Oliver Twist was born the illegitimate son of a wealthy man and an unwed mother in a parish workhouse in an unnamed town that was initially identified as "Mudfog." The infant's mother died in childbirth, and the child was named by the Beadle, a man named Bumble, and sent to be raised at a baby farm. He remained there for nine years, living more or less in poverty, before being returned to the workhouse. There he continues to receive cruel treatment from those in charge, spending six months working while receiving very little food or comfort. He and several other orphans draw lots to pick one child to ask for another portion of gruel. The request is met with outraged indignation, and Twist is essentially thrown from the workhouse, offered to anyone who will take him on as an apprentice. He is thus apprenticed to an undertaker, who also treats Twist poorly. After being beaten for quarrelling with another boy also employed by the undertaker, Twist flees his master and travels to London
Oliver Twist was created by Charles Dickens
Major Story Arcs
The Parish Boy's Progress
In London, Twist is almost immediately befriended by Jack Dawkins, more commonly referred to as the Artful Dodger
, a young pickpocket. Taking up Dodger's offer of lodging, Twist follows him to the home of Fagin
, an elderly man who presides over a gang of child criminals. Twist does not understand the business carried out by the gang, and goes along with Dodger on a trip to rob people in the streets. The victim notices the crime before the boys are able to escape, and Twist is mistaken for the thief, chased through the streets and ultimately apprehended, though not before sustaining an injury. He is cleared of the crime and the victim, Mr Brownlow, takes him home to take care of him. Experiencing the first kind treatment he has ever received in his life, he soon recovers from his injury, enough that Mr Brownlow is comfortable sending the young boy on an errand. Before he can complete the errand, however, he is kidnapped by two confederates of Fagin's, Nancy and Bill Sikes
, who return him to the care of Fagin and soon use him in the attempted robbery of a rural house. The burglary is botched, however, and Twist sustains a bullet wound. He is nursed back to health in the house of the people he was attempting to burgle, the Maylies. At the house he encounters a mysterious man, who is secretly Twist's half brother, going by the name Mr Monks, who attempts to lead Twist into a life of crime in order to cheat the boy out of his inheritance. To this end he makes contact with Fagin, but their plan is overheard by Nancy, who reveals the situation to the adopted daughter of the Maylie family, Rose Maylie. Maylie then contacts Mr Brownlow, and together the pair recover the boy, who is revealed to have been the illegitimate son of a wealthy man who left all his money to the child, then unborn, should he lead an honest life as a child. Oliver receives his inheritance, is adopted by Mr Brownlow, and Rose Maylie is revealed to be his maternal aunt.
Twist has featured in over a dozen television, film and comic adaptations of the original novel, Oliver Twist.
Notable among these is the musical adaptation, Oliver!
, which premiered in 1960 and was itself adapted in 1968 into a feature film that won six Oscars. In the original musical he was portrayed by Keith Hamshere, and in the film he is portrayed by Mark Lester. A character
based on him also appeared in Disney's loosely adapted Oliver & Company
as a kitten in search of a home. He is portrayed by Joey Lawrence.