Ideas and Topics for Papers


1. Is Nancy a morally complex character? What evidence supports your conclusions?

2. Is Oliver really the central character in the book that bears his name?

3. At the end of many Victorian novels, the author rewards and punishes his or her characters. To what extent do the characters of Oliver Twist get what they deserve in the end?

4. Which characters in this novel seem most realistic to you? Do you find that certain types of characters seem more believable than others? Why?

5. Some readers object to Dickens’s treatment of Fagin and other Jews in Oliver Twist. Is Dickens prejudiced? Under what conditions should we decide that an individual character represents an author’s feelings about an entire group?

6. Dickens is often described as a humorist. What about Oliver Twist makes it funny? You might consider characters, language, and situations.

7. What kinds of social criticism do you find in Oliver Twist? How does Dickens feel about important institutions and ideas of his time? Does he effectively persuade his readers to agree with his point of view?

8. What events transpire before the story actually opens? What effects do these events have on Oliver? How does he find out who his real parents and relatives are?

9. What function does Monks play in the novel? What is his relation to Oliver, and what are his motives?

10. Compare Rose Maylie and Nancy. How are they different? Are they alike in any ways? Why is Rose so good, and Nancy apparently so bad?

11. Why does Dickens include the scene in which Oliver visits Fagin in prison? What does this confrontation contribute to the novel?


1. Oliver Twist describes characters from many different social and economic levels. What effects do class and economic level have on the characters in this novel?

2. Compare Dickens’s view of men with his view of women in Oliver Twist. What are the characteristics of his ideal woman? His ideal man? How do the novel’s characters fulfill or not fulfill these ideals?

3. Oliver Twist deals with questions of good and evil. How do you think Dickens would define these terms? What evidence from the novel supports your conclusions? How do the novel’s characters measure up against Dickens’s definitions?

4. How do you think Dickens feels about Nancy? Is she predominantly good or bad? To what extent does Dickens seem to reward or punish her, and for what aspects of her life does he do so?

5. How does coincidence function in Oliver Twist? Do the connections among various characters seem forced? What effects do these coincidences have on the reader?

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