One of Dickens’ most enduringly popular stories is Oliver Twist, an early work published 1837-8. Like many of his later novels, its central theme is the hardship faced by the dispossessed and those of the outside of ‘polite’ society. Oliver himself is born in a workhouse and treated cruelly there as was the norm at the time for pauper children, in particular by Bumble, a parish council official or ‘beadle’. The story follows Oliver as he escapes the workhouse and runs away to London. Here he receives an education in villainy from the criminal gang of Fagin that includes ...