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Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist

An Illustration Depicting Oliver Twist Asking for More Food (Artist: J. Mahoney)
Oliver Twist was the first novel with a child protagonist to be published in the English language. Why do you think this used to be so unusual?
Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) is probably the most popular English novelist of all times. During his lifetime, he saw how the Industrial Revolution transformed England from an agricultural into an industrial society. Following in the wake of these changes were all kinds of social evils and human misery.

As a writer, Dickens depicted the scandalous education in the schools and he strongly criticised the conditions in factories and prisons. Above all he was concerned with the way children were treated in the so-called workhouses. They were institutions originally established in the 1830s for those who were too poor to provide for themselves. The local community in charge of the workhouse was supposed to keep the costs of looking after the poor as low as possible. In this excerpt from the novel Oliver Twist we’ll witness when Oliver is boldly asking for one more helping of porridge.

The story about the orphan Oliver was originally published as a monthly serial in 1837, and the readers could hardly wait to read the continuation of the story. Oliver Twist still fascinates and thrills people, and it has been the subject of numerous film versions, musicals and TV adaptations.

Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist's Story – plain text

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Oliver Twist's Story - Vocabulary

Oliver Twist's Story - Tasks

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Literary period: The Victorian Era

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