Place in the narrative


When Oliver is released from the courtroom at 54 Hatton Gardens, Mr Brownlow adopts him and brings him to his home in Pentonville. Mr Brownlow's house in a 'quiet and shady' street is where Oliver recovers and recupurates after his illness. It is where we first discover Oliver’s likeness to one of Mr Brownlow’s painting which happens to be a portrait of his mother, Agnes. Oliver lives a comfortable protected life here until Nancy is invagled into catching him back to serve Fagin and his gang. When Dickens was alive, Pentonville was growing middle-class suburb and represents the wealthy side of Victorian life in Oliver Twist. It is in direct contrast with the squallor in and around Saffron Hill, where Dickens sets Fagin and the boys.

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The History


The area, Pentonville, was named after Henry Penton, who developed a number of  houses there in the 1770s in what would have been countryside, near to the New Road. Dickens would have known the area as being part of the parish of Clerkenwell as Pentonville wasn’t incorpurated into the Borough of Finsbury till 1899 and it has only been part of the Borough of Islington since 1965.  

The Quotes


‘The coach rattled away, over nearly the same ground as that which Oliver had traversed when he first entered London in company with the Dodger; and, turning a different way when it reached the Angel at Islington, stopped at length before a neat house, in a quiet shady street near Pentonville. Here, a bed was prepared, without loss of time, in which Mr. Brownlow saw his young charge and comfortably desposited; and here, he was tended with a kindness and solicitude that knew no bounds.’


‘They were happy days, those of Oliver’s recovery. Everything was so quiet, and neat, and ordery; everybody so kind and gentle; that after the noise and tubulence in the midst of which he had always lived, it seemed like Heaven itself. He was no sooner strong enough to put his clothes on properly, than Mr. Brownlow caused a complete new suit, and a new cap, and a new pair of shoes , to be provided for him. As Oliver was told that he might do what he liked with the old clothes, he gave them to a servant who had been very kind to him, and asked her to sell them to a Jew, and keep the money for herself. This she very readily did; and, as Oliver looked out of the parlour window, and saw the Jew roll them up in his bag and walk away, he felt quite delighted that they were safely gone, and that there was now no possible danger of his ever being ableto wear them again. They were sad rags to tell the truth; and Oliver had never had a new suit before.’

My Impressions

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What I wrote in London


From the hustle and bustle of the Angel interchange, the streets and squares of Pentonville Road are very suburban and quiet. The buildings were mainly built at the time of the Georgiansso there are row upon row of pretty houses with loads of overhanging trees. It probably isn't as quiet as at Dickens' time but it's lovely and very different to the narrow lanes of Saffron Hill and Shoe Lane. Although Dickens only describes ' a quiet shady street near Pentonville' there are lots of green and shady squares where you could see Brownlow occupying. Pentonville road itself is lined with houses front with gardens and beautiful big windows. The first square you come to on the right is Clarence Square and is where you can imagine 'Who will buy' in the film version of Oliver! The square surrounds a reservoir so all you see in the middle is green banks of grass surrounded by iron railings and cobwebs. The houses were beautifully kept and though many of them were 'To Let' it was difficult to seee any one not wanting to live here. I could see Mr Brownlow living here and it evoked the middle class feeling that Dickens wanted to strongly contrast with the slums and mire of Saffron Hill.

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On Reflection


In comparison to the slum area Dickens describes in Saffron Hill, Pentonville is countryside idyll. And though Pentonville Road runs noisily through it today, there is a tranquility and elegance to the streets, many of which were built in the time of the Georgians. Pentonville Road itself is lined with garden-fronted big windowed houses, with streets leading to streets off the side. Claremont Square is the first square you come to on the right. More serene Georgian houses line the sides of the square however. less romantically the centre houses a reservoir. Having researched the reservoir since, I have discovered that it wasn't built till 1855 so it wouldn't have been there when Dickens wrote Oliver Twist. It's easy to imagine Mr Brownlow living in one of these well kept houses. The front of the houses are very reminiscent of the 'Who will buy?' sequence in the 1968 musical adaptation of Oliver! In Oliver Twist, Dickens makes it very clear that the area was polar opposites to the poverty of Saffron Hill and Shoe Lane. Though the difference has decreased over time, the area still retains it's feeling of grandeur and the upper class qualities that Dickens might have seen when he was writing.