Oliver Twist Characters
by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Oliver Twist Characters

The main characters in Oliver Twist are Oliver Twist, Fagin, Jack Dawkins, Mr. Brownlow, and Rose Maylie.

  • Oliver Twist is the eponymous protagonist who, born an orphan, attains a better life through purity of character and good fortune.
  • Fagin is the manipulative leader of a ring of child thieves.
  • Jack Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger, is the most adept thief in Fagin's group. 
  • Mr. Brownlow is the gentleman who takes Oliver in and helps attain justice for Oliver and Nancy.
  • Rose Maylie is the thoughtful woman who cares for Oliver after the botched robbery. She turns out to be Oliver's aunt.

Download Oliver Twist Study Guide

Subscribe Now


Oliver Twist

The eponymous protagonist is a young orphan who is a poor, abused ward of the parochial system. He grows up unaware of the identities of his parents. Oliver is innocent, a gentle child with a sweet expression. Though the novel is named for him, Oliver is less an active agent and more of a pawn who changes hands between corrupt and friendly groups of people. 

When Oliver joins Fagin’s band of thieves, they repeatedly refer to Oliver as “green” because of his purity and obvious lack of criminal experience. Oliver is shocked and appalled when he learns what sort of business Fagin runs, and his association with the thieves gets him brought to the magistrate and nearly imprisoned. Though he is regularly mistreated, Oliver is also the recipient of great generosity from those who love him. Oliver is portrayed as deeply grateful for every kindness bestowed upon him, and he is eager to serve his friends in any way he can. Oliver’s character proves that those who are good can be rewarded with a meaningful life even if they are born into undesirable circumstances. The novel suggests that the hardships Oliver endures cannot break the inherent purity of his soul. 


Fagin is the ringleader of a circle of child thieves in London. He is notorious and vile, and he seems to lack all capacity for empathy. His appearance is dreadful, and his behavior matches his hideous countenance. Fagin repeatedly takes advantage of and abuses the children who work for him. He does not commit crimes himself but rather forces his band of thieves to do his dirty work. Fagin is consistently portrayed as despicable, and his eventual capture and execution are framed as acts of justice. 


Bill Sikes is a famed house burglar and an associate of Fagin’s. Sikes is almost always accompanied by his dog, whom he kicks and abuses. Sikes has a close relationship with Nancy. Sikes’s full potential for violence and cruelty is realized when he hears that Nancy has betrayed him and the other thieves to Rose Maylie. Sikes brutally murders Nancy and leaves her body in his apartment before fleeing. He is tormented by the vision of Nancy’s empty eyes looking towards the ceiling. Sikes, like Fagin, is an irredeemable villain whose downfall is seen as an act of justice. 

Monks / Edward Leeford

Monks’s mysterious identity remains shadowy for much of the novel. Eventually, it is revealed that he is Oliver’s half-brother and has been trying to sabotage the boy and prevent him from knowing the identity of his parents. Monks’s animosity toward Oliver is entirely a product of his mother’s jealousy and his own desire to keep all of his father’s inheritance for himself. As such, he destroys evidence of Oliver’s parentage and tries to help Fagin recapture Oliver so that the boy will live an ignominious life and therefore remain unable to inherit his father’s property. At the end of the novel, Brownlow and Oliver agree to allow Monks to have some of the inheritance despite his despicable behavior, but Monks squanders it and dies in an American prison. 

Jack Dawkins / The Artful Dodger

Jack is the precocious young thief who first takes Oliver to Fagin in London. Jack is dressed like a man and smokes and drinks like an adult, even though he is a child similar to Oliver in age. He is known as Fagin’s star pupil and is skilled at swiping...

(The entire section is 1,311 words.)