Characters

The novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens follows the story of the orphaned Oliver Twist as a young boy, as he endures terrible conditions and falls in with criminals. As the story unfolds, kind people take care of Oliver and help him uncover the truth about his parents’ identities. 

One of the villains of the novel is Fagin, an old man who recruits young boys and turns them into pickpockets. Fagin manipulates Oliver and attempts to get him involved in criminal activities. 

Nancy and Bill Sikes are two of the young criminals who work for Fagin. Though Bill Sikes is as evil as Fagin and is often violent and abusive towards Nancy, Nancy is a kind young woman who tries to help Oliver. Unlike Sikes and Fagin, Nancy shows that she has become a criminal due to her difficult life, and not because she is bad and unredeemable. 

Monks is another character who is involved with Fagin and his gang. Monks is Oliver’s half-brother, and he keeps this a secret and schemes with Fagin to turn Oliver into a criminal. His motivations for this are later, revealed and it becomes clear that Monks is an evil and hateful person. 

In contrast, Mr Brownlow is a kind and understanding man who takes Oliver in and helps him find the truth about his parents. Together with Mrs Maylie and Rose, Mr Brownlow is one of the people who trust in Oliver’s goodness and innocence and wishes to nurture him. 

You can read full characterizations of the main characters in Oliver Twist in the following sections.

Excerpt 

Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

Oliver is affectionate

When he is kidnapped by Nancy and Bill Sikes when on an errand for Mr Brownlow, Oliver is horrified to think that Mr Brownlow will believe that Oliver has run off with his money and books: 

‘They belong to the old gentleman,’ said Oliver, wringing his hands; ‘to the good, kind, old gentleman who took me into his house, and had me nursed, when I was near dying of the fever. Oh, pray send them back; send him back the books and money. Keep me here all my life long; but pray, pray send them back. He’s think I stole them; the old lady: all of them who were so kind to me: will think I stole them.’ (Chapter 16, 54%)

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