Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Feb 7, 2006

Oliver Twist

I was not particularly enthused with this book by Charles Dickens, largely because the title character could have been replaced with a sack of potatoes and the outcome would have been the same. In fact, he spends a substantial portion of the story unconscious or sick in bed while numerous more active people arrange matters in the background.

By the end, even Dickens appears to have admitted that Oliver is not the protagonist of the story and that position is taken by Rose Maylie. In which case I should like to point out that it is somewhat of a literary faux pas not to introduce your protagonist until halfway through the book. Not to mention that SHE isn't particularly proactive, either. Taking Oliver Twist as a sort of morality play, the only possible conclusion would be that "good" is equivalent to "being quiet and not bothering anyone".

It makes sense, though, because Dickens' purpose is obviously not to project or even define the good, what he wanted to convey was a sense of the despair and degradation of the poor in England at the time he was writing. The good characters really only exist for contrast, and the lack of a real plot is most likely the result of the fact that the work was first published one piece at a time instead of as a complete novel.

As a historical window, it does provide an interesting look at what sort of story most appealed to readers in the eighteenth century, but for any other purpose I'd have to say it's not worth the effort.

Of course, that raises the question of why anyone reads classics in the first place. Perhaps I will consider that another time.

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