Oliver Twist Read-Along: Book 2

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Mr. Dickens,

Your continued tale of the misfortunes (and good fortunes) of the cherubic Oliver Twist continue to interest me, as well as the lives of the individuals that surround him. I must admit that I am familiar with the tale already, thanks to a series for children that strips the stories of the writing behind them and presents only the tales. While I was fascinated by the tale, I must admit that I thought your writing would decrease my enjoyment. As I told you in my last epistle, this was not the case, and I am thoroughly enjoying your story-telling.

I must say that one of my favorite characters to hate is Mr. Bumble. He is so ridiculous and yet so utterly perfect, a caricature who bumbles and blusters through life. His courtship of the Widow Corney was a sheer delight, as he sneaked in her cupboards to see how many silver spoons she possessed, and declared her an angel when she told him that the board gave her coals and candles. "Such parochial perfection!" he cries out in romantic bliss, and reminds Mrs. Corney that the master of her house is about to die. "What a opportunity for a jining of hearts and housekeepings!" In a real person his traits would be despicable and repulsive. In this case his traits are food for laughter.

Oliver's tragic misfortunes become his greatest blessings as he drags himself over the fields back to the very house he was attempting (forced by Sikes) to burglarize. I must say, Mr. Dickens, that at times you seem very heartless. Are you familiar with the film Stranger Than Fiction, in which the author narrates the life of a real man? Her plot necessitates his death, but when she discovers that she is putting a real person in danger, she rethinks her ending. (I know this is an anachronism, but as this letter is also an anachronism, I pray you won't take offense). Consider, Mr. Dickens, if this were the case with you and Mr. Twist. You would be guilty of subjecting him to all sorts of unjust tortures and torments, clearly undeserved by such a perfectly angelic child, who despite his years of hunger and want, cannot bring himself to steal. But perhaps this is your point - to show us all that circumstances are not dictated by karma but merely by chance. The rich have no more right to their good fortune than the poor - they are just lucky. Is this what you mean?

Anyway, at least you were kind enough to deliver Oliver to two sentimental women who protect him despite his seemingly obvious role in the burglary and care for them as his own. Under their protection, Oliver is schooled in reading, writing, and flower arranging. All is perfect until Rose, the younger of the two ladies, is stricken ill by a random and unknown illness. Oliver is plagued with worry, but the illness brings only good fortune, as the son of the elder lady, Mr. Henry Maylie, comes at once and becomes Oliver's rival in flower arranging.

However, Mr. Maylie brings sorrow to Rose in a truly Jane Austen-esque scene. Mr. Dickens, you wrote in a time when society and class standing were much more important than they are now. I cannot fully comprehend what it would be to reject a proposal of marriage because my parents had committed some crime and I couldn't bear to have my bad name reflecting upon my husband. Now, we are more of a mind to tell gossipers exactly where they can put their opinions. However, I believe your point was to show that Rose is a noble and self-sacrificing person, willing to give up her own hopes and dreams to keep from harming another. "Busy recollections of old hopes, cherished as a girl, long ago, crowded into the mind of Rose, while making this avowal; but they brought tears with them, as old hopes will when they come back withered; and they relived her." What surprises me most, Mr. Dickens, is Mrs. Maylie's determination to dissuade her son from marriage. Rose is her dearest companion, and I am surprised that she would caution her only son against making the match. I suppose she was really just trying to protect Rose or something disgustingly wise and noble like that. Maybe I am too young to understand.

The last thing I want to discuss with you is Fagin's completely disturbing appearance outside Oliver's window. I have to say I am intrigued both by his determination to find this stray orphan and his creepiness. Sure, Oliver saw his collection of jewels that he kept locked up, but is that really a reason to stalk him out to the country, at least a day's journey away, and creep in his window? I hope Fagin's devious motives are soon laid bare. I must say that I am enjoying the element of suspense and creepiness.

Overall, Mr. Dickens, while I feel in some ways this volume of Oliver's story is just a placeholder, my interest is certainly piqued to find out how it ends. I have a feeling many of the characters' lives will connect in ways unexpected. Until February 28, I remain,

The Story Girl


  1. What a great letter! I really like your thoughts about Rose and Mr. Maylie; such a different world then ours. I'm also really wary of Fagin and whatever plans he has for Oliver-the suspense is done well I think.

  2. Thanks! I remember watching Becoming Jane and thinking, how can people make such big decisions based solely on money? But class was so much more stagnant and important back then. I'm glad things have changed!


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