OF THE BABY NAME OLIVER
Charley Bates is a character in Charles Dickens’ 1838 classic, Oliver Twist. Charley is a good-natured and indefatigable member of Fagin’s gang of pickpockets into which Oliver is inducted. Unlike the naïve and well-behaved Oliver, who is discovered to be of gentle birth, our Charley is what he is. He’s a boy of the streets, of common origin, who gets by on a wink and a smile. And a few pockets. He and the Artful Dodger teach Oliver all they know, to disastrous results – well, not for Oliver, you may be sure. Laugh-a-minute Charley ultimately sees the light and gives up his thieving ways. We are told he does so because of his horror over Sikes’ murder of Nancy, but we’re willing to bet that he saw a surer thing in legitimacy. Charley prospers on his own merits, not by any mere coincidence of parentage, and we’re glad he does!
Nancy is a major character in Charles Dickens’ beloved novel, Oliver Twist, first published in book form in 1838. A young girl of the streets, she has been working for the master thief, Fagin, for twelve years, and is the lover of his brutal comrade in crime, Bill Sikes. Nancy, however, is a complex character, at once inured to her fate, yet sympathetic toward young Oliver and extremely protective of him. She regrets her role in Oliver’s kidnapping, and tries to make it up by informing Oliver’s benefactors of the wrongs perpetrated upon him. At the same time, she is conflicted over the possibility of betraying her lover while helping Oliver. Cruel fate may have led her to the life of the “fallen” woman, but Nancy exemplifies the most Christian-like of all endeavors when she sacrifices her own life for Oliver’s safety, and dies at the very hands of the man she loves. Hardly the usual role model for Victorian girls, she is nonetheless the type of woman to have in one’s corner – a self-reliant, spunky champion of underdogs who happened to be born in a very unaccommodating century.
Oliver Twist is the much beloved eponymous hero of Charles Dickens’ early novel, “Oliver Twist,” published in 1837/38, portraying the sordid underbelly of social and economic injustice in Victorian England. The book has spawned dozens of movie and television adaptations, musicals, and an enduring affection for the little orphan boy. Oliver, sent to a “baby farm” after his mother dies giving birth to him, is eventually sent to a workhouse as is the custom of the day. He escapes from the mean-spirited poverty of the place, only to land in the grip of a vicious band of thieves in London, led by Mr. Fagin, and including the famous Artful Dodger, the brutal Bill Sikes, and the redemptive Nancy. Facing unbelievably horrendous cruelties, Oliver meets each challenge with the goodness inherent in him, and never sinks to the level of his tormentors. In typical Victorian (well, really, Dickensian) fashion, Oliver turns out to be the progeny of gentle folk after all (how else could he have managed such refined manners and speech, given his background?!). In perhaps the most quoted line from the book, Oliver begs: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Happy boy that Fate finally smiled upon, for he does, indeed, get lots more.
Daddy Warbucks was featured in the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray, debuting in The Chicago Tribune in 1924. He is a rags-to-riches industrialist who, along with his wife, takes in the orphaned child, Annie, and provides security and comfort for her during a series of adventures. Widely adapted to radio, movie, television and musical forms, Daddy Warbucks became famous enough to be named to Forbes’ list of fictional wealthiest characters. His name has taken on a slightly less respectable life of its own, having evolved into a slang term for someone who provides for the lavish security of another, i.e., “a Daddy Warbucks”.
"The Song of Roland” is the oldest known French epic poem, dating from around the time of the First Crusade in the late 11th century, and most probably intended as a call to arms by Christians against the heathens. The Christian King Charlemagne is engaged in a conquest in Spain, with one recalcitrant city and king standing. Through a series of treacherous betrayals within the ranks, Charlemagne’s nephew Roland, the hero of the poem, is left without reinforcements to defend against the oncoming Saracens. His good friend, the sensible, prudent and upright Oliver, implores him to blow upon the Oliphant horn and summon Charlemagne back with help. Roland refuses, with the result that twenty thousand men lose their lives. When this disaster is made clear to him, Roland blows mightily upon his horn of elephant tusk in order to summon Charlemagne back for revenge. This last act bursts his lungs, and he dies on the battlefield, a martyr, to be escorted to heaven by angels. The good Oliver, we hope, also makes it into celestial territory, albeit without heavenly escorts.