Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oliver Twist Readalong Post 3: Volume 3.

Welcome to the third and final post for the readalong of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist hosted here at A Literary Odyssey. I, for one, had a great time reading through everyone's posts the last two times we posts. You can go here to see our thoughts over part 1, and here for our thoughts on part 2.

I would like to say from the beginning that when I finished, I didn't want to jump for joy because I conquered Dickens. I also didn't call him names, or throw the book at the wall, or even start a rant aimed in my poor husband's general direction about how I hate Dickens. Nope, my husband and cats didn't hear any grumbling.

Instead, Matt had to listen to me ramble about how perhaps I had misjudged Dickens in the past and how he wasn't all bad. Matt was playing Call of Duty at the time, so I doubt he actually listened to me.

The point is, I finished this one and liked it. I liked the story, I understood what Dickens was trying to accomplish, and I didn't leave it wanting to kill him. This is a big deal you guys. Like major.

What this tells me is that I should never hold grudges against authors I "don't like." Because they can surprise you. It only takes one book. This is the one book that has me willing to give Dickens another try, and another. And since I still have 4 novels by him on my list, this is probably a good thing. Perhaps by going into them, remembering that I liked this one, I might be willing to set my irritation over his wordiness aside.

Okay, enough about that and on to the novel!

This third portion picks up where the second left off. We meet up with the skeazy character of Monks, who is meeting them Bumbles for a private conversation. We learn a few more details about the death of Oliver's mother, and we get some hazy information regarding who Oliver is. A mysterious bundle is dropped into a roaring pit, destroying any and all evidence of who Oliver is.

The story moves back towards Fagin (the character who is constantly referred to as "the Jew") and we soon learn that Monks also knows Fagin. Together, the are scheming evil men who had a plot for destroying Oliver. We also go back to learn more about Nancy and Sikes. Some very nasty things occur which take up the bulk of this ending section. I don't want to go into detail to ruin it for anyone who hasn't read the novel, but I loved the action and power of this last section. There was a lot of drama, and as a reader, I could tell that Dickens was trying to shock his readers a bit.

Eventually we learn a little more about Oliver and his rescuers (the lovely people who have taken him in) begin to investigate his past. Things begin to unfold and we soon learn who Monks is, as well as who Oliver is and the truth about his parentage. It all wrapped up neatly, with the bad guys getting their due and young Oliver learning the truth about his identity.

And even though the novel wrapped up nicely, it was certainly dark beneath the layer of sarcasm and humor. It paints a very seedy picture of society at the time and of the poor's plight. You have to feel for the workers in the workhouses, and you feel for the young boys under Fagin's influence. With no real parents to instruct them or care for them, what other choice do they have but to go bad?

I also felt this last section moved along much quicker than the first 2/3 of the book. Perhaps it was the action and drama, but I found myself a little more invested in what was happening with the nasty characters, whereas before I just wanted to focus on Oliver. I love how Dickens wound all the small little bits and pieces together to form a coherent ending. I suppose that is a strength of his-that all these side plots do wind up meaning something. But it was less obnoxious this time and well done.

My only big problem with the entire novel is the labeling of Fagin as "the Jew" and the antisemitism towards his character. Normally I can tolerate racism in a novel-it captures the essence of the novel and adds to the overall meaning-but I was irritated that Fagin was mainly called "the Jew." Why even bother to give him a name then? It annoyed me and I grew slightly exasperated at the repetition.

But for that being my only critique, you can see why I walked away from this one with a renewed faith in Mr. Dickens. I was happy to see that I can enjoy a Dickens novel and get something. Bravo Charles, BRAVO.

If you have completed your post for this readalong, please comment and leave a link to your post so I can link it here.

In addition, please leave an e-mail address for me so I can contact you. I have "something" for all the participants of my readalong, and I can't talk about it with you until I have a way to contact you! (January participants-you'll be getting an e-mail as well. I figured sending them out every two months as opposed to every month would make my life easier).

Katy F.


  1. I liked this last section the most too. :) Here's my post:

    My email address is srfbluemama at gmail dot com

  2. This wasn't my favorite Dickens, but I'm glad I read it. Thanks for hosting. Here is my post.

    klmickelsen at gmail dot com

  3. I decided to do one post instead of three mainly cause I'm lazy. But I agree with most of your thoughts, especially about Fagin being called a Jew. It is always disappointing to come across such clear bigotry in any writing.

    Thanks again for hosting! I am really loving these readalongs and I am planning to try to participate in one every month, either the 1 month or two month ones.

    my e-mail is strandedhero(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. My post:

    This last section was also my favorite and there was actually a part where I wanted Dickens to keep talking (the aftermath of Nancy's death-gosh that makes me sound morbid but I loved the description there)

    Email: bookworm1858 AT hotmail DOT com

  5. Someday I should read Dickens. Some day.

  6. I was also bothered by Dickens' racism. It seemed like he used the term Jew when referring to unsavory characters in the novel. I'm glad you enjoyed Oliver Twist. Looking forward to joining future readalongs. :)

    Here's my post:


  7. I agree about the anti-Semitism, it is the one thing I don't like about this book. . .well, that, and the once-again insufferable ingenue, and the amazing coincidences. . . well, I still like Dickens, I really do!

    I have heard that in later years Dickens really regretted the anti-Semitism in this book and tried to make up for by putting a sympathetic Jewish character in Our Mutual Friend, which I haven't read yet. I think he was a product of his times and he later realized that it was wrong, so I give him credit for that.

    And good for you giving Dickens another chance! I peeked at your list and noticed you still have A Tale of Two Cities, which many people love, and also Hard Times, which I found disappointing. I recommend dropping Hard Times in favor of Little Dorrit which is much better. The only good thing about Hard Times is that it's short, but it's short because Dickens left all the good stuff out. I seriously believe that.

  8. "...had to listen to me ramble about how perhaps I had misjudged Dickens in the past and how he wasn't all bad." I knew you'd come around, eventually! I'm surprised this is the book that did it for ya, but hey, I'm just glad you're at the party. ;)

    I really do enjoy Dickens a lot - and while this was my second-to-least favorite, I still ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I'll be reading David Copperfield later in the year, and I'm looking forward to it - though it is quite long. We'll see how I do with Atlas Shrugged - I might not want to pick up another chunkster.

    My review:

  9. I LOVED THIS. :) I'm so glad I read it. I'm looking forward to the Three Musketeers Read-along as well. Here is my final writeup:

    My email is lorrenrichelle(at)gmail(dot)com.

  10. I'm not done yet-too many things going on-I will catch up though.

    Love, Mom

  11. I'm glad you were able to find a Dickens you like, if for no other reason than that you have four left! It's been too long since I've read Dickens--I can't really remember what I thought of him or his wordiness. I plan on reading him again, though. I'm curious as to how I'll feel, now.

    As to the bigotry in Oliver Twist--I was just reading recently that during the course of publication of the novel, an acquaintance whose husband was Jewish had written Dickens voicing her criticism over his depiction of Fagin and use of the term "the Jew." Dickens apparently took her complaint seriously enough that he halted publication and was able to remove the phrase from the later portions of the novel. I've never read Our Mutual Friend, but as Karen mentions above, I've heard that Dickens also created a sympathetic Jewish character in that. This, I suppose, is an example of where it would be interesting to read an author's works chronologically.

  12. Great book, great author.

    tasseled at gmail dot com