Oliver Twist | Summary, Characters, Setting

Dickens' Oliver Twist Summary, Characters, Setting

Oliver Twist is Dickens’ second novel, his first being Pickwick Papers, a hilarious comedy. Being a social reformer, Dickens in Oliver Twist ruthlessly crusaded against the social evils in the then society, in particular the wretched conditions in the workhouse. Through this article I am going to highlight upon Oliver Twist Summary, Oliver Twist Characters List and Oliver Twist Setting in a supereasy and comprehensive way:

Oliver Twist Characters

Table of Contents

  1. Oliver Twist:

The central character of the novel; the natural son of Mr. Edwin Leeford; an unheroic character devoid of any personality in the first chapter, he is simply referred to as an ‘item of mortality’; through him Dickens wanted to show the principle of Good surviving through every adverse circumstance and triumphing at last’; his chief feature is an expression of innocence and melancholy.

  1. Edwain Leeford:

Oliver’s father, we never meet him personally.

  1. Agnes Fleming:

Oliver’s mother, dies shortly after giving birth to him.

  1. Monks:

Oliver’s half-brother: tall, strong, eyes deeply sunken, dark hair, dark face, subject to fits; ‘completely evil-minded; tries to deprive Oliver of his share in his father’s property.

  1. Mr. Bumble:

The parish beadle; petty but pompous, swaggering official; begins by bullying the paupers but ends up a pauper himself, he is one of the main targets of Dickens’s attack but also the chief source of comic relief.

  1. Mrs. Mann:

The elderly female superintendent of the baby-farm where Oliver spends the first nine years of his life; utterly lacking in humanity.

  1. Mr. Gamfield:

The chimney-sweep; Oliver narrowly escapes being apprenticed to him; brutal in his behaviour.

  1. Mr. Sowerberry:

The parish undertaker: he takes Oliver as an apprentice and later converts him into a mute at children’s funerals tall, gaunt, always dressed in black, sympathetic.

  1. Mrs. Sowerberry:

Sowerberry’s wife: ‘a short, thin, squeezed-un woman, with a vixenish countenance’: almost as inhuman as Mrs. Mann.

  1. Noah Claypole:

A charity-boy employed at the Sowerberrys; it is because of his bullying that Oliver leaves for London; in Londe becomes a spy for Fagin; still later is a police informer; he is gree and is destined for a life of petty crime.

  1. Charlotte:

A maid-servant at the Sowerberrys; soft-hearted; blindly devoted to Noah Claypole.

  1. Dick:

Oliver’s little friend and playmate; Oliver meets him on his way to London; another innocent victim of the parochial system.

  1. Mrs. Corney:

The matron of the workhouse where Oliver was born greedy, mean and hard-hearted; Mr. Bumble marries her and she reduces him to a hen-pecked husband.

  1. Old Sally:

The old lady who attends Oliver’s mother at the time of his birth; she is the one who holds the secret of his parentage.

  1. Martha Anny:

The inmates of the workhouse; they too discover the secret of Oliver’s parentage.

  1. Fagin:

The old Jew in whose hands Oliver falls in London; he is ‘a very old, shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair’: a creature of darkness, in the habit of calling everyone ‘my dear’; in complicity with Monks tries to make Oliver a permanent member of his gang publicly hanged in the end.

  1. The Artful Dodger (Jack Dawkins):

The chief pupil of Fagin; it is he who takes Oliver to Fagin; attractive but unscrupulous: like Fagin, his most important principle in life is to take care of number one’.

18. Charley Bates:

The usual companion of the Artful Dodger; an important member of Fagin’s gang; very sprightly: he relieves the gloom and tension of Fagin’s world; gets reformed in the end.

  1. Bill Sikes:

The co-leader of Fagin’s gang: dirty, unshaven and scowling, looks every inch a criminal that he is: savage, coarse and vicious; can scarcely be called a human being; brutally murders Nancy though she is very faithful to him: gets accidentally hanged in the end.

