Title: Oliver Twist
Author: Charles Dickens
Having seen the movie and stage musical "Oliver!" numerous times, I thought I knew what to expect with this book. I couldn' t have been more wrong! Sure, it followed the story of an orphaned boy who falls in with some thieves and is then rescued by a wealthy benefactor and given a home. But there was so much more to the book.
Charles Dickens believed "that a lesson of the purest good may . . . be drawn from the vilest evil." He showed the stark ugliness of the poverty stricken neighborhoods of London. He does not hide from the reader the depths of depravity that man is capable of when he turns himself over to sin.
Toward the end of the book, one character is given a chance to escape from poverty and a way of life that has become ugly to her. Nancy, a prostitute, knows that the way she lives is wrong and she hates it, but her final decision is to turn her back on a chance for a fresh start because of her love for a cruel man who treats her harshly.
The book is not all bleakness, however. The protagonist chooses an opposite path from Nancy. Oliver is horrified to learn of crimes that men have committed. He falls to his knees in tears and prays for God to not allow him to commit these deeds. He is soon calmed by this prayer, which is later answered as the burglary he is being forced to have a part in by the adults around him goes wrong.
Oliver finally gains a home and a loving family, surrounded by friends. At times I felt the "good" people in the book were a bit too perfect. The ending wraps up a bit too neatly, with each of the criminals either dying, being arrested, or turning their lives around, and the good people settling down near one another and living happy lives together. Other than that minor issue, though, the book was a powerful look at Britian's Poor Laws and how they affected people. I definitely recommend reading it!