Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Oliver Twist, a workhouse foundling, the helpless, abused hero of the novel. Both innocent and morally sensible, he gives force and sharpness, as well as a full measure of sentimentality, to Dickens’ vision of social injustice. Exploited from birth by the selfish managers of the poor farm and workhouse, he is apprenticed to a mortician. Treated cruelly, he runs off to London, where he is taken in by a gang of thieves. Falsely arrested as a pickpocket, he is rescued for a time by Mr. Brownlow and then recaptured by the thieves. He is wounded during a burglary attempt and saved from arrest by Mrs. Maylie and her adopted daughter, who care for him until the mystery of his birth is solved and the criminals are taken or killed. Mr. Brownlow offers him a permanent home.
Mr. Brownlow, the kindhearted, benevolent man who delivers Oliver Twist from a vicious judge, gives him care and trust, solves the question of his parentage, and finally adopts him.
Mrs. Maylie, the gentle, good-hearted woman who takes Oliver in after he has been wounded and is being hunted as a burglar. She sees that he is happy and cared for until he finds a lasting home with Mr. Brownlow.
Rose Maylie, her adopted daughter, the tender, lovely girl who nurses Oliver and helps expose the treachery that surrounds him. Later, it turns out that she is really Oliver’s aunt.
Harry Maylie, Mrs. Maylie’s wastrel son, who later becomes a clergyman and marries his foster sister Rose.
Fagin, a greasy, sinister old Jew who trains boys for stealing and receives stolen goods. Paid to bring Oliver up as a thief, he fails to retake the boy after a burglary attempt. He is finally executed by the law for complicity in a murder.
Bill Sikes, Fagin’s accomplice, the leader of Fagin’s band of trained thieves. A violent, brutal man,...
(The entire section is 841 words.)
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