Rebecca Lee Ms. Heather Love AP Literature 30 July 2013 How to Read Literature Like a Professor: Quest – Oliver Twist
Is the inclination for turpitude already there when one was born? Everyone has free will and discretion to decide what should be done in particular situation; therefore, everyone should shake off fatalism. While reading Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, I notice some “quests” in the novel that help characters to acquire self-knowledge. In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, written by Thomas C. Foster, it points out that a quest begins with an initiator to go somewhere and do something. During the journey, quester usually faces some difficulties. As the result, the quester fails in his original errand but finds a deeper meaning of his journey. Foster’s ideas regarding the quest as a way to gain self-knowledge clearly reveal the main ideas and themes of Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. The major theme of whether free will and discretion are being stronger than fate and destiny (Shmoop) in nineteenth century’s society is demonstrated in several characters’ deeds within Oliver Twist. Considering Foster’s notion about quest as a process to obtain self-knowledge, readers are able to see that the characters in Oliver Twist all have freedom and self-determination. In chapter “Every Trip Is a Quest” of Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor, the theory of quest can be used to analyze the significance of Oliver’s trip with Charley Bates and The Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. Being locked and forced to work in a small room for so many days, Oliver is delighted at the idea of being outside again at the beginning. He thinks that Bates and Dodger are taking him to a factory to work; however, he is wrong.
Bates and Dodger are actually thieves, who steal handkerchiefs, watches, and jewelry from rich people on the street. As a quester1, innocent Oliver is thinking to go to factory2 to work3; however, on his way to go there, he realizes that his friends are thieves 4and his friends have been training themselves to become a thief, too. As the result, Oliver learns that he has no intention of stealing things5 as his friends do. Just as what Foster mentioned in his book – “The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge. That’s why questers are so often young, inexperienced, immature, sheltered” (Foster, 3). Just like Oliver! “In one instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs, and the watches, and the jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy’s mind. He stood for a moment with the blood tingling through all his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and, not knowing what he did, made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground” (Dickens, 106-107). This is the moment that Oliver finally sees the truth. This is the moment for Oliver to make a conscious rejection. At the end, Oliver’s wise decision leads him to a wealthy, happy, carefree life. Indeed, this evidence indicates how the quest is being use is literature as well as how Oliver has a choice to make. Similar to Oliver’s trip with Charley Bates and The Artful Dodger, Nancy’s secret appointment with Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie also provide a clear example of how the quest can be used to point out the main theme of the novel Oliver Twist. Having been working for Fagin for several years, Nancy has a strong feeling to save Oliver; therefore, she wants of help Oliver to escapes. She meets Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie secretly and tells them details of Fagin’s plan to capture Oliver again; however, she does not notice that Fagin has been arranging Noah to follow her wherever she goes. Although Mr. Brownlow and Rose
Cited: Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. New York: Dodd, Mead &, 1941. Web. 31 Jul. 2013 .
Foster, Thomas C. "Every Trip Is a Quest." How to Read Literature Like a Professor :. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. 1-6. Print. Shmoop Editorial Team. "Oliver Twist" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 31 Jul. 2013.
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