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Oliver Twist is a thrilling novel that takes the reader through the life journey of Oliver Twist, a young boy living in the heart of the industrial revolution. The book is centered around Oliver, as it tells of his journey to find his true identity, which lies within his name. This of course is a metaphor of the young boy “finding himself” and the reader is taken along for the ride. Because Oliver’s name holds the key to his identity and the journey is what truly reveals it, his name can be looked upon as a surrogate for his identity as a whole.
When Oliver is born, the narrator tells us that he was “Wrapped in the blanket which had hitherto been his only covering, he might have been the child of the nobleman or the beggar.” (Authors last name page number1-3) The reader can imply that because of his lack of name or distinctive covering he is allegedly classless. The parish authorities couldn’t have him be considered classless, thus they stepped in, wrapped him in the ragged parish clothes that would make him of the lower class, and just like that, he became “badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once—a parish child—the orphan of a workhouse” (1-3). There is a constant struggle in the novel between the identity imposed upon the boy; that which the parish authorities want him to fall into, and his natural and interior identity that they want to suppress.
Oliver’s name is an important component of his identity. His mother died before she could name him, and his father was dead before he was even born. It was up to the parish authorities to name him, as they once again have control over a majorly important piece of who Oliver is. Mr. Bumble chooses the name “Oliver Twist.” and tells Mrs. Mann that the name was pretty much erratic—he just “made it up” because it was time for a “T” name. He doesn’t explain what the inspiration was.
Which means the reader wonder why the author would choose the word “Twist”. Basically, “Twist” implies death by hanging, the “twisting” that goes into making the rope, and the rope “twisting” around the neck of the person about to dieDIE. “Twist” is just full of hanging connotations, it’s even a slang term for hanging!Repetitive Because of this, it’s fitting that almost everyone Oliver meets assumes that he’s going to be hanged. It’s unclear whether he is called this because workhouse children usually get hanged, or because of his name. The parish authorities have a huge prejudice against Oliver, but it’s hard to say why.
Oliver’s name doesn’t have much of an impact on the reader’s interpretation of his character, because the reader sees him through the narrator’s more caring eyes, and we know he’s an upright child from the start. Once the reader starts to notice how other people react to his name, and what kind of emphasis is placed on knowing his right name, the reader starts to see how Oliver Twist’s name can be seen as a replacement for his whole identity.


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