“Hope is More Than Happiness”

Paterson, Katherine

The New York Times, December 25, 1988

Paterson comments on how the screenwriter of the musical play Oliver! reshaped Dickens’ “happily ever after” ending to make it more realistic and more poignant.  “The screenwriter turned away both from the excesses of Dickens and from the conventions of the musical comedy form. As you may remember, the carriage draws up in front of the house of Mr. Brownlow, Oliver’s benefactor. Mr. Brownlow and an exhausted Oliver get out and walk up the front steps. The kindly housekeeper comes out to greet them and, without a word spoken, much less sung, Oliver puts his arms around her and weeps.

What a lovely ending. I wish Dickens could have seen it. No singing, no dancing, no words. Any of them would have diminished Oliver’s pain. We know from the way Mr. Brownlow puts his arm lightly across the boy’s shoulder as they walk up the steps, and from the way the housekeeper’s warm arms enfold him, that Oliver will be cared for. But his pain is not trivialized, much less erased. He will grow up to be a wise and compassionate gentleman, but deep in his heart he will bear the hunger of the workhouse and the grief of the Jacob’s Island slums to his grave.”