Nell’s grandfather is the owner of “The Old Curiosity Shop” which is a magical place and has many invaluable treasures. Nell is a beautiful young girl and her grandfather is too fond of her and wants to bring her good fortunes and secure her future.
He starts playing cards to do this and this focus of procuring a better financial position gradually turns into addiction for gambling. The grandfather moves out for these activities in the night and keeps it a secret from Nell. Soon he begins to lose all money and borrows heavily from Daniel Quilp who is an evil man into money lending business.
Quilp, an opportunist decides to take possession of the shop in lieu of the debt that the grandfather owes to him. He makes Nell and her grandfather’s life horrible. Nell exhibits courage and decides to run away to the country with his grandfather to escape Quilp.
Nell’s drifter brother, Fred and his friend Dick Swiveller join them in the chase convinced that Nell and grandfather have run after some inherited property. Swiveller is a good-natured man but helps Fred to tack down Nell as Fred tells him that he can marry his sister and the two can share her inheritance.
Dick also inadvertently joins Quilp in chasing Nell, who is after Nell to obtain every penny of the borrowed money, believing that she actually has some fortune hidden by the grandfather. Nell and grandfather meet many kind and villainous characters in their escape to the countryside, but are unfortunately forced to beg to survive.
Reverend Pratchett, a kind gentleman comes to their rescue and takes them to an orphanage but a lot of damage is already done to Nell’s health because of poor living conditions.
Kit Nubbles who was Grandfather’s servant boy in the shop who was a good friend to Nell is founded by an unknown man who wants to know the whereabouts of the two. Both join the chase but are unsuccessful and end up meeting Quilp, who is himself lost in the search for runaways. Quilp has resentment for Kit and gets him caught as a thief by using his lawyers in the plot. One of the lawyer’s girl servants, “The Marchioness” gets to know of the scheme and decides to tell Dick Swiveller who is a good friend of hers.
Dick wants to save Kit by proving him innocent. The lawyers very easily frame their client, Quilp and in an attempt to escape his pursuers, drowns in a icy wharf.
The unknown man who had accompanied Kit is able to trace Nell and grandfather. But Nell’s condition has deteriorated and she is an emotional trauma to learn that grandfather is still gambling. The gentleman’s true identity is revealed and the Nell and Kit reunite towards the end of the story.