Olive Twist

Oliver Twist is born in the lying-in room of a parochial workhouse about seventy-five miles north of London. His mother, whose name is unknown, is found later unconscious by the roadside, exhausted by a long journey on foot; she dies leaving a locket and a ring as the only tokens of her child’s identity. These tokens are stolen by old Sally, a pauper present at her death.

Oliver owes his name to Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle and a bullying official of the workhouse, who always names his unknown orphans in the order of an alphabetical system he had devised. Twist is the name between Swubble and Unwin on Bumble’s list. An offered reward of ten pounds fails to discover Oliver’s parentage, and he is sent to a nearby poor farm, where he passes his early childhood in neglect and near starvation. At the age of nine, he is moved back to the workhouse. Always hungry, he asks one day for a second serving of porridge. The scandalized authorities put him in solitary confinement and post a bill offering five pounds to someone who will take him away from the parish.

Oliver is apprenticed to Sowerberry, a casket maker, to learn a trade. Sowerberry employs little Oliver, dressed in miniature mourning clothing, as an attendant at children’s funerals. Another Sowerberry employee, Noah Claypole, often teases Oliver about his parentage. One day, goaded beyond endurance, Oliver fiercely attacks Claypole and is subsequently locked in the cellar by Mrs. Sowerberry. When Sowerberry releases Oliver one night, he bundle up his meager belongings and starts out for London.

In a London suburb, Oliver, worn out from walking and weak from hunger, meets Jack Dawkins, a sharp-witted slum gamin. Known as the Artful Dodger, Dawkins offers Oliver lodgings in the city, and Oliver soon finds himself in the middle of a gang of young thieves led by a miserly old Jew, Fagin. Oliver is trained as a pickpocket. On his first mission, he is caught and taken to the police station. There he is rescued...