Oliver Twist – Summer Reading Study Guide Oliver Twist - PDF by winceonce


									Oliver Twist – Summer Reading Study Guide
A.P. English Literature and Composition
Mr. T. Strzechowski

Oliver Twist – Book One (Chapters 1 thru 22)

   1. As you read Chapter One of the novel, ask yourself: What is the difference
      between mockery and satire? Which of these terms BEST describes the one of
      Chapter One? Justify.

   2. Chapter Two gives us perhaps one of the most famous scenes from any Dickens
      novel: the titular character asking for “more.” Explain how this simple scene
      gives us a level of complexity to the characterization of Oliver. How is
      complexity in his characterization achieved?
3. Of the various characters who Oliver encounters in the early chapters of the novel,
   which do you think is Dickens’s strongest representation of commentary on the
   social conditions of his time period? Explain why.

       •   Mrs, Thingummy

       •   Mr. Bumble

       •   Mrs. Mann

       •   Mr. Limbkins

       •   Mr. Gamfield

       •   Mr. Sowerberry

       •   Noah Claypole

4. Throughout the novel, Dickens gives us characters who display various attitudes
   toward the poor that were typical of early Victorian England. Identify at least
   three passages in which Dickens documents characters’ attitudes toward the poor
   and their social status.
5. Briefly summarize the events that lead to Oliver making the acquaintance of The
   Artful Dodger, Master Charlie Bates, and Fagin.

6. One of the controversial aspects of the novel is Dickens’s characterization of
   Fagin, who many readers view as anti-Semetic. Which aspects of his
   characterization might be offensive to Jews?

   Why is Fagin so interested in making a criminal out of Oliver? Is there anything
   about Oliver that makes him especially attractive or useful to a thieving operation
   beyond what Fagin states in Chapter 19?
7. Pay close attention to the character of Nancy in Oliver Twist. How does her
   relationship with each of the following reveal aspects of her personality?

   •   Nancy’s relationship with Fagin:

   •   Nancy’s relationship with Bill Sikes:

   •   Nancy’s relationship with the other boys (Artful Dodger, et al):

8. Fagin or Bill Sikes – Which does Dickens want us as readers to find more
   threatening? Why?
Oliver Twist – Book Two (Chapters 23 thru 37)

This section opens with the courtship of Mr. Bumble to Mrs. Corney. Reread pp. 7 – 8
and selections from pp. 185 – 87, and contrast the social commentary in the two

   1. How has Dickens’s control of tone developed over these two sections? Is that
      development in tone a result of his maturity as a writer, or is that development as
      deliberate element of the narrative? How do you know?

   2. Why the sudden shift in focus from Oliver’s story to Mr. Bumble’s love life? Is
      Dickens losing the focus and control of his novel, or is there an important
      thematic connection between this subplot and the narrative proper?

   3. How would you characterize the social commentary provided by Mr. Bumble in
      relation to the social commentary conveyed by the main narrative?

          •   Chapter 1 (pp. 184 – 92)
          •   Chapter 5 (pp. 216 – 23)
          •   Chapter 14 (pp. 294 – 305)

       Does the Bumble subplot in any way enhance our understanding of the main plot?
       Or does its humor undermine the impact of the main social commentary?
4. Discuss the circumstances surrounding the introduction of Monks. What makes
   Monks a dangerous character?

5. How do we learn about Oliver’s mother? What do we learn about her?

6. In Oliver Twist, we not only have one of the first novels ever written with a child
   protagonist, but we also have the first of many Dickens novels with a child
   protagonist. How effectively does he render a childlike sensibility?

   Why to we seem to see so little of Oliver, all told?

   It has been debated: Is this a novel about others and their influence on Oliver, or
   about Oliver’s influence upon others. Based on what you’ve read so far, what do
   you think?
7. Contemporary critics have described this novel as Dickens’s most claustrophobic
   of novels. Do you agree that it is “claustrophobic”? How do you account for this
   perception? Using one scene as evidence, examine how Dickens achieves a
   claustrophobic atmosphere?

