Is there a battle of good vs. evil in Oliver Twist? How do these forces try to shape Oliver?

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Charles Dickens' second novel, Oliver Twist (1837-39)  is the story of the eponymous young orphan boy who reflects the life of poverty of Victorian England.  The novel portrays  the evils of the 'Poor Houses' of the time and the corruption of the people who work there.  It also shows the depths of London's crime with an emphasis on petty robbery and pick pocketing.

The arch villain of the  novel, Fagin, also referred to as "The Jew", is characterized as the personification of cruelty and greed .  His main goals are to take advantage of and exploit the marginalized people of his community. Oliver, on the contrary, is the complete opposite of Fagin.  Innocent, and full of the milk of human kindness, Oliver symbolizes all that is good in society.  He hates the thought of stealing, violence, or mistreatment of any sort, and genuinely cares for others around him.

"Oliver Twist" is a story about the battles of good versus evil, with the evil continually trying to corrupt and exploit the good.  It portrays the power of Love, Hate, Greed, and Revenge and how each can affect the people involved.  The love between Rose and Harry eventually overcomes all the obstacles between them.  The hatred that Monks feels for Oliver and the greed he feels towards his inheritance proves to be self destructive.  The revenge that Sikes inflicts on Nancy drives him almost insane and results in accidental suicide. Dickens' wide array of true to life characters emphasizes the virtues of sacrifice, compromise, charity, and loyalty. At the end of the novel though the system for the poor is not changed, the good in Dickens' novel outweighs the evil, and the main characters that are part of this good live happily ever after. In real life however the publication of "Oliver Twist" resulted in the government attempting to reform the system of 'Poor Houses.'

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Yes, there is.  Oliver is an innocent boy who grew up in the work house orphanage.  He is sold to an undertaker.  Once he is away from him he meets the Artful Dodger.  He is a boy who is part of a group of boys who steal for survival.  By getting involved with the boys Oliver is placed in a situation where he is expected to commit crimes.

However, when he does try he is caught and finds himself in a world of wealth.  The man believes he may be his daughter's child.

Oliver is kidnapped and brought back into the depths of evil.  He is has to try and escape so that he can return to the safe home of his benefactor. 

Oliver never succumbs to the evils that surround him. 


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suv1987 | Student | (Level 1) eNoter

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Charles Dickens wrote "Oliver Twist" in an era where the society was corrupted and evil was ruling the world.

Oliver is an orphan who is twisted by both good and evil forces of the society. He is ill treated in the orphanage for the fault of asking for more food to satisfy his hunger. The main symbol of evil and cruelty in the novel is Fagin. He uses innocent children and young people for wrongdoing. Nancy is another representative of the evil and poverty of the society. She is a prostitute who used to be a thief on behalf of Fagin in her childhood. Furhermore, the characters of Bill Sikes and Monks represent the cruelty and evil nature of the society.

The outstanding symbol of kindness and good nature is Oliver Twist. Although he is brought up in a cruel society and is bitterly treated, he manages to remain an innocent, kind boy. However he manages to receive love and kindness from the kind characters of the novel such as Rose Maylie and Mr.Brownlow.

Both evil and good forces shape Oliver's character. Although the cruelty of Fagin requests him to steal, he only wishes to run away from him and die. That implies that Oliver always remained pure despite the society he was living in.

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