Oliver Twist Summary
by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist book cover
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Oliver Twist Summary

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is an 1839 novel about a boy named Oliver who is born in a workhouse in Victorian England.

  • Oliver leaves the workhouse to serve an undertaker, but he soon runs away for London.
  • Oliver meets the Artful Dodger and the evil Fagin and unwittingly joins their gang of thieves.

  • Oliver is arrested, reprieved, kidnapped, and forced to break into the house of Rose Maylie, who turns out to be his aunt. The Maylie family takes Oliver in. 

  • Oliver ultimately learns of his origins and inherits a large sum of money. He thereafter lives a respectable life.

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Summary

Oliver Twist is an English orphan who grows up in an unnamed town near London. He is raised in the parochial system, an institution that abuses him for much of his childhood. Mr. Bumble, the town beadle, uses his power to assault poor children and paupers. When Oliver asks for more gruel at mealtime, he is beaten and locked up. Oliver is eventually placed with the undertaker Mr. Sowerberry, who treats him fairly. However, after suffering at the hands of the other household servants, Oliver runs away to London.

On his way to London, Oliver meets Jack, also known as “the Artful Dodger,” who takes him to a criminal named Fagin. Oliver joins Fagin’s gang and is struck by the other boys who live with him: they dress and act like adults. Eventually, Oliver is allowed to go out with the boys, and he witnesses Charley stealing a handkerchief. Oliver, panicked, begins to flee the scene, causing the target, a man named Mr. Brownlow, to think Oliver is guilty. A chase ensues, and Oliver is caught and brought to the magistrate.

Once the case is dismissed, Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver home with him, where Oliver falls ill and is kindly nursed by Mrs. Bedwin. When Oliver recovers, he expresses his deep gratitude. Meanwhile, Fagin is desperately trying to locate Oliver and has sent Nancy to find information on the boy. Nancy discovers where Oliver is staying, and the thieves plan to kidnap him and bring him back to Fagin. One evening, Oliver energetically volunteers to run an errand for Brownlow. While out on his mission, Oliver is abducted by Nancy in the streets and brought back to Fagin.

Oliver is terrified and tries to escape. Fagin begins to beat him, but Nancy protects him from a second blow. Fagin and the boys continue to train Oliver, who lives in fear of Fagin’s threats. Fagin and Sikes work on a plan to rob a house near Chertsey. Sikes is in need of a small boy to gain access to the house, and Fagin volunteers Oliver. Nancy transports Oliver to Sikes’s apartment, and they make their way toward Chertsey. Sikes does not give Oliver any details, so Oliver does not realize what is happening until Sikes orders him to go through the small window; he begs the men to not make him steal anything. Sikes threatens the boy with his pistol, so Oliver proceeds but drops his lantern inside, rousing some of the house’s tenants. The robbers are chased away. Oliver is shot, and Sikes tries to carry him while running but eventually leaves Oliver in a ditch so he can flee.

Back in London, Fagin learns that Oliver was shot and abandoned; he tries to find Sikes, but no one has seen him. Fagin meets Monks, whom he recruits to help him find the boy. Oliver wakes up in the ditch. He sees the very house he and the burglars targeted the night before but has no choice but to seek help there. Rose Maylie—an orphan herself and Mrs. Lindsay Maylie’s adopted ward—insists they treat him kindly, and Oliver is placed in a bed upstairs. The family doctor, Mr. Losberne, thinks the boy will recover. When he is strong enough, Oliver tells the residents his entire tragic history, which moves everyone who hears it. Most of the residents agree that Oliver should be protected from the police and that Giles and Brittles should give conflicting accounts of the robbery.

Oliver recovers; soon, they retire to a country cottage, and Oliver lives an idyllic life amongst nature and...

(The entire section is 1,403 words.)