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Category Archives: Oliver Twist

Some Dads

Happy Father’s Day Sancho, Christian, Gulliver, Mr. Bennett, Fagin, Mr. Brockelhurst, Arthur Dimmesdale, Ahab, Arthur Shelby, Charles Bovary, Marmeladov, Vronsky, Damon Wildeve, Gilbert Osmund, Pap Finn, and Tom Buchanan.

Thanks for not being my dad.

You see, he’s pretty awesome.  And you guys, well, let’s just say that you’re best left where you are:  inside the covers of a book.

Dad Dance

 

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Not to Bum You Out

I’m so tired of all these women dying.  I’ve nearly lost track of them, first it was Helen, then Emma, Alyona and Lizaveta, Anna, Eustacia, and now Lily. Why?  Why must we read so much tragedy?  Why the death?  What’s wrong with a happy ending once in a while?

Then I stumbled across this article in my facebook newsfeed.  Friends, it’s worth the read (it even mentions three of our authors.)  The subject is tragedy.  The context is Christian worship.  The backdrop is our life.

If you only click on one external link today, I encourage you to choose the one above.  You can even leave the arguments about worship behind, but I’d love to know what you think about the tragedy vs. entertainment question.

Is our WEM reading list reminding you that we live in the valley of the shadow of death?  Is it drawing you face to face with the world of iniquity from which we would rather shield our minds?  Are the authors and their sin-filled worlds making you cling firmly to the Author of creation?  Is the despair of the characters wakening a vision of the evil that surrounds us outside the pages of fiction?  Or, are the novels a source of pacification and escapism?  Are the classics entertaining?  Should the classics be entertaining?

 

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The Fastest 300 Years EVER!

Sancho and the donkey.  Christian.  Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Elizabeth and Darcy.  Oliver.   Bertha-in-the-attic.  Hester and Pearl.   Moby Dick.   Uncles and Madams.  Rascal.   Anna-Kitty-Levin-Vronsky-oviches.   The Heath.   Isabel.   Huckleberry.   The Journeys of Henry and Marlowe.   And now Lily, whose outcome, at least for me, is still uncertain.

While paging through the Well-Educated Mind list of fiction books, I realized that Don Quixote was published in 1605 and House of Mirth in 1905.   300 years!  I congratulate myself and you, fellow readers, on plowing through 300 years of literature.   May the crop be plentiful!  I suggest a glass of red wine and some good chocolate to celebrate.

 

 

WEMever the Twain Shall Meet

Despite what Samuel Clemens implies about the usefulness of a well-read education, I’m inclined to believe he followed a curriculum very similar to ours.  Just look at all of the places that there are parallels between The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the rest of our reading list:

Don Quixote

  • Tom mentions reading the first of all novels, and even suggests acting it out.
  • The self-appointed Duke and King reminded me of our self-appointed knight errant.
  • Huck and Jim are on quite a quest, with a fairly foggy future outcome.  I found myself often asking, “Where are they going with this,” just as I did inDQ.
  • Tom sets out in the most complicated fashion to help someone who didn’t need his help.  Let’s just face it, Tom is Don Quixote.

Pilgrim’s Progress

  • Slough.  Not of Despond, but I know I read about one, although I’ve lost the page number.
  • The Grandersons, for all their good Christian living, have a copy of this moral tale on the coffee table.  I don’t remember Bunyan having characters named Family Feud and Kill Thy Neighbor, but maybe I just missed a page.

Gulliver’s Travels

  • Can you say “satire?”

Oliver Twist

  • We haven’t encountered a story about a young boy since Oliver.  As a mother with four of her own, it was nice to get back into familiar territory.
  • Did anyone else think the plot tied up a little too miraculously at the end.? Huck just happens to stumble on the Phelps farm when they are expecting his best friend’s arrival?  Miss Watson just happens to die and free Jim?

