Title: Who is Oliver? Unexecuted Wills and Threatened Legal Rights in Oliver Twist
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Akiko Takei, Chukyo University, Japan
In this paper, I examine the unexecuted wills and the difficulty in exercising legal rights in Oliver Twist. In Dickens’s novels, the making and exercising of wills is very important because these actions are required for inheritance. The decision of to whom a person will bequeath their fortune exposes a character’s desire for money, affects and manipulates their human relationships and life events, and propels the plot. Oliver Twist focuses on Monk’s trick for depriving Oliver of his inheritance by annulling three wills that otherwise would have proved Oliver’s identity and heirship. Monks is a debauched person, but his scheme goes quite well because he effectively robs Oliver of the means of claiming his legal rights. He is clever enough to understand that every legal claim is void without documented evidences or witnesses, and Oliver’s parents cannot properly make a will because of their obscurity and untimely deaths. Oliver’s bitter experience demonstrates that not all people are equal under the law; the objective of the law is not justice and the evil and wicked can lawfully deprive the good and honest of their property. The law and wills in Oliver Twist, among all of Dickens’s novels, are unique because they are arbitrarily put into practice.