Oliver Twist (1837-39)

Dickens represents the Victorian age in two key ways: his indefatigableness and his desire to control all aspects of his life.

Dickens returns to OT in his public readings towards the end of his life--Sikes's brutal murder of Nancy--dramatic/personal demons

Background Ideas for Reading/Discussion/Writing
  1. Survival of goodness (See the Preface, pg. 456)--fear of becoming evil. The search for identity--finding relationships in the world. Is Oliver a passive protagonist? Is the position of the criminals (active, assertive) more feasible? Understandable?
  2. Social criticism/history: Poor Law (Penguin, pg. 486), Urban/Rural life, Courts and Criminality, Child Labor. What characters would you place under each of these?
  3. Play theory--Why do the criminals in OT have such a vivid place in our imagination? They construct a game world in which they "play" (compete) against proper society. Use the pickpocket game as a means of understanding the larger "game" the criminals play against proper society. What are the characteristics of games? What is the nature of play? (Is there a distinction between play and games?) What does the criminals' game reveal about how individuals are connected to society and each other?