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Oliver Twist (Penguin Classics)by Charles Dickens
Synopses & Reviews
Born to unknown parents, Oliver Twist is forced as a small child to labor in a workhouse under the inhuman conditions that were common in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century. In desperation the boy runs away and is taken in by a disreputable bunch of thieves that includes the burglar, Bill Sikes; Bill's mistress, Nancy; "the Artful Dodger"; and the ringleader, Fagin. Oliver's experiences with this wicked gang, and the kind treatment he receives later from a woman named Rose, are at the heart of this story of the clash between childhood innocence and the dark criminal underworld.
This new edition is based on the serialized text of the novel, allowing readers to experience the story as its first readers did-not as a polished novel for a family audience, but as the dramatically improvised work of a young man discovering his possibilities as a writer.
Scathing in its indictment of a cruel society and pervaded by a sense of threat and mystery, this novel is peopled with some of the most famous characters in literature. Elements of the Gothic Romance jostle with those of the Newgate novel and popular melodrama forging a style entirely Dickens'.
The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters—the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.
Edited with an Introduction by Philip Horne.
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 attorneys 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 has spent a decade looking at the thousands of James's letters in archives in the United States and Europe. A Reader in English Literature at University College, London, he is the author of Henry James and Revision and the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of James's The Tragic Muse.
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