   Is this claustrophobic quality important to an understanding of the novel?

8. How does Dickens explore the criminal mind in this novel?

9. The novel contains two rescues of Oliver: one by Brownlow and another by Giles.
   How do these two episodes parallel each other? Taken respectively, do they
   demonstrate any growth on the part of Oliver?
10. Within the literary tradition, many authors employ a technique called “doubling,”
    in which two characters serve to complement/contrast each other’s qualities in
    some way. Cain/Abel, Jekyll/Hyde, and Dimmesdale/Chillingworth are examples
    of how two characters can function as two sides of the same coin.

   Explain how Rose Maylie and Nancy function within the doubling motif? Go
   beyond the obvious madonna/whore to contrast and examine the subtleties of their
   characterization to determine how they complement/contrast each other’s
Oliver Twist – Book Three (Chapter 38 thru end)

   1. Foundling stories and orphan tales were fairly typical modes of narrative during
      Dickens’s time, so his choice of telling the plight of a child in society is not
      without precedent.

      However, Oliver as a character disappears from much of the narrative in the last
      half of the book. Why?

      Some critics have suggested that Dickens’s purpose in writing the book
      transcended the exploration of social ills against children. What other social ills
      does this novel seemingly tackle?

      How does Dickens explore how ALL classes are involved in social ills?

      Does he suggest any solutions by novel’s end?
2. Dickens once said that he wanted Oliver to represent “the strength of virtue in the
   fallen world.” Yet, Oliver is more acted upon by others and, thus, passive.

   Can a passive character display virtue? Explain.

   Are there other qualities that make him virtuous?

3. One of the most oft-debated aspects of Oliver Twist is Dickens’s use of
   coincidence. Are there coincidences that are big stretches, yet “work” within the

   Are there too many coincidences to bring this book to a satisfying conclusion? Or
   can the coincidences be justified?
4. Justice vs. Injustice (theme)

   Compare and contrast what happens to the following characters:

   •   Bumble

   •   Fagin

   •   Sikes

   •   Monks

   In each case, is justice achieved?

   Criminal Justice System (theme)

   •   Fang’s hearing (Chapter 11)
   •   Artful Dodger mockery (Chapter 43)

   What social commentary is Dickens making in each of these scenes? What is he
   suggesting about the criminal court system of Victorian England?
5. Parenting and Parental Roles (theme)

   Oliver has several surrogate parents throughout the novel. How do Oliver’s
   experiences illustrate Dickens’s exploration of effective/ineffective parenting?

   What else, besides the effectiveness of parenting, is Dickens exploring thru this

6. Imagery (Clothing)

   Numerous characters are described in terms of their clothing:

      •   Nancy, Bill Sikes, and Fagin – rags
      •   Bill Sikes and Mr. Brownlow – black velvet
      •   Monks and Mr. Brownlow – outwardly appear as gentlemen
      •   Fagin – handkerchiefs
      •   Nancy – passes as Oliver’s mother via shawl/basket
      •   Oliver – changes clothes from thieves’ den to country cottage

   Why does Dickens use clothing and fabric as a recurring image throughout the
   novel? What does it signify, given the social significance of the novel?
7. Dickens is well-known for his creative use of names. Consider the name of the
   title character, a name that has been assigned randomly to him by Mr. Bumble.
   Throughout the course of the novel, he is given a series of illegitimate, improper
   names by various characters – Tom White, Oliver White, Nolly, young Green,
   young gallows, Work’us, lazy legs, and Ned.

   How is “Twist” an appropriate name for the title character, given all the different
   meanings and connotations?

   •   The action of dividing and separating
   •   The action of uniting or joining
   •   The part of something where it divides
   •   Part of a hinge
   •   A combination of two elements
   •   A turn
   •   A strain or a wrench
   •   A turning aside
   •   A deviation
   •   A vicissitude
   •   A perversion or distortion
   •   A trope (i.e., a twist of language, like a pun)

   How does Dickens’s use of names for other characters denote character?

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