Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oliver Twist....

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens was our January Middle School Socratic Book Club read.  Last year we studied A Christmas Carol so this was my second Dickens' novel. Riley, Ruben and I actually started Oliver Twist last January 2016, but got about half way and failed to finish.  So this year, I purposely chose it for our book club knowing it would force us to push on.  We each started back at the beginning and this time were able to complete the book.

Oliver Twist was orphaned at birth when his mother died shortly after delivery. Chapter One starts out very grim and the book doesn't get a whole lot brighter until the very end.  Dickens' tale is dark and deep, yet gratifying when good overcomes evil. Several times throughout, I asked myself why I picked such a depressing book. It felt like heavy sledding. I believe this was Dickens intention, to show the dark side of London and its workhouses in the Victorian Era.

After reading each chapter, I wrote a short one paragraph narration...yes, after all 53 chapters!...to aid my memory and recollection as there are numerous characters in Oliver Twist.  Actually, I also pulled from this list and created a three page typed reference sheet so I could initially keep everyone straight. In the end, Dickens masterfully weaves them all together. I can't think of anyone who was left hanging and this novel writing detail is satisfying to me. I like closure in my reading.

This month in our club, we talked about foreshadowing since Dickens gives numerous examples in Oliver Twist. The three examples I cited in class, which I will withhold here due to being a spoiler, all point to finding out Oliver's family history.

Overall, I loved Oliver Twist and am contemplating which will be my next Dickens' novel. Initially, it seemed impossible to find commonplace entries and then I found three beautiful passages toward the end. Below is an example of RileyAnn's commonplace entry and also Ruben's narration...
'I am chained to my old life. I loathe and hate it now, but I cannot leave it. I must have gone too far to turn back, - and yet I don't know, for if you had spoken to me so, sometime again, I should have laughed it off. But,' she said, looking hastily round, 'this fear comes over me again. I must go home.'
'Home!' repeated the young lady, with great stress upon the word.
'Home, lady,' rejoined the girl. 'To such a home as I have raised for myself with the work of my whole life. Let us part. I shall be watched or seen. Go, go. If I have done you any service, all I ask is, that you leave me and let me go my way alone.' Oliver Twist Ch 46
Oliver Twist narrated by Ruben
Oliver Twist was an orphan who, when he was 9-years old, got sent to the workhouse. He was apprenticed to the Sowerberry's, but he did not like it there so he ran away to London. There he met up with Fagin and his team of robbers, but he did not like robbing people. One day when he was out robbing, he got caught and went to court.  He was then taken in by Mr. Brownlow.  He liked it there, but one day he was out running an errand and he got captured again by Fagin and his men. Then he was forced to rob one night and Oliver got shot in the robbery. He then was left in a ditch to die.  He crawled back to the house he had attempted to rob. The people took pity on him and took care of him until he got older. He then met back up with Mr. Brownlow. He was adopted by Mr. Brownlow.  He lived happily ever after with Mr. Brownlow. The end. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have to say that I am in awe of you for doing written narrations of the book -- that is just fabulous! Loved reading your kids' thoughts also. :)

  2. You're welcome Celeste....I found the narrating/note taking a very useful aid in my understanding, which greatly helped me in guiding my students.

  3. Impressive, Melissa. I can understand the difficulty of finding commonplace entries with Dickens - his sentences run on for pages & it's hard to get the emaning without copying all the content.

  4. Thanks Carol. One of the passages I copied into my commonplace was two full notebook pages long! Good stuff :)