A very poignant novel, Oliver Twist certainly points to the cruelty that existed in Victorian England. It is certainly not as great a work as others of Dickens as are Bleak House, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations; however, the character of Fagin remains one of the classic prototypes. His inhumanity as he cares only for money is astounding. Even to the end, Fagin is the personification of exploitation and evil.
My own personal reaction to this Dickensian classic is that I really liked it. I must admit to being a bit of a Dickens fan, and I love the way that he produces vast novels populated by such memorable characters. The story of the archetypal Dickensian orphan who manages to survive the evil plots of others to enjoy the place in society that he deserves is one that everybody can relate to, and it is certainly a gripping narrative as we fear Oliver will be hung or captured or killed at various stages in the narrative.
Having said that I like it, at the same time however it is not the best Dickens novel by a long stretch. When we think more closely about the story, there are a number of problems with it, in my opinion, or aspects that make it less challenging than a work like Great Expectations. Firstly, I would argue that the very goodness of Oliver is problematic, as he remains innocent and angel-like in his goodness throughout the entire novel, no matter what is done to him. The best example of this is of course when he pleads with Fagan to repent before his death at the end of the novel. This seems to me to be rather unrealistic. Secondly, based on this first point, all of the characters with the exception of Nancy are either good or bad. Nancy is the only character that is presented as occuping a space in the middle of these two extremes. Again, this points to a rather simplistic view of characters, as in reality we all have good and bad elements. Apart from this quibbles, however, this novel is an excellent story that has become a classic.