Moby Dick

  • Water plays anhe important role of water in the lives of the characters.  The river is practically a character itself.
  • Superstitions abound in both situations.
  • Both authors tackled slavery in an indirect manner.
  • At the very end their is a character named Brother Mapple, which seemed just too close to Father Marple for me.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  • Slavery
  • Okay, I can be more specific.  Both use male slaves as the moral centers of their works.

Crime and Punishment

  • Huck’s internal struggles between right and wrong, action and inaction, and societal norms and the pull of his heart reminded me of the time we spent inside Raskolnikov’s brain.

The Return of the Native

  • The Mississippi River seems to be the kinder, gentler, yet still important younger cousin of Egdon Heath.

Did I miss any?  Are there any references to P&P, JE, SL, MB, AK, or POAL?

 

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Christmas Is Coming

Readers are easy to shop for because they’re always happy to get a book.  But what if you want to validate their love of literature without adding to the addiction?  Here’s a list of some unique classic gifts that might appeal to us WEMers.  Feel free print it out and leave it in a conspicuous spot for the shoppers in your life.  Or not.

(If all went well, clicking on the picture should open a new window to the site where the item is available.)

Don Quixote

The question I want answered is do these earrings belong the beautiful Dulcinea of Don Quixote’s dreams, or the brawny girl of Sancho’s acquaintance?  Decide before wearing.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Because a Bunyan vest is better than Bunyan Shoes.

Gulliver’s Travels

The site says that the pages are still readable.  Never mind.  Do not buy this for me.

Pride and Prejudice

This is obviously a doll version of Darcy from the beginning of the novel.  You know, when he was really crochety, um I mean crotchety.

Oliver Twist

You could make up a batch of homemade gruel mix, put it in a mason jar, and add a festive bow, or you could give a Dickinsonian this lovely print of a giant gruel pot.

Jane Eyre

These hues of the moors are named “To the Stars,” “A Strange and Unearthly Thing,” and “Independent Will!” (Exclamation point the artists, not mine.)  Aside from the fact that I can’t imagine Jane Eyre for a moment considering her own appearance long enough to put on a coat of nail polish, they are kind of pretty, in a moody, murky way, of course.

Scarlet Letter

These days bearing a shirt with a scarlet A on it doesn’t denote you as an adulteress, although I think that meaning might be preferable.  So instead of clothing, the Scarlet Letter lover might appreciate this ignominious bracelet.

Moby Dick

The Herman Melville gift options seem endless, from “Call me Ishmael, maybe?” t-shirts to Captain Ahab Baby Swaddlers but this print is the item that really made my jaw drop.  It’s as striking and surprising as the novel itself.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Personally, I would much rather have a piece of Aunt Chloe’s pie.

Madame Bovary

What could be more fitting for Emma than a vanity mirror?

Crime and Punishment

There are hollow book safes available for nearly all of these classics, but this one for C&P has a certain, well, charm?  Although it doesn’t seem big enough to hide an axe.

Anna Karenina

If you can’t buy the gift you can always buy the pattern and knit it yourself this “adorable” and “cute” Anna Tea Cozy.  Also, shouldn’t it really be a samovar cozy?

The Return of the Native

And when in doubt, sending flowers is always a good idea.  Especially heather from the heath.  It’s much more beautiful than a furze faggot, and easier to carry.

Happy shopping and a Merry Christmas!  Oh, and don’t blame me if you get any of these things.

 

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For the love of furniture

I’m still thinking about Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin in Part V, chapter 1.  I’m past the “black snake of wounded vanity” part and have moved on to a quote that reminded me of a character from a previous novel.

Luzhin is irritated.  He paid for his newlywed apartment (which he no longer needs) to be redecorated and the owner won’t let him break the contract, so he’s out the full amount.

Then…

       In the same way the upholsterers refused to return a single rouble of the instalment paid for the furniture purchased but not yet removed to the flat.
Am I to get married simply for the sake of the furniture?”

That last line reminded me someone.

Can you guess?

Do you remember Mr. Bumble?  The beadle in Oliver Twist?

Beadle Mr. Bumble did get married for the furniture, the silverware, and the hopes of a more prestigious position.  But marrying Mrs. Corney didn’t turn out quite as well as he hoped.

