Oliver Twist Read-Along: Post 1 (Ch. 1-22)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Esteemed Mr. Dickens,

I owe you an apology. For years, I have avoided your acclaimed works, believing them to be stuffy, old-fashioned, and out of the interest of my modern intellect. After multiple attempts at reading A Tale of Two Cities, I gave you up forever. I could not understand your writing, did not take interest in your characters, and wondered if the language you wrote in and the language I spoke were, in fact, even related.

However, this day I stand chastised, humbled, and completely corrected. The first section of your tale, Oliver Twist, left me completely enraptured. I love your amusing and apt characterizations. The plight of Mr. Twist played upon my heart-strings, especially the moment when, freezing and appalled at the moral travesty he is being forced to commit, he cries out, "Let me run away and die in the fields. [...] Oh! pray have mercy on me, and do not make me steal." Indeed, Oliver's many trials, from the workhouses and orphan homes that nourish the body as little as humanly possible, to the undertaker's home, where Oliver is ruthlessly teased by the maid and charity-boy, to Fagin's lair, where he is trained to perform that action he so wholly abhors, stealing - Oliver's case is one for pity. However, he is also a character to admire, with surprising resilience and ability to survive in the face of adversity.

Your other characters also interest me, Mr. Dickens, although it does grate upon my nerves when their individual quirks are brought up again and again. How many times does Mr. Fagin call his friends "my dear"? Surely if it is as often as you have recorded, they tire of his voice and hide from his endearments. I also found Mr. Bates' fits of laughing quite bizarre and irritating. Clearly, he is an individual to find hilarity in inappropriate situations. However, must this point be brought up thrice every time we encounter him?

However, overall I found your depictions of both character and scene to be witty and amusing. I found myself laughing audibly in many scenes (and then feeling guilty for laughing at a book that describes so much misery and lack of justice). Your sarcasm is refreshing, and quite unexpected in what I thought would be a dry, scholarly tale full of archaic terms. It is dry indeed, but in the humorous way. One example of your delightful sarcasm (occurring during an interview in which Oliver is quite terrified) -
These two causes made him answer in a very low and hesitating voice; whereupon a gentleman in a white waistcoat said he was a fool. Which was a capital way of raising his spirits and putting him quite at his ease.
In short, Mr. Dickens, I am pleased that I have found reason in this volume to discontinue our avoidance of one another. I look forward to finishing this tale, and plan on perusing others, even the dreaded Tale of Two Cities (which I do not expect to enjoy nearly as much as your history of Oliver, but which I expect will be more tolerable than I remember).

I remain, until February 17,

The Story Girl.

For links to other participants in the Oliver Twist Read-Along, see A Literary Odyssey. :)


  1. I love your letter format! I was surprised by how funny it was. His sarcasm is great. I'm glad you finally found a Dickens you enjoy.

  2. LOVE this review! Made my day! And I completely relate to everything you've said. This novel is so different from all the other Dickens novels I've read. I love how lighthearted it seems, and how much I loved it from the beginning.

    Thanks for participating!

  3. This post made me LOL literally. I haven't read A Tale of Two Cities yet, but I think it has an amazing first line. Also, I love the characters in Oliver Twist. The only thing that annoyed me was that Dickens kept referring to Fagin as the Jew...


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