The central character, Oliver Twist is between nine and twelve years old when the main action of the novel occurs. Though treated with cruelty and surrounded by coarseness for most of his life, he is a pious, innocent child, and his charms draw the attention of several wealthy benefactors. His true identity is the central mystery of the novel.
A well-off, erudite gentleman who serves as Oliver’s first benefactor. Mr. Brownlow owns a portrait of Agnes Fleming and was engaged to Mr. Leeford’s sister when she died. Throughout the novel, he behaves with compassion and common sense and emerges as a natural leader.
A career criminal who prefers to employ others to commit his crimes, Fagin takes in homeless children and train them to become pickpockets. Lives with his gang of thieves in the notorious rookery of Saffron Hill.
A brutal professional burglar brought up in Fagin’s gang. Sikes is Nancy’s pimp and lover, and he treats both her and his dog Bull’s-eye with an odd combination of cruelty and grudging affection. His murder of Nancy is the most heinous of the many crimes that occur in the novel.
A young prostitute and one of Fagin’s former child pickpockets. Nancy is also Bill Sikes’s lover. Her love for Sikes and her sense of moral decency come into conflict when Sikes abuses Oliver. Despite her criminal lifestyle, she is among the noblest characters in the novel. In effect, she gives her life for Oliver when Sikes murders her for revealing Monks’s plots.
Artful Dodger (Jack Dawkins).
The cleverest of Fagin’s pickpockets. The Dodger’s real name is Jack Dawkins. Though no older than Oliver, the Dodger talks and dresses like a grown man. He introduces Oliver to Fagin.
The devious and criminally inclined half-brother of Oliver Twist, who hides his identity. The orphaned Oliver has no idea of Monks’s existence, but Monks knows of the existence of Oliver, and sets out to ruin him.
The pompous, self-important beadle—a minor church official—for the workhouse where Oliver is born. Though Mr. Bumble preaches Christian morality, he behaves without compassion toward the paupers under his care. Dickens mercilessly satirizes his self-righteousness, greed, hypocrisy, and folly, of which his name is an obvious symbol.
Oliver and Monks’s father, who dies long before the events of the novel. He was an intelligent, high-minded man whose family forced him into an unhappy marriage with a wealthy woman. He eventually separated from his wife and had an illicit love affair with Agnes Fleming. He intended to flee the country with Agnes but died before he could do so.
Oliver’s mother. After falling in love with and becoming pregnant by Mr. Leeford, she chooses to die anonymously in a workhouse rather than stain her family’s reputation. A retired naval officer’s daughter, she was a beautiful, loving woman. Oliver’s face closely resembles hers. She died in childbirth after giving birth to the baby that would be named Oliver Twist.
A kind, wealthy older woman, the mother of Harry Maylie and adoptive “aunt” of Rose.
Agnes Fleming’s sister, raised by Mrs. Maylie after the death of Rose’s father. A beautiful, compassionate, and forgiving young woman, Rose is the novel’s model of female virtue. She establishes a loving relationship with Oliver even before it is revealed that the two are related.
Read Oliver Twist.
You can discover more of the characters of Oliver Twist by reading all of the novel on The Circumlocution Office.
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