Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
If you've never read this classic tale, I recommend it. If, like me, you haven't read it in a few decades, you might be as surprised as I was to find how much you've forgotten.
I started reading about two weeks ago, and was immediately taken with the care Dickens took to infuse the reader with a sense of mid-18th century England, as if he knew how much the world would change, and wanted to be sure that readers from a future he could only hope for would understand the inequities, and realize that he was trying to change the minds of people who we're likely thinking that it would be a very cold day before a poor nameless boy was shown the kindnesses that Oliver lived to see.
Some few things startled me. For instance, I have no recollection of Fagin's constantly being referred to as "the Jew" or that Dickens did not write out "God" (still a Jewish convention today) and so (being me) I must determine the reasons. There was a veery notable criminal named Ikey Solomon who was captured a few years before the writing of Oliver Twist from whom
Dickens surely modeled Fagin. About the reference to Fagin as "the Jew" Dickens said, "Fagin
is a Jew because it unfortunately was true, of the time to which the story refers, that that
class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew."
As to writing "God" thusly G-- , I could not find a reference. Surely there's an explanation, and I will update this page when I find it.
Of course, Oliver's story is mainly happy, but not all characters are so lucky. Sikes, Nance, the Artful Dodger, and Fagin, of course, all run into their share of troubles, and Monks, too, although I was less than satisfied with the end to his story. Dickens moralizes poetically enough to forgive him the overly sentimental language, and of course, these sections are the most quotable.
I think it would do us all good to remember that we are all subject to our circumstances, and should take care that we don't rise and fall in the manner of the Bumbles: from lords of the workhouse, to inmates therein.