Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens’s (1812 – 1870) second novel, originally published in serial parts 1837-9, and as a three volume edition in 1838. Dickens was deeply disturbed by the harsh Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Subtitled 'The Parish Boy’s Progress', Oliver Twist conveys concerns about the impact of poverty and the flaws of the workhouse system.  Oliver, an orphan, spends his early years in grim institutions. After causing consternation by requesting more food, he is apprenticed to an undertaker, but absconds and becomes part of a pickpocket gang, controlled by the manipulative Fagin. One of the author’s motives was to counter the sensational and glamorous depiction of criminals in ‘Newgate’ fiction, a popular genre of the 1830s.

Manuscript of the Preface to the 1850 edition of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist

Manuscript of the Preface to the 1850 edition of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist [folio: 7r]

View images from this item  (9)

Copyright: © Mark Charles Dickens, Head of the Dickens Family

Charles Dickens
Full title:
The Parish Boy's Progress
Victorian Literature
Literary period:

Related articles

Crime in Oliver Twist

Article by
Philip Horne
London, Crime and crime fiction, The novel 1832 - 1880

Dickens's Oliver Twist depicts the excitement as well as the danger surrounding the criminal underworld. Here Professor Philip Horne examines how Dickens’s portrayl of crime was influenced by public executions, contemporary criminal slang and other sensational literary works.

Orphans in fiction

Article by
John Mullan
Childhood and children's literature, The novel 1832 - 1880

Why do orphans appear so frequently in 19th-century fiction? Professor John Mullan reflects on the opportunities they provide for authors, considering some of the most famous examples of the period.

Oliver Twist and the workhouse

Article by
Ruth Richardson
Poverty and the working classes, The novel 1832 - 1880, London

The hardships of the Victorian workhouse led to Oliver Twist utter the famous phrase ‘Please Sir, I want some more’. Here Ruth Richardson explores Dickens’s own experiences of poverty and the social and political context in which he was writing.

Related collection items

Related people

Related teachers' notes

Dickens’s Oliver Twist: Depictions of Childhood

Dickens’s Oliver Twist: Depictions of Childhood

19th century narratives of childhood and Dickens's Oliver Twist

PDF Download Available

Related works

A Christmas Carol

Created by: Charles Dickens

A Christmas book by Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870), published in 1843. Dickens was prompted to write this ...

Adam Bede

Created by: George Eliot

Adam Bede is George Eliot’s first full-length novel, and embodies the realist aims she would continue to ...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Created by: Lewis Carroll

This fantasy novel of 1865 was originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by the ...

Aurora Leigh

Created by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861) completed this controversial nine-book novel in blank verse form in ...