Graphic Classics: Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens ISBN 9780764159756
Five out of five stars
Down through history, there have been many novels that have exposed some of the harsh truths about the societies of the context of the history. They can more accurately be described as generalist historical fiction in the sense that while they are not describing specific historical figures, there were no doubt many people that fit the roles of the main characters. “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens is such a novel.
The hard truths in this story deal with the plight of the urban poor in England in the early nineteenth century. Oliver Twist is orphaned at birth and then placed in a workhouse for the poor. At that time, the conditions in workhouses were designed to “encourage” people not to want to go there. However, since most of the residents were faced with starving or going to the workhouse, these policies simply made them miserable and exploited.
When it was originally published, the novel was read by a large number of people across all of the economic and cultural classes. Some were moved, but critics simply said that they did not like it. Yet, it was the truth and so it spawned some reforms of the social systems.
Presenting the classic tale in the form of a graphic novel makes it easier to read, yet does not diminish the power of the story. Therefore, this book would be very useful in both English and history classes at the middle school level. Teachers should look beyond the form and consider only the pedagogical substance contained within.