Oliver Twist Chapter 1 Summary
"Treats of the Place Where Oliver Twist Was Born, and of the Circumstances Attending his Birth"
- It’s a short first chapter, and gets right to the point: the scene is a small town in England, and the novel opens in the early nineteenth century (it was published in 1839, but takes place a little bit before – probably in the late 1820s or so).
- Oliver is born in a workhouse in a town called Mudfog (in other editions, that don’t use Dickens’s original text, the town isn’t named), and is described as a "new burden upon the parish" (1.1). (For more about what a "parish" is, check out the "What’s Up with the Title" section).
- After kissing Oliver with "cold white lips," Oliver’s mother dies, leaving her son all alone and at the mercy of the parish authorities.
- All we learn about his mother at this point is that a) she was found lying in the street after having walked a long way, but nobody knows where she’d come from, and b) she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, so the doctor assumes that she was unmarried and that Oliver is illegitimate, and c) she was a "good-looking girl."
- Dickens hints ominously at the fate awaiting Oliver as "a parish child" in the closing sentences of the first chapter.