Oliver Twist

Yikes!  It has been a long time, hasn’t it?  I apologize for the delay.  I was messing around and distracted by a little bit of homework.  Thankfully I’m on summer break and don’t have a thing to do.  In the meantime, I have been reading quite a bit and hitting the movies now and then so I have plenty of book/movies to write about. The trick is pulling myself away from Facebook and daytime TV to write them out.  

Plot Overview

Speaking of homework, today’s feature is Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  This Dickens classic was written back in the 1830’s as a serial novel, published in monthly segments.  It wasn’t published as a full novel until 1838.  While many folks haven’t read this book cover to cover, I’m sure the majority of you have read or watched some version of this story and have at least a basic working knowledge of the story line–Oliver is an orphan who gets mixed up with a group of pick pockets–that’s the bare bones version.    

So which movie version will I compare this well-known story to?  How about the one that probably had old Charlie rolling over in his grave: Disney’s Oliver and Company.  I wish you could have seen the look on my friend’s face when I talked about how dark and sad the Dickens story was.  “You mean it’s not like Oliver and Company?” he said.  Let’s just say that Oliver and Company is to Oliver Twist what Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is to the original Brothers Grimm story, “Little Snow-White” or what the Little Mermaid is to — um — “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Anderson.  Disney did what Disney does and added a bunch of cute, cuddly little animals, some catchy songs and took out anything that might be scary, disturbing, or unsettling in any way.  

Plot differences (*spoiler alert!*)

Sooooooo many!!!

Did I mention that Dickens wrote OT as a social commentary about the class system in England?  Somehow, seeing Oliver as an adorable little kitten and Fagin’s group of miscreants as a bunch of biscuit loving dogs tends to dilute Dickens’ message just a bit.  

Even though Oliver Twist is a child, it is hardly what I would call a children’s book.  Physical and emotional child abuse, starvation, childhood deaths all happen in this book.  Supporting character Nancy is more than just a pick pocket, she’s also a prostitute, oh, and she gets beat to death by Sikes.  Why the Walt Disney company ever decided to make an animated musical loosely based on this story is beyond me.  I know, I know, I sound a bit jaded.  Surely this was their way of introducing children to great literature or something like that.  

Superbly Corny lines  (They are everywhere, and I’m such a sucker for them.)

  • “Dead men do not buy dog food!”~cartoon Fagin
  • Really any other part of the movie.  It’s a Disney movie! It’s full of smushy, gushy, super corny lines, and songs!  (warning, they WILL get stuck in your head and you’ll find yourself singing them while cooking, making copies and in line at the grocery store, so proceed with caution.)

Best line

  • I don’t know if this is necessarily the best line, but it is certainly the most iconic from the book:  “Please sir, I want some more” (C’mon!  I know you’ve said this before!)

To conclude, I can’t say that I am a big fan of Oliver and Company.  It’s cute and fun, but hardly a Disney classic.  Although, the Dickens book is a bit depressing for me, so I can’t say this is my favorite Dickens story either.  At the end of class I was asked if I thought that schools should continue to teach Charles Dickens.  I said of course, just like Shakespeare should, since the many of our stories of today are influenced in someway by the works of these great writers.  In fact, there is one version of Oliver Twist that I absolutely love.  It was written by some British writer named J.K. Rowling.  Perhaps you’re familiar with her work?