This fiercely comic tale stands in markedcontrast to its genial predecessor, "The PickwickPapers." Set against London's seedy backstreet slums, "Oliver Twist" isthe saga of a workhouse orphan captured and thrustinto a thieves' den, where some of Dickens's mostdepraved villains preside: the incorrigibleArtful Dodger, the murderous bully Sikes, and theterrible Fagin, that treacherous ringleader whosegrinning knavery threatens to send them all to the"ghostly gallows." Yet at the heart of thisdrama is the orphan Oliver, whose unsulliedgoodness leads him at last to salvation. In 1838 thepublication of "Oliver Twist" firmly established theliterary eminence of young Dickens. It was, according to Edgar Johnson, "a clarion pealannouncing to the world that in Charles Dickens therejected and forgotten and misused of the world had achampion.
"The power of [Dickens] is so amazing, that the reader at once becomes his captive, and must follow him whithersoever he leads."
--William Makepeace Thackeray