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Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens: Review

Oliver Twist is born with no name between the walls of a government-funded shelter for the poor, and in minutes, he is an orphan. Named by authorities and wholly alone in the world, Oliver is subjected to all the cruelties and misfortunes faced by poor orphans with love from no one, and reproach from everyone.

Running away to London seems the answer to his desperate prayers, for there is a place for homeless orphans in the city—especially in the business of crime. But Oliver's innocent heart is not easily soiled by those who would make him a villain, and as fate would have it, there are good hearts in London who hold the keys to unlocking his past, and perhaps even freeing his future.

First of all, I'd like to declare that I conquered this Dickens classic in record time (by my standards), despite a full slate of school, writing, work and extracurriculars—yay, me! I wish I could take credit, but that belongs to Dickens, for weaving such a heart-wrenching, emotional story that I couldn't help but make time to see it to the end!

As is ever the case with Dickens' novels, this book boasts a full cast of characters, if not quite as full as my last undertaking, David Copperfield. Oliver is such a sweet and genuine protagonist who suffers so much at the hands of his masters, it's impossible not to wish for mercy and rejoice right along with him when it comes. The good people that rise from his bleak circumstances are emblems of Godliness and generosity, redeeming the motley crew of villains that compose much of the book.

Content Notes: In the preface, Dickens suggests that his book was met with some controversy in its time, due to the overt presence of thieves, pickpockets and prostitutes. By today's market, though, this book is pretty much as safe as safe can be—swearing is limited to "d—n" (and sometimes even crossed out—imagine that!) and most of the immorality other than thievery is suggested rather than shown. The Lord's name is taken in vain, but most of the time that is crossed out as well. As for the prostitute, she is never explicitly called one, and her business is never shown.

Overall, Oliver Twist contrasts—in the safest possible way—the depravity of evil with the joy of kindness, and the power of goodness in a cruel, sinful world.

"Without strong affection and humanity of heart, and gratitude to that Being whose code is Mercy, and whose great attribute is Benevolence to all things that breathe, happiness can never be attained." ~Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

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