The Author And His Times
THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES
Few writers are lucky enough to have their first novels become runaway bestsellers. Yet that is exactly what happened when 25-year-old Charles Dickens published Oliver Twist in 1837.
Many readers already knew of young Dickens. As a journalist, he had written, under the pen name Boz, gripping newspaper accounts exposing social conditions in England. In another vein entirely, he had written a bestselling collection of humorous stories called The Pickwick Papers. His journalistic sketches showed descriptive power and the ability to influence peoples political ideas; The Pickwick Papers showed how he could create marvelous characters and sustain lively comic scenes. But with Oliver Twist, Dickens surprised everyone by revealing yet another talent- for spinning a rich, suspenseful web of plot.
One reason why Oliver Twist was so popular was that Dickens understood what his audience wanted to read and was willing to write it. He gave them sentimental love scenes, a horrifying glimpse of the criminal underworld, a virtuous hero in Oliver, and nasty villains in Bill Sikes and Fagin. And he wrapped it all up in a complicated, puzzling mystery story. Because Oliver Twist was published in monthly installments, Dickens could leave his readers in
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