Ah, the good old days of workhouses and orphans.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Crime and Punishment, Oliver Twist

 

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Murdering the Venn Diagram

When I read about Raskolnikov’s murder of the pawn-broker Alyona Ivanovna and her sister Lizaveta, I immediately thought of another murderer in our WEM past: Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist.  Do you remember Bill and his vicious dog Bullseye?

I thought about how both Sikes and Raskolnikov bludgeoned their victims.  I thought about how both men cut the bloody spots off their clothing.  I thought about how one beat his victim to death in a bloody rage and how the other took a month to plan the details of his crime.

I thought about how Sikes and Raskolnikov were alike and how they were different.
I compared and contrasted them.  Well, I compared and contrasted them as much as my brain could for reading Oliver Twist way back in November and December.  It’s tough to remember all the details.

Speaking of remembering… do you remember grade school?  Do you remember your teacher showing you how to compare and contrast two things using a Venn diagram?
Venn diagram?
The two circle dealie?

It looks like this.

Humor me.  Put Sikes’ name above the left circle and Raskolnikov’s above the right one.  The characteristics, events, or actions they share go in the parts of the circle that intersect.  The men’s differences go in the parts of the circle that aren’t “shared”.

Help me remember the details.  Are our two murderers more alike or different?  Let’s do a little criminology study.  Share Sikes/Raskolnikov details in the comments, and I will fill in the circles.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Crime and Punishment, Oliver Twist

 

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Graphic Oliver

For my next installment of “What’s on my nightstand?” I had to ask for an expert’s help: someone who was familiar with the graphic novel format.  I chose to move this book from my nightstand to my nine-year-old’s nightstand because the next book is Oliver Twist: The Classics Illustrated Deluxe Graphic Novel.

Here’s a portion of my interview with the expert.

Hello? Mom?  It’s not going to be an interview if there are not any questions.
So what do you think I should ask you?
Whatever you want.
Did you like the book?
Yes. I liked it.
Do you think you might consider reading the original?
maybe.
What were your favorite parts of the book?
I liked the Maylies and how they helped Oliver.
Did Oliver work for Mr. Soweberry?
Who’s he again?
The undertaker.
Yes.
Does Oliver say, “Please, I’d like some more, sir.”
Yes.
Did you know that that’s the most famous line from the book?
No.
Who was your favorite character in the book?
I liked Oliver Twist.  He didn’t steal.
What did you think of Fagin?
I didn’t like him.  He used his boys to get money.
Were there any evil characters in the story?
Yes.  Fagin, definitely, and Bill.
How did the story end?
The the police hang Fagin.
What happens to Oliver?
He’s happy with Mr. Brownlow in the end.

It took my expert about forty-five minutes to read this version.  Unlike some graphic novels, the illustrations were not overly scary.  The “bad” characters are meaner looking but still in a cartoony way.  For example Fagin has an enormous nose. Oliver’s depicted as a red-head with a round face.  In the little I flipped through the book, it seems more faithful to the original text than other versions I’ve read.

Oliver Twist: The Classics Illustrated Deluxe Graphic Novel.… it’s what’s on my nine-year-old’s nightstand.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Oliver Twist

 

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A Tale of Two Writers

Long before I knew Harri got a letter from Chaz I was thinking that the two should really strike up a dialog, I mean, they have so much in common.

First of all, both authors are writing to elicit social change.  Dickens is working to bring awareness of the dismal situation of the poor to his fellow Londoners, and Stowe is obviously working to abolish slavery.  They have chosen literature as their medium.

Both authors rely heavily on humor to carry their message.  I didn’t see this coming with HBS.  For some reason, I always assumed Uncle Tom’s Cabin was nothing more than a dark, sad tale, I didn’t expect to read hillarious scenes like the one with Sam and Andy leading Haley on a wild goose chase down a nonexistent road.  It reminded me a little bit of Fagin’s gang, but with a moralistically superior cause for raising a ruckus.

