It feels as though there is a hidden message in the text.
I've always hated it when students develop this idea about books. It makes it seem as though only detectives, literary sleuths or English PhDs can discover the meaning of the books, making it somewhat inaccessible for the regular reader. I simply don't want my students to think that's the case. I want them to believe that they can discover the meanings in the text without needing an expert to pull it out for them.
The problem is, Oliver Twist is very much a reflection of the time when Dickens wrote the book. Through Oliver's experiences, Dickens is criticizing government and church funding of the work houses, where those in need of monetary support would go if they wanted governmental help. How would the students know this if they didn't research the book and discover this information? Does that mean there is a secret message in the book that someone reading wouldn't discover simply through the book's pages?
I guess we are getting into literary analysis here and reader response versus historical analysis, but as the book club mentor, I would like the students to feel that their understanding of the book as is works. That it's okay to examine the book from a teen perspective with a teen's knowledge and experience, and take something from it. This isn't a secret message. There isn't hidden meaning. Perhaps there are different levels of understanding, but all levels are okay.