Oliver Twist Summary and Analysis
Everyone comes to Oliver’s cry, and Harry leads the chase after Fagin and the other man. They find no trace of them, and so think that perhaps Oliver dreamt it, but Oliver is sure that it was real. They continue to search and make inquiries in town over the next few days, but nothing comes of it, and so it is forgotten. Meanwhile, Rose grows stronger and stronger, and yet something still seems to be bothering her.
Harry prepares to leave, but before he does, he requests a few moments alone with Rose. Harry declares his longstanding love for Rose, but she begs him to forget her, because she is below him, and has a blight on her name, and would serve as an obstacle to him in his progress in the world. She considers it her duty to reject him, for his own good, as well as his friends. Harry accepts this, but asks the one favor of being able to renew his suit one time in the future, to which Rose agrees. Before leaving with Mr. Losberne, Harry asks Oliver to write to him secretly every alternate Monday, and tell him how Mrs. Maylie and Rose are doing. Oliver promises to fulfill this duty.
Mr. Bumble sits in the workhouse parlor, looking rather glum. By his dress it is clear that he is no longer a beadle. In marrying Mrs. Corney, he became master of the workhouse, and the role of beadle was given to another. Mr. Bumble considers himself to have sold himself to the now Mrs. Bumble for too little, who overhears him making this complaint and gets angry. It has been two months since their wedding, and they are in a battle for dominance. Mrs. Bumble manages to come out on top, much to Mr. Bumble’s surprise. It gets even worse when Mrs. Bumble embarrasses him in front of the paupers, who he hears laughing at him.
To make himself feel better, Mr. Bumble goes to a pub, where there is a stranger sitting who appears to have traveled from a long way off. This stranger speaks to Mr. Bumble, and says that he knew him when he was the beadle. The stranger admits that he came to the town with the specific intention of finding Mr. Bumble to ask him some information. He slips Mr. Bumble some sovereigns, and asks for information about the woman who nurses Oliver’s mother when she gave birth to him. Mr. Bumble tells the stranger that she died last winter. Mr. Bumble, sensing an opportunity for further gain, offers the stranger an interview with Mrs. Corney, who was with Old Sally the night that she died. The stranger tells Mr. Bumble that his name is Monks.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumble go to the address that Monks gave them to meet with him. It is stormy, and the thunder seems to send Monks into weird fits. Mrs. Bumble negotiates with Monks, and says he must pay her twenty-five pounds before she will give him her information. He pays her, and Mrs. Bumble tells him what she knows, which, it turns out, includes the very locket itself, which she redeemed from the pawn broker. Monks drops the locket into the river below them, and tells the Bumbles not to speak of it again. The Bumbles agree, and leave.
Bill Sikes still lives in the same neighborhood, but now in a smaller and dingier apartment. Sikes himself is also much worse off, as he is very ill. Nancy is with him, also much the worse for wear. She is so weak, in fact, that she faints. Fagin, the artful Dodger, and Charley Bates come in and try to help. Nancy is revived, and goes to lie down on the bed, while Sikes asks what the visitors are doing there. They have brought him some food and spirits, which he quickly eats, but is not thankful, since it is the first time they have helped him in the three weeks that he has been ill.
Fagin gradually wins him over, and after some coaxing, agrees to take Nancy back to his place, and give her some money for Bill. They return to Fagin’s, where Fagin prepares to get the money for Nancy, but stops when he hears someone approaching. It is Monks, who Nancy pretends to pay no attention to, but in reality studies very closely. Monks wants a word alone with Fagin, so they head upstairs, leaving Nancy. She slips off her shoes and sneaks after them, returning to the room just before they do. Fagin gives her the money, and she leaves. She does not go back to Sikes, however, running off in the other direction instead, but after tiring herself she only sits down on a stoop and cries, and then turns back and returns to Sikes’s abode.
The next day Nancy acts strangely, but Sikes is so busy with his new money that he doesn’t notice. By night time, however, her agitation has grown so extreme that even he notices. He is too tired to take it seriously, however, and eventually falls asleep. Once he is out, she immediately gets dressed, and leaves the apartment. She hurries off, worried that she will be too late. She eventually arrives at a family hotel, where she asks to see Miss Maylie. The servants do not want to let Nancy up, but someone agrees to take her message up, and Rose agrees to see her.
Nancy, waiting for Miss Maylie to appear, feels a sense of shame at what the contrast will be between the two of them, and Miss Maylie’s profound kindness and lack of haughtiness when she arrives causes Nancy to break into tears. She tells Miss Maylie that she is the one who kidnapped Oliver and took him back to Fagin when he was living with Mr. Brownlow. Nancy explains that in the first conversation she overheard between Monks and Fagin, she learned that Monks had seen Oliver with the Dodger and Bates, and had told Fagin that he would pay him if he got him back and made him into a thief.
Then, the second time she overhears the two men talking, she learns that Monks, having disposed of the proof of Oliver’s parentage, has now guaranteed himself what would rightfully be the boy’s inheritance, and she learns that Monks is his brother. Nancy says that she must leave before Sikes or anyone notices that she is gone, but Rose begs her to stay, and be redeemed. Nancy says that she must go back, she cannot be saved, because she cannot leave Sikes, and cause his death in doing so. Rose and Nancy set up that as long as Nancy is alive, she will walk on London Bridge between eleven and midnight every Sunday night, so that Rose can find her if she needs her to help Oliver.
This section contains the first truly romantic love scene, which, following the courtship scene between Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, and their resulting unhappy marriage, makes it clear that this novel values the love between people of good character much higher than the relationships between people of weaker character. Harry and Rose are both completely self-effacing in their love for each other, each wanting the other’s happiness above their own, and so their love is presented as of the highest sort, even though, at this point, it does not end in marriage.
Contrastingly, we see the now married Mr. and Mrs. Bumble fighting in an utterly selfish attempt to gain dominance in their relations, which is not surprising, considering their selfish reasons for entering into the union in the first place. In this fight for dominance, we see Mrs. Bumble take the unquestionable lead, which may seem to belie the theme of the powerlessness of women. But Mrs. Bumble’s power relies on her being married—she can dominate her husband, and through him other men, but were she unmarried and unprotected like Nancy, she would not be able to exude such dominance at all.
This section also contains a third scene between two lovers—