  1. Nancy:

A young girl working for Fagin and his gang, sincerely in love with Sikes but is cruelly murdered by him; humane and courageous; responsible for capturing Oliver and bringing him back to Fagin; later plays a very significant role in restoring him to respectability.

  1. Tom Chitling:

A minor member of Fagin’s gang: callow and dullheaded; mainly used as a foil for the Artful Dodger.

  1. Toby Crackit:

Another member of Fagin’s gang: a highly professional and skilful robber, accompanies Sikes and Oliver for the robbery at Chertsey.

  1. Barney:

Another Jew; the waiter at the Three Cripples; partly responsible for the management of the burglary at Chertsey.

  1. Kags:

A convict who had been transported overseas but had returned illegally; appears just once in the novel probably to lend extra colour to the scene of Sikes’ death

  1. Mr. Fang:

The magistrate: Oliver is presented before him on charge of picking Mr. Brownlow’s pocket; the sole representative of the legal profession in the novel; depicted as a very unpleasant character.

  1. Blathers, Duff:

Two Bow Street officers who try to investigate the Chertsey robbery, utter nincompoops.

  1. Mr. Brownlow:

An old gentleman whose pocket is picked by the Artful Dodger: respectable, kind, absent-minded; the best friend of Oliver’s father Edwin Leeford; adopts Oliver in the end.

  1. Mrs. Bedwin:

Housekeeper to Mr. Brownlow; a motherly old lady always neatly and precisely dressed looks after Oliver when he is ill.

  1. Mr. Grimwig:

A friend of Mr. Brownlow; an old bachelor: eccentric but fundamentally good-hearted.

  1. Mrs. Maylie:

The owner of the house at Chertsey; an old and benevolent lady, adopts Rose, Oliver’s aunt.

  1. Rose Maylie:

The adopted niece of Mrs. Maylie, actually the aunt of Oliver; her real name is Rose Fleming, an idealised picture of woman.

  1. Harry Maylie:

Mrs. Maylie’s son; young and handsome but wasteful in the beginning: in love with Rose; ultimately becomes a minister and marries her.

  1. Giles:

Butler and steward to Mrs. Maylie; shoots Oliver in the confusion of burglary; a slightly comic character. 34. Brittles: Servant in the Maylie household; slow and not very intelligent.

  1. Dr. Losberne:

The doctor who is called in to examine Oliver at the Maylies.

  1. Mr. Limbkins:

Chairman of the Workhouse Board.

  1. Mr. Lively:

A salesman and dealer in stolen goods.

  1. Becky:

Barmaid at the Red Lion Inn.

  1. Bet (Betsy):

A thief in Fagin’s service.

  1. Mr. Stout:

The workhouse master: Mr. Bumble expected to succeed him


Oliver Twist Setting

  1. London:

The scene of action after Oliver’s flight from Mr. Sowerberry’s place in an unnamed town.

  1. Field Lane:

In London; Fagin’s hideout is here.

  1. Chertsey:

Outside London; the residence of the Maylies.

  1. London Bridge:

It is here that Nancy has a secret meeting with Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow.

  1. Three Cripples:

An inn in London; the haunt of Monks; Noah Claypole stays here on his arrival in London.

  1. Jacob’s Island:

Sikes takes refuge here after his flight from London,

  1. The West Indies:

Mr. Brownlow goes there on a mysterious visit.

  1. Barnet:

A small town on the outskirts of London: Oliver meets the Artful Dodger here on his way to London.

  1. Pentonville:

Mr. Brownlow’s residence is in a quiet shady street near Pentonville, in London.

  1. Folly Ditch:

A ditch in Jacob’s Island; Sikes wanted to escape by jumping into the ditch.


