What is a significant event in Oliver Twist?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Oliver Twist is the story of a young boy named Oliver whose mother died shortly after his death and who has been raised as an orphan. Oliver is sent to a work house on his 8th birthday and eventually gets sent from there to an apprenticeship, but the apprenticeship is abusive, and so Oliver eventually decides to leave on foot for London. Still, these events are only the beginning of Oliver's troubles.

Most of the major events of the story happen to him after he goes to live with a man by the name of Fagin. Fagin wants to convince Oliver to steal, but Oliver isn't so sold on the idea. The first time Oliver is introduced to the idea he runs away, which gets him accused of being the thief himself. Eventually, however, he's absolved and gets taken in by the rich man who Fagin robbed.

Fagin eventually kidnaps Oliver, scared that Oliver will snitch on them, and continues trying to get him to become a pickpocket. The second time Oliver is taken on a heist he ends up getting shot and left behind and gets taken in again, this time by the family that shot him.

These transitions between freedom in the care of strangers and his time with Fagin are the biggest events in Oliver Twist.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the most significant events in Oliver Twist is the death of Nancy.

At first, Nancy seems like a hopeless criminal. She is a thief and heavily hinted to be a prostitute. She helps Fagin and her lover Skyes kidnap Oliver when it seems he will be able to escape their negative influence. However, Nancy sees in Oliver the innocent child she once was before she was corrupted and eventually decides she wants to help him live a better life, even though this will endanger her life. She secretly tells Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow about what happened with Oliver, but Fagin finds out and then has Skyes murder her for her treachery.

Her death is significant to the narrative, both in terms of plotting and theme. Nancy's murder is what sets the mob on his trail and leads to his death. It also helps ensure that Oliver will be saved. It also concludes her character arc: she goes from being a cynical, unrepentant criminal to a heroic, Christ figure redeemed by love.

Thematically, Nancy's death relates to the book's ideas about the connection between class and character. Though living among the lowest rungs of society as a prostitute, Nancy still has a conscience and is capable of Christian sacrifice—something many doubted was possible for criminals during the Victorian period. It was believed that some people of the lower class were naturally inclined to criminality (see the constant statements of Oliver being "made for the rope" by the workhouse authorities).

Nancy is one of the bravest, noblest characters in the novel, and by having her risk her life to save another person, Dickens is making a statement about human nature and class.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial