What is the theme of the Oliver Twist?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oliver Twist was one of Dickens’s earliest works.  What makes it unique is that it is a progress.  A progress is a story where the main character does not change.  He goes through his journey affecting other characters, but not changing himself.  This makes the theme of the story interesting, because theme is usually what the main character learns.  Here are some important themes in this work.

Innocence triumphs over evil. Oliver is the definition of innocence and good. He refuses to be corrupted, even though he has continually tests.  Noah Claypole, Jack Dawkins, Fagin, and Bill Sikes all attempt to corrupt him, yet he resists.

The law does not always accomplish justice. The story has some interesting takes on justice.   Essentially, it’s hit or miss.  Fagin is hanged, but Bill dies accidentally.  Oliver is accused, but he did nothing wrong.

The poor are everyone’s problem. This is the most important theme in this book.  Unlike in A Christmas Carol , the poor are not represented as innocent and good.  They are thieves, burglars and prostitutes- except Oliver.  Oliver comes from a family of means though, so he’s not technically poor.  Dickens hoped that readers would sympathize with Oliver, and Nancy, and realize that even if they don’t care about the poor they end up paying for them when their pockets are picked because Jack Dawkins got his education from Fagin and not a school.


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