Oliver Twist Summary

Oliver is Born

A child was born in a dark and dingy workhouse about seventy-five miles north of London. His mother’s name was not known. She had perhaps undertaken a long journey on foot and had fallen unconscious by the roadside near the workhouse. She died almost immediately after giving birth to the child, leaving behind a locket and a ring as the only tokens of the child’s identity. These too were stolen by old Sally present at her death. Sally was just an ordinary pauper, living in the workhouse.

Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle and a bullying official of the workhouse named the child Oliver. Mr. Bumble named the children born in the workhouse in the interesting order of an alphabetical system he had himself devised. On Mr. Bumble’s list, Twist was the name falling between Swubble and Unwin. So this was named Oliver Twist.

A reward of ten pounds was offered to anyone who could give helpful clues about Oliver’s parents. But no useful information could be procured. Oliver was sent to a nearby poor farm, where he passed his early childhood in neglect and near starvation. At the age of nine, he was moved back to the workhouse. The children in the workhouse were given very little to eat, so virtually they were always hungry. One day Oliver was forced by other children to ask for a second serving of porridge. The authorities were stunned by this unusual and unprecedented demand. In order to give him deterring punishment, they immediately put him in solitary confinement and posted a bill offering five pounds to some master who would take him off the parish.

Apprenticeship at Sowerberry’s and Departure for London

Oliver was apprenticed to Mr. Sowerberry, a coffin maker, to learn a trade. Since Oliver cut a pathetic figure, Sowerberry finally made him an attendant at children’s funerals. Noah Claypole, another employee of Sowerberry, once teased Oliver about his parentage. Oliver patiently stood the insult but when he could not endure more, he ran into a violent fury and fiercely hit Claypole. It was with great difficulty that he was overpowered by Mrs. Sowerberry, Charlotte, a maid at Sowerberry’s and Claypole, and cocked in the cellar When Sowerberry returned. Oliver was given a severe thrashing. But later he was released. That night Oliver packed his meagre belongings and left for London.

Fagin’s Den and the Art of Pick-pocketing

The journey to London was tiresome and painful. When Oliver reached the outskirts of London, he was worn out from walking and weak from hunger. He met Jack Dawkins, popularly known as the Artful Dodgr, who offered him food and lodgings in the city. Oliver soon found himself in the midst of a gang of young thieves led by a miserly old Jew, Fagin. Here Oliver was trained as a pick-pocket.

The First Pick-pocketing Mission; the Kindly Mr. Brownlow

One day the Artful Dodger, Charley Bates and Oliver were sent on a pick-pocketing mission. Oliver did not pick any pockets, but it was he who was caught and taken to the police station. There he was rescued by kindly Mr. Brownlow, the man whose pocket Oliver was accused of having picked. This adventure left a rude shock on young Oliver’s mind and for some time he was terribly sick. He was carefully looked after by Mr. Brownlow, his gruff friend Mr. Grimwig and the old housekeeper Mrs. Bedwin. In the room where Oliver was kept, there hung on one of the walls the portrait of a young woman, and almost everyone marvelled at the resemblance between young Oliver and the lady in the portrait.

Oliver is Back to Fagin

Mr. Brownlow was sure that Oliver was a sincere and honest boy but his friend Mr. Grimwig thought otherwise. When Oliver was fully recovered, he was one day given some money and books to take to a bookseller. Grimwig wagered that Oliver would not return. Brownlow was equally confident he would. Meanwhile Fagin and his gang had been on constant lookout for his appearance. So as soon as he left Mr. Brownlow’s house, he was intercepted by Nancy, a young street girl associated with the gang and brought back to Fagin den.

The Villainous Mr. Bumble Appears Again

Mr. Brownlow, still sure that Oliver had been the victim of some unfortunate mishap advertised for his recovery. This advertisement was seen by Mr. Bumble, then in London on some parochial business. Hoping to cam same profit he hastened to Mr. Brownlow and reported that Oliver was incorrigible. The information made Mr. Brownlow an utterly dejected and unhappy person. He felt so miserable that he refused to have Oliver’s name mentioned in his presence.

The Robbery at Chertesy

Oliver was once more back in the hands of Fagin. During his absence the gang had been studying a house in Chertsey. west of London, with a view breaking into it at night. The time carne for this adventure and Oliver his horror, was chosen to participate. This daring robbery was to be attempted by Bill Sikes, brutal young co-leader of the gang, Toby Crackit, another house-breaker and Oliver, who had been chosen because of his short height. They thought he would be handy to let into the house through the ventilator. The three met in the dark of early morning and tried open a small the house. Oliver was in no mood to be an accomplice in the role entered the window, determined to warn the occupants. He fell on the floor with a thud and the robbers were discovered. All the three of them fled, but as he was running, Oliver was wounded by a gunshot.

The Entry of Monks into the Story

It was not possible to carry the wounded Oliver with them. So Sikes threw him into a ditch and covered him with a cape. Toby Crackit returned to Fagin and reported the incident. In the meantime one Monks had met Fagin and held with him an important conversation about Oliver’s parentage. Monks wanted to got hold of the boy and sought Fagin’s assistance. This conversation was overheard by Nancy, who later played a very significant role in Oliver’s life.

Oliver Goes to the Maylies

Oliver, left by Bill Sikes in the ditch, was feeling weak and miserable. But he crawled back to the house into which he had gone the night before. He was taken in by the owner, Mrs. Maylie and Rose, her adopted niece. Oliver’s story aroused their sympathy and he was saved from police investigation by Dr. Losberne, friend of the Maylies. He had still not forgotten Mr. Brownlow. After he had recovered, he accompanied Dr. Losberne to seek out Mr. Brownlow but he was disappointed to learn that the old gentleman, his friend Mrs. Bedwin had gone to the West Indies.

Mr. Bumble Marries Mrs. Corney

Meanwhile Mr. Bumble had been courting the widow Mrs. Corney. During one of their conversations, Mrs. Corney was called out to attend the death of old Sally, who had stood by at the death of Oliver’s mother. After old Sally died, Mrs. Corney removed a pawn ticket from her hand. In Mrs. Corney’s absence, Bumble appraised her property to his satisfaction. He also proposed marriage to Mrs. Corney.

Oliver Accompanies the Maylies to the Countryside

The Maylies moved to the country where Oliver studied gardening, read and took long walks. During this holiday Rose Maylie fell sick and nearly died. After her recovery, Harry Maylie, the son of Mrs. Maylie joined the group. Harry, in love with Rose, proposed marriage to her. But Rose declined the proposal. She said she could not marry him before she had discovered her real identity. Secondly he must mend his ways before he married her. One evening Oliver was frightened to see Fagin and Monks peering at him through the study window.

 Monks Destroys the Tokens of Oliver’s Parentage

Mr. Bumble was soon disillusioned with his wife, for the former Mrs. Corney dominated him completely. Monks went to the workhouse seeking information about Oliver. He met Mrs. Bumble and learnt that she had redeemed a locket and a wedding ring with the pawn that she had recovered from old Sally. Monks bought the trinkets from Mrs. Bumble and threw them into the river.

Nancy Meets Rose Maylie with Some Clues about Oliver’s Parentage

Monks told Fagin that he had disposed of the tokens of Oliver’s parentage. This conversation was again overheard by Nancy. She drugged Bill Sikes, whom she had been nursing after the robbery at Chertsey and went to Rose Maylie whose name and address she had overheard in the conversation between Fagin and Monks. Nancy told Rose everything she had heard concerning Oliver. Rose was unable to understand fully the various connections of the plot nor could she see Monk’s connection with Oliver She offered the miserable girl the protection of her own home. But Nancy refused the offer, since she was in love with Bill Sikes and could never leave him. The two young women, however, agreed on a time and place for a later meeting

Oliver Again Meets Mr. Brownlow

Oliver had seen Mr. Brownlow in the street. So he persuaded Rose to take him to the old gentleman. The reunion of Oliver, Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bed win was a joyous one. Even old Mr. Grimwig gruffly expressed his pleasure at seeing Oliver again. Rose acquainted Mr. Brownlow with the important facts in Nancy’s Story.

