Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oliver Twist - by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, I believe, has attained a lighter image in recent decades.  It may be the musical, “Oliver!,” has influenced the popular perception of the novel, so that it is now seen as a story about homeless boys larking about and picking pockets.  (US Edition) (UK Edition) (EUR 0,99 DE Edition - free edition is abridged)

This was not the story by Charles Dickens that I read and could not put down for fear of what Bill Sikes might do to Oliver and Nancy!  That part of the story was more Gothic than Victorian and the dog’s behavior still haunts me.  This was really my young introduction to violence against women; which was not a staple of television in those black & white days.

So pick up Oliver Twist and be prepared to be charmed by the Artful Dodger and to puzzle over whether Fagin is a sympathetic or an anti-Semitic portrayal, or if his interest in young boys is purely mercenary.  It is the literary game within a game these days for this novel. 

But if you read the book as I do, Bill and his brutality are as frightening as Hannibal Lecter.  You may think this is overstatement, but some things that scared you as a child stick with you!

‘Dogs are not generally apt to revenge injuries inflicted upon them by their masters; but Mr. Sikes's dog, having faults of temper in common with his owner, and labouring, perhaps at this moment, under a powerful sense of injury, made no more ado but at once fixed his teeth in one of the half-boots. Having given it a hearty shake, he retired, growling, under a form; just escaping the pewter measure which Mr. Sikes levelled at his head.

"You would, would you?" said Sikes, seizing the poker in one hand, and deliberately opening with the other a large clasp knife, which he drew from his pocket. "Come here, you born devil! Come here! D'ye hear?"’

Still makes me uneasy . . ..

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