Sunday, August 11, 2013

Be Kind! A Few Thoughts about Oliver Twist

Hello Dear Readers,

It's been a full summer for my little clan and now we are all gearing up for fall. This week I'll be doing my back-to-school shopping.

I finally finished Oliver Twist! Woo-hoo!

I believe it took me longer to read than any novel on the list so far. With the exception of maybe Anna Karenina.

But don't let that scare you away from it if you haven't read it already. It wasn't the book; it was me. During my illness last month, I couldn't read much at all. I read the last 3/4 of it while on vacation with my family last week. 

Dickens managed to mingle a lot of humor into a dark subject. He is not as blatantly preachy as Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin, but he get's his sermon in and it's an essential one: BE KIND!

If I had one complaint it would be that I expected more of Oliver in Oliver Twist. He was like this dear little angel that just floated through adversity. His circumstances changed but he did not change much at all. 

I'm sitting here pondering this a bit . . . I realize he got angry and flew into Noah Claypool and ran away, but even that was righteous anger.

I suppose I prefer a main character who becomes transformed.

You may remember I was reading the novel list in chronological order according to publication dates. I had skipped a few titles at one point and I've now gone back to read the earlier novels I missed before. From this vantage point, I can see how characterization has evolved into something more sophisticated today. Dickens' characters are memorable, but they play out their roles in a way that is somewhat predictable. Have you read Oliver Twist? If so, did you get this sense?

Then again, this was one of the first novels on the WEM list in which the plotline was not a surprise for me. I've seen film versions of OT since I was a kid.

The chapter, "The Flight of Sikes" made me think of Crime and Punishment and underscored my impression that Dostoevsky was beyond compare. I noticed in one of the footnotes to Anna Karenina that Tolstoy read Dickens, so maybe Dostoevsky read him too -- who knows? 

My favorite characters are Mr. & Mrs. Bumble. Absolutely hilarious. I relished every scene in which they showed up. They deserve their own novel. 

OK, one more complaint: Why does Fagin have to be the Jew? He isn't portrayed as an evil person who happens to be Jewish. He is Fagin: the Jew! the Devil! The constant reminders that he is Jewish made me cringe. I thought it paradoxical that while Dickens preaches BE KIND, his intolerance is showing. Ugh. 

So that's about it for now. It's late. I've started running again! I hope to get up early for that tomorrow. 

Have you had a good summer? I hope you enjoy what is left of it! Blessings!

With Love,

P.S. Jane Eyre is up next!


  1. I thought that about Oliver, too, Adriana: he was too sweet to be true. Actually I found the "bad" characters like Fagin and the Artful Dodger and Noah much more interesting than the "good" ones.

    Dickens' references to "The Jew" set my teeth on edge too. I suppose what sounds really bad to our modern ears was normal in Dickens' time, though that doesn't make it right. And it shows the prejudice Jews have experienced for so many centuries.

    1. It makes me wonder if there is anything "normal" to me that will make my decedents cringe. I sure hope not!

      And I agree about Dickens "bad" characters. They were much more interesting than the good ones. Rose was downright saccharine.

    2. It meant *descendants* not "decedents"! Unless we're talking about A Christmas Carol! :) heeheehee

  2. I hope you had a good run, Adriana!

    And on Dickens, you've done more than I've been able to do if you enjoyed him. Then again, I've only read A Tale of Two Cities, so I can't say I know him well. That one was enough to turn me off Dickens, though.

    1. Thank you, Tim! It is good to get back to running. I worked up to it on vacation. I'd take a hike, then nap. By the end of the week I noticed I felt less wiped out by exercise.

      As for Dickens -- I enjoyed SOME of OT. It wasn't a difficult read. I didn't find myself chewing on many profound insights. But there were certainly aspects that I found masterful. This was my first Dickens. I've enjoyed some of the Dickens BBC dramas -- Little Dorrit & Bleak House. I'd like to know what in particular turned you off.

  3. I'm so glad that you're feeling strong enough to read again, my friend. XO That is so good!! :-) I too prefer characters who grow and change - I relate to them so much more and they give me hope. :-) Hope that my bad bits won't always stay so bad. :-)


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