documentary about the "modern day Olivers" of the foster care system. The set makes a great gift --for yourself, as well as someone else.
Oliver Twist starts off very down and gloomy in many parts and while that scenery doesn't change, the tone definitely does toward the end. It is worth reading for sure and another tome in the classics of Charles Dickens. This version contains some illustrations as well which were very well done and appropriate.
The story is one of a poor orphan boy, sold to an undertaker and abused until he runs away to London. He falls in with thieves and through a strange twist of fate is rescued by the man who was his father's best friend. It's a long story, filled with reversals of fortune and amazing coincidences, and although it has a happy ending, there is some genuine tragedy. It's a very sad scene when Oliver returns to the orphanage to get his best friend, Dick, who saw him off on his journey to London, only to find that Dick has died of untreated sickness. The prostitute, Nancy, has all the attributes of a character in a Greek tragedy-you desperately want her to leave the streets and her brutal boyfriend, Bill Sikes, and when she refuses to go, you have a sinking feeling that she isn't going to last much longer. When he beats her to death in their little room, it's a gruesome scene, but not a surprising one. The only relief from Fagin's gang comes from Charley, who reforms and leaves London to become a grazier.
A word about Fagin-some might find the constant description of him as "the Jew" offensive. It is not meant as a pejorative, but rather as a handy label to define the arch-criminal. While it is true that Fagin is constantly described as a Jew and is one of the most repulsive Jewish characters in literature, it was not Dickens' intent to cast slurs upon Jewish people. He wrote in good faith and was troubled later, after becoming friends with Eliza Davis, the wife of the Jewish banker he sold his London house to, by the way he had portrayed Fagin. Eliza wrote to him in 1863 that she considered the way Dickens had portrayed Fagin a great wrong to the Jewish people. Dickens started to revise Oliver Twist, removing over 180 instances of the word "Jew" from the first edition text. He also ommitted sterotypical caricature from his public readings of Oliver Twist and a contemporary report noted, "There is no nasal intonation; a bent back but no shoulder-shrug: the conventional attributes are omitted." Dickens was finally able to write to Eliza, "There is nothing but good will left between me and a People for whom I have a real regard and to whom I would not willfully have given an offence." Fagin might still give offense to those looking for it, but personally I have always seen him as an example of a bad man, not a Jewish man, and I believe that is how Dickens meant to portray him.