Young Adult Lit/Crit

March 7, 2008

Graphic Novel; Oliver Twist

Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — Joyce @ 9:17 pm

In celebration of fighting oppression, and the right to enjoy and SHARE controversial texts, I read OLIVER TWIST for book club today. Except, it was one of the GRAPHIC CLASSICS texts, illustrated by Penko Gelev, Retold by John Malan.

 Thank you to Raph for continually inspiring me to read graphic novels. I looked for the series you were talking about in class, BUDDHA, but my library didn’t have it. 

Anyway, I’m sure everyone knows the story of Oliver Twist, so I won’t blurb it or anything like that. At the end of the book, though, there were a few pages of supplemental information that I found incredibly fun and worthwhile.

First, there was a lifetime word portrait of Charles Dickens, and a “Timeline of World Events” during his life. Everything from The cholera epidemic in 1831, to the Potato famine in 1845, to the Civil War in the U.S.      Great background info. I’d like to use this Timeline idea for our Crutcher author study, as it really put his (Dickens) life and his struggles as a man and as a writer into perspective. 

Next, there was a section on “London and the Poor” at the time that OT was written. I’d like to quote something here that I found to be very relevant to our discussions of late…

                    Critics debated the issue of “appropriateness” for the respectable people. “there is a sort of Radicalish tone about OLIVER TWIST that I don’t altogether like,” wrote one critic. Novelist William Thackery […] asserted that men of genius “had no business to make these characters interesting or agreeable, to be feeding their readers’ morbid fancies, or indulging their own, with such monstrous food […] even the new queen, Victoria, had read it, although she said she disapproved of it for younger readers. The prime minister, Lord Melbourne, said: “all about workhouses and coffin makers and pickpockets…  I don’t like that kind of low and debasing view of mankind (Malam 46).  

Great stuff. The objection was to the content–that is, that the novel protrayed the gap between the rich and the poor, and showed what it was like to live on the street. And this “real” life was considered to be inappropriate for people who were respectable?! AND, aren’t we still fighting this fight? Incredible. So maybe in one hundred years Crutcher will be the required reading. If we can wait that long. I did an extra lap today and doubled up on my vitamins so that I might be alive to see that. Because I’d like to.



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