Download Oliver Twist Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Oliver Twist

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

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

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

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

Harry Maylie, Mrs. Maylie’s wastrel son, who later becomes a clergyman and marries his foster sister Rose.


Fagin, a greasy, sinister old Jewish man 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

Bill Sikes, Fagin’s accomplice, the leader of Fagin’s band of trained thieves. A violent, brutal man, he deserts Oliver after the attempted burglary. Later, he kills his mistress Nancy because he believes she has betrayed him. Haunted by guilt, he accidentally hangs himself while trying to escape the law.


Nancy, a female thief, a member of Fagin’s gang. She befriends Oliver and informs on Fagin’s activities in order to save the boy. Although she remains loyal to Bill Sikes, he murders her in a rage.


Monks, whose real name is Edward Leeford, Oliver Twist’s stepbrother. A vengeful person, he plots with Fagin against Oliver to keep the boy from his inheritance. In the end, he confesses his villainy, makes restitution, moves to America, and eventually dies in prison.

Mr. Bumble

Mr. Bumble, the vain, bullying almshouse beadle who mistreats Oliver at every opportunity. He meets his match, however, when he marries Mrs. Corney, a workhouse matron. The two become paupers and end their days in the workhouse.

Mrs. Corney

Mrs. Corney, his wife, formerly a vixenish workhouse matron.

Mr. Grimwig

Mr. Grimwig, Mr. Brownlow’s gruff old friend, who speaks harshly against Oliver but wishes him well.

Mrs. Bedwin

Mrs. Bedwin, Mr. Brownlow’s warm-hearted housekeeper, who comforts frightened, lonely Oliver.

Mr. Losberne

Mr. Losberne, “The Doctor,” a fat, good-hearted surgeon and the Maylies’ family friend. He speaks roughly to Oliver Twist but cures his wound and saves him from the police.

Mrs. Mann

Mrs. Mann, the alcoholic matron who keeps the poor farm where Oliver lives for a time.

Mr. Sowerberry

Mr. Sowerberry, the mortician who takes Oliver as his apprentice and meekly befriends him. He makes thin, pale, sad-looking Oliver a mourner at children’s funerals.

Mrs. Sowerberry

Mrs. Sowerberry, his wife, a shrew.

Noah Claypole

Noah Claypole, a lumpish bully charity boy who runs away from the mortician and becomes a member of Fagin’s gang.


Charlotte, Mrs. Sowerberry’s servant, who also misuses Oliver. She marries Noah Claypole.

Jack Dawkins

Jack Dawkins, called the Artful Dodger, the clever young pickpocket who leads Oliver Twist to Fagin.

Charley Bates

Charley Bates, the Artful...

(The entire section is 1,543 words.)