*Guide to Dickens 2012, an international celebration of the author's life and work marking the bicentenary of his birth.
"Oliver Twist," Charles Dickens’ second novel, clearly harkens to the author's own miserable childhood experiences, with its young protagonist ensnared in the evils of a workhouse. The book’s minute focus on an orphan’s progress through a harrowing system--from “baby farm” to the mean streets of London--brought international attention to the plight of England’s poor, but Dickens lightens the story's grim realism with episodes of kindness that shine like gems in a gutter. Oliver's tale, and his personality, have been reduced by posterity to one episode, and one immortal line. In the poorhouse, where the children receive only “three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays," Oliver, made bold by hunger, approaches the fat, wicked master with his empty bowl in his hand and summons the nerve to say, “Please, sir, I want some more.”