(*) - denotes major characters
Oliver Twist*- The protagonist of the novel, Oliver is a young orphan boy tossed about by fate within the streets of London and the workhouses of rural England. Throughout the twists and turns of the plot, he retains his innocence and “goodness” and wins the hearts of people blessed with a more fortunate lifestyle than he could ever imagine. A large part of the novel is the search for Oliver’s true identity, for he seems more suited to the comfort of the homes of Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies than to the streets.
“Oliver Twist’s eighth birth-day found him a pale, thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and decidedly small in circumference. But nature or inheritance had implanted a good sturdy spirit in Oliver’s breast: it had had plenty of room to expand, thanks to the spare diet of the establishment; and perhaps to this circumstance may be attributed his having any eighth birth-day at all” (7).
Fagin*- One of the novel’s more controversial characters, Fagin is an older man living among the young boys who he has taken in and trained to be pickpockets as part of his thriving business. Fagin does his best to train Oliver in the ways of the streets, though he is often troubled when Bill Sikes steps in to use Oliver for his own purposes. Fagin embodies the anti-Semitic stereotypes running rampant throughout Victorian society and was changed in later editions to be less offensive.
“In a frying-pan which was on the fire, and which was secured to the mantel-shelf by a string, some sausages were cooking; and standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old shriveled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair” (64).
The Artful Dodger/Jack Dawkins*- the most likable of the thieves, the Dodger comes upon Oliver in the midst of his escape to London. He takes Oliver under his wing and gets a place for him in Fagin’s den, though Oliver does not realize what this entails. Though the Dodger is only a boy, his time in the streets has given him the mannerisms of a man.
"He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough, and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had got about him all the airs and manners of a man" (60).
Charley Bates* - a fellow pickpocket to the artful dodger, who, though he seems to take more pleasure in doing it, works with the Dodger to train Oliver in the ways of the streets.
Bill Sikes* - He, both very mean and cruel, is a professional burglar and one of Fagin's associates. Sikes is a long-time associate of Fagin's and is romantically involved with Nancy. He treats both Nancy and his dog with extreme cruelty.
“The man who growled out these words was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-forty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half-boots, and grey cotton stockings, which enclosed a very bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves,- the kind of legs which in such costume always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck, with the long frayed ends of which, he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke; disclosing when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a bear of three days’ growth, and two scowling eyes, one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow” (98).
Bull's-Eye (dog) - the faithful follower of Sikes
Nancy*- A former child of Fagin's den, Nancy now works as a prostitute and lives with Sikes, for whom she feels an unavoidable kind of love.
Bet – another of Fagin’s ring of children who, along with Nancy, works as a prostitute
“A couple of young ladies came to see the young gentlemen, one of whom was called Bet and the other Nancy. They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings. They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looking quite stout and hearty” (71).
Monks* - A man filled with hatred for Oliver, Monks conspires with Fagin to destroy Oliver's reputation. His hidden agenda is revealed later as Mr. Brownlow and friends work to uncover Oliver’s past.
Toby Crackit - a comrade of Fagin and Sikes
Tom Chitling - a member of Fagin's Den
Brownlow's City House
Mr. Brownlow* - Though introduced to the story as a victim of pick pocketing, he reaches out to Oliver and offers him a place in his home. Mr. Brownlow plays a key role in the discovery of Oliver’s true identity.
“The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with a powdered head and gold spectacles; dressed in a bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar, and white trousers: with a smart bamboo cane under his arm” (74).
Mr. Grimwig - Mr. Brownlow's cynical friend who is suspicious of everyone, especially Oliver.
Mrs. Bedwin - Oliver's main caregiver in the Brownlow house
Mr. Leeford- A man from the past who died long before the story took place. He does play a large role in that he is the father of both Oliver and Monks.
Agnes Fleming- A beautiful daughter of a naval officer, Agnes falls in love with Mr. Leeford at a young age and gives birth to Oliver after his death. She then dies from childbirth and leaves Oliver to struggle through early life in the workhouse. Mr. Brownlow is able to piece together Oliver’s past after noticing the shocking resemblance between Oliver and the portrait of Agnes that Mr. Leeford sent to him for safekeeping.
“He pointed hastily to the picture above Oliver’s head, and then to the boy’s face. There was its living copy,- the eyes, the head, the mouth; every feature was the same” (93).
Mrs. Maylie* - A kind, wealthy older woman. The mother of Harry Maylie and adoptive “aunt” of Rose, she takes Oliver in and cares for him after he is mortally injured
Rose* - a young woman under the guardianship of Mrs. Maylie. She is portrayed as an ideal Victorian woman, save for one flaw: her illegitimate conception.
"She was not past seventeen. Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould, so mild and gentle, so pure and beautiful, that earth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age or of the world, and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there; above all, the smile- the cheerful happy smile- were entwined with the best sympathies and affections of our nature" (235).
Harry Maylie*- Mrs. Maylie’s son, Harry is a dashing young man with grand political ambitions and career prospects, which he eventually gives up to marry Rose
"He seemed about five-and-twenty years of age, and was of the middle height; his countenance was frank and handsome, and his demeanor singularly easy and prepossessing" (275).
Mr. Losberne - the physician and friend of the Maylies who helps in the process of protecting Oliver from his past
Mr. Giles - the head servant of the Maylie household who shoots Oliver during the break-in
Brittles - the 30-year-old "boy" of the Maylie servant staff
Mr. Sowerberry* - the undertaker who Oliver apprentices, who is one of the few individuals to treat Oliver with kindness in Oliver's young life
Mrs. Sowerberry - The wife of Mr. Sowerberry, she is a mean and judgmental character, treating Oliver with cruelty and rejoicing when the young boy runs away.
Mrs. Mann - maintains the child farm on which Oliver spent several years of his early life
Mr. Fang – the malicious prosecutor who attempts to convict Oliver of pick pocketing even after Mr. Brownlow states that he does not wish to press any charges.
Duff and Blathers – As Bow Street Runners, they are an early form of police. They are a bumbling pair and accomplish little.
Charlotte – As the Sowerberry's maid, she is cruel to Oliver and, along with Noah Claypole, turns Mrs. Sowerberry against the young boy. Later, she becomes romantically involved with Noah and follows him to London to seek fortune in the streets.
Noah Claypole* - the charity boy who is the apprentice of Mr. Sowerberry. He is a chubby, overgrown bully and he abuses Oliver at the Sowerberry house. Noah later joins Fagin's gang when he leaves for London with Charlotte, the Sowerberry’s maid.
"Noah was a charity-boy, but not a workhouse orphan. No chance-child was he, for he could trace his genealogy back all the way to his parents, who lived hard by...Now that fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphan, at whom even the meanest could point the finger of scorn, he retorted on him with interest. This affords charming food for contemplation. It shows us what a beautiful thing human nature is, and how impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lord and the dirtiest charity-boy" (37).
Mr. Bumble* - The pompous, self-important beadle of the parish in which Oliver is born who preaches Christian compassion but in reality treats the paupers under his care without compassion and with cruelty. He is a very greedy individual constantly seeking power and status on his own behalf
“Now Mr. Bumble was a fat man, and a choleric one; so, instead of responding to this open-hearted salutation in a kindred spirit, he gave the little wicket a tremendous shake, and then bestowed upon it a kick, which could have emanated from no leg but a beadle’s” (8).
Mrs. (Corney) Bumble- She is the matron of the workhouse where Oliver is born. She later becomes the wife of Mr. Bumble she is quite cruel and treats her husband with extreme harshness.