Study Help Essay Questions


1. The well-regarded Canadian literary critic E. K. Brown defined theme as "an author's whole way of looking at the general area that he is treating." What do you regard the theme of Oliver Twist to be and why?

2. Compare Oliver Twist with some other boy in fiction of about the same age who grapples with adversities, for example, Huckleberry Finn.

3. Beginning with the earliest event referred to in the book, prepare a chronology of major events. Specify all time intervals for which the author supplies definite clues.

4. What function, if any, does little Dick serve?

5. Take one element of mystery and trace it through the book, pointing out use of suspense, foreshadowing, recognition, and unraveling.

6. Give several typical examples of the use of irony and explain how the irony is achieved.

7. Discuss some character or trait of a character as an example of symbolism.

8. What do you think is the purpose of the episode involving Gamfield, the chimney sweep?

9. Select examples of narrative and dramatic treatment of action, then comment on why the technique Dickens used is or is not appropriate.

10. Select some scenes or episodes that you consider extraneous and irrelevant. Give your reasons for regarding them as irrelevant to the plot development.

11. Single out a passage of dialogue that you consider particularly successful and one that you find unconvincing. Give reasons for your evaluation.

12. Do you think that Dickens favored capital punishment? Support your reasoning with specific references to the text.

13. Who is "the female who is to contrast" with Nancy? Discuss Dickens's reasons for such contrast and how he achieves it.

14. Choose one scene or episode and use it to discuss how setting is treated to relate symbolically with action.

15. Compare the reactions and behavior of Sikes following the killing of Nancy with those of some other fictional murderer after his crime, for example, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, McTeague in McTeague, Tess in Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

16. Does Bill Sikes's dog serve any plot function? Defend your view.

17. Do you think that Dickens believes that the end justifies the means? Do you agree with his position? Give reasons for yours.

18. Do you consider Dickens's style effective and appropriate or not? Analyze specific passages to illustrate your judgment.

19. Name some characters who are paired for contrast and discuss how this technique is used to further develop the plot.

20. What plot function does Rose Maylie's illness have?

21. Why do you think Dickens introduced Kags, the returned convict?

22. Compare Fagin's last days to those of some other fictional character after being condemned to death, for example, Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities, or Clyde Griffiths in An American Tragedy.

23. What was the author's purpose in having Brownlow take Oliver to visit Fagin in Fagin's cell?

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