 Noah Claypole also joins Fagin

Noah Claypole and Charlotte, maid-servant of the Sowerberrys, had in the meantime, run way from the undertaker and arrived in London. They happened to go to the public house which was also the haunt of Fagin and his gang. Fagin easily succeeded in persuading Noah to join him. He was given the job of stealing small coins from children on household errands.

Noah Claypole Spies on Nancy

Nancy could not meet Rose Maylie at the appointed time. Bill Sikes was still unwell and he did not let her move from his side. Noticing Nancy’s impatience to go away, Fagin concluded that she was tired of Sikes and that she had another lover. Fagin hated Sikes because Sikes wielded a strong power over the gang. He saw this situation is an opportunity to get rid of Sikes. He asked Noah to spy on Nancy.

Nancy is Murdered by Sikes

The following week Nancy got free with the aid of Fagin. She Rose and Mr. Brownlow and revealed to them the haunts of all the members of the gang except Sikes. Noah overheard all this and reported it to Fagin who conveyed it to Sikes. Sikes was naturally infuriated. He brutally murdered Nancy without knowing that the girl had been faithful to him. But once the murder was over, he was haunted by the vision of murdered Nancy’s eyes. He just kept running about but got no peace. Apprehending that the presence of his dog might betray him, he attempted to kill his dog. The dog ran away.

The Puzzle is Solved

On the basis of Nancy’s information, Monks was soon apprehended. And he confessed to Mr. Brownlow the plot against Oliver. Oliver’s father, Edwin Leeford had married a woman older than himself. Their son, Edward Leeford was the man now known as Monks. The senior Mr. Leeford separated from his wife after leading with her several years of unhappy married life. Monks and his mother stayed on the continent while Mr. Leeford returned to England. Later he met a retired naval officer and fell in love with his seventeen years-old daughter. There was another daughter aged three. Leeford contracted to marry the girl, but before the marriage could be solemnised, he was called to Rome, where an old friend had died. On the way to Rome, he stopped at the house of Mr. Brownlow, his best friend, and left with him a portrait of his betrothed. He himself fell sick in Rome and died.

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Mr. Leeford’s former wife seized all his papers. The girl he was to marry on his return was pregnant. When she heard of Leeford’s death, she ran away to hide her condition. Soon afterwards, her father died and the younger sister was eventually adopted by Mrs. Maylie. She was Rose Maylie, Oliver’s aunt. Monks squandered away much of the property left to him. When his mother died, he went to the West Indies, where Mr. Brownlow had gone in search of him. But Monks had already returned to England. He wanted to find his halfbrother Oliver’s whereabouts so that he might appropriate his part of the property. It was Monks who had offered the reward at the workhouse for information about Oliver’s parentage, and it was Monks who had paid Fagin to see that the boy remained with the gang as a common thief.

The End of Sikes and Fagin

After the Artful Dodger had been seized, Bill Sikes and the remainder of the gang met on Jacob’s Island in the Thames River. They wanted to stay there in a deserted house till the hunt had died down. But Sikes dog led their pursuers to the hideout. Bill Sikes hanged himself accidentally with the rope, he was using as a means of escape. The other robbers were captured, Fagin was hanged publicly at Newgate after he had revealed to Oliver the location of papers concerning the boy’s heritage. Monks had entrusted these papers to the Jew for safekeeping.

The End of the Story

Harry Maylie, who had become a minister, married Rose Maylie. Mr. Brownlow adopted Oliver and took up residence near the church of the Reverend Harry Maylie. Mr. and Mrs. Bumble lost their positions in the parish and soon became inmates of the workhouse which once had been their domain. Monks, allowed to retain his share of his father’s property, went to America and eventually died in prison. Charley Bates went to Northamptonshire and reformed himself. Oliver’s years of hardship and unhappiness were over.

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