The theme of "Literature and Writing" is a biggie in any novel in which the writer pauses here and there to comment on the act of writing. Dickens remarks on his own writing and storytelling, but also on how important it is for each character – and particularly Oliver – to be able to tell his own story. Time after time, Oliver is shut down before he’s able to tell his story or his name, and someone else steps in to do it for him. The result is that Oliver is constantly misrepresented and taken for a thief. Being able to tell one’s own story, Dickens seems to be saying in Oliver Twist, is vital for any freethinking individual.
Questions About Literature and Writing
- Who is allowed to tell their own stories in Oliver Twist, and why do you think that is?
- At what point in the novel does Oliver become capable of telling his own story?
- When the novelist digresses from the plot to comment on how the novel is put together (like at the start of Book I, Chapter Seventeen), what is the effect on the reader? Is it distracting, amusing, illuminating, or what? Why do you think the novelist chose to do that?
- What books get read in Oliver Twist, and to what end? Who gets to read them? Is reading always a good thing?
Chew on This
The inability to tell one’s own story is sometimes accompanied by fatal consequences in Oliver Twist; Dickens uses this motif as a way of asserting the right of the author over the demands of the publisher or the reading public.
Although literacy and education are privileges to be sought after in the world of Oliver Twist, certain books and certain stories can be abused by those ignorant of their real meaning.