Themes

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens explores a range of themes, which you can read about on the following pages:

Excerpt 

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

Nancy believes that her difficult life has made her look older than she really is: “ ‘I am younger than you would think, to look at me.’ ” (Chapter 40, 22%). Her childhood took place “in the midst of cold and hunger, and riot and drunkness, and- and- something worse than all – as I have been from my cradle.” (Chapter 40, 22%). Nancy has been forced to commit crimes and is now living with Bill Sikes, even though they are not married. 

Rose, on the other hand, has led a good and innocent life. She is painfully aware that she was born outside marriage (although this turns out to be a lie) and refuses to marry Harry Maylie for this reason, because she thinks it will be bad for his social position and career. She begs Nancy to leave Bill Sikes and allow Rose to help her, but Nancy refuses, saying she has lived her difficult life for too long:

‘When ladies as young, and good, and beautiful as you are,’ replied the girl steadily, ‘give away your hearts, love will carry you all lengths – even such as you, who have home, friends, other admirers, everything, to fill them. When such as I, who have no certain roof but the coffin-lid, and no friend in sickness of death but the hospital nurse, set our rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us? Pity us, lady – pity us for having only one feeling of the woman left, and for having that turned, by a heavy judgment, from a comfort and a pride, into a new means of violence and suffering.’ (Chapter 40, 89%)

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