Both authors utilize sarcasm in their writing, as well.  The narrator’s voice in Dicken’s work drips with the stuff, while HBS is more apt to reserve her sarcasm for specific characters’ dialogs.  My favorite example of this sort of writing is, well, practically every single sentence St Clare speaks in response to his wife.  Even Stowe can’t help but let a little snarkiness out at Marie.  Here’s a bit where the Omnicient Royal We has just given us a full page of hope that the African people will become the highest and noblest kingdom as a result of God’s chastening, and then she turns her attention to the mistress of the house:

Was this what Marie St. Clare was thinking of, as she stood gorgeously dressed, on the verandah, on Sunday morning, clasping a diamond bracelet on her slender wrist?  Most likely it was.  Or, if it wasn’t that, it was something else; for Marie patronized good things, and she was going now, in full force – diamonds, silk, and lace, and jewels, and all, – to a fashionalbe church, to be very religious.  Marie always made a point to be very pious on Sundays.

All these little hints at similarities between the two writers were nothing compared to what I encountered in the last five chapters.  Granted, Stowe didn’t depict Tom’s murder with the gory detail that we encountered in Nancy’s death, but the remainder of the story was completed much like Oliver Twist.  Long lost relatives came out of the woodwork.  There was an end to all the misfortune and bad timing that had plagued the characters thus far.  No story was left hanging, and futures were hopeful on the horizon.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of happy endings, but both books tied up all the loose ends almost too perfectly.  Really, George’s sister just happened to be in the cabin next door?  Rose is Oliver’s aunt?  Quimbo and Sambo were both converted at Tom’s death?  Topsy becomes a missionary?  Oliver gets to live with Brownlow?

Stowe obviously admired Dicken’s work, and it shows in her own writing.  A bit of research on the connection between the two told me that she initiated their professional friendship by sending him a lavender copy of UTC.  She was an amazingly bold woman, wasn’t she?  Apparently their professional relationship continued for years, although he remained somewhat critical of the book.

Maybe she should have sent him a blue copy instead.

 
 

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A Themed Wrap-up

You’ve all been extremely polite and quietly waited for me to post The Scarlet Letter wrap-up despite the fact that we set sail on Moby-Dick some time ago.  Today’s the day, so don your favorite monogram and let’s put this book to rest – at least for a little while.

rt

We began our day with a trip to a local gallery that was featuring original illustrations from novels by Charles Dickens.  The showing was part of the large 200th birthday celebration for Dickens that began in February.  We, of course, read Oliver Twist in 2011.

The engravings from Oliver Twist were mostly by the artist James Mahoney and were new to us since our editions all contained the Cruikshank works.  The display did contain his famous Sikes on the roof sketch.

My personal favorite of the collection was this:

The Bumble/Corney corny, bumbled romance was the highlight of the book for me.

Then there was this illustration:

It was titled:

And we still don’t know.  Do you?  The Artful Dodger?  A healthy, confident Oliver?  Oh well, next up, we enlisted the

 rmy

The Salvation kind, of course.  We took a little side-trip to do a bit of shopping.  It had nothing to do with classic literature.  I’m sorry I even brought it up.  On with our day:

ppetites

We had to sate them, so Panera Bread was our next stop. And after analyzing the Thai dressing, and yumminess of edamame we finally got to discussing The Scarlet Letter.

nswers

We did our best with Susan Wise Bauer’s WEM questions, Christine even had hers typed out.  We started first with our own titles for the book, then we moved on to the trickier question of what each character wanted.  My mind is completely stuck in a rut on this particular text and so my answer to every question was:

bsolution

I know there is more to the book than that, and that my fellow readers had better answers, but I made the huge mistake of not writing them down, so now I seek the above for my self-centered forgetfulness.

stute Observation

The highlight of the dicussion was this beautiful literary structure that Jeannette pointed out.  Let me see if I can do it justice with a little diagram:And just look at what happens when you flip that on it’s end:

Clever, eh?  Or should I say,

Clever, ?


 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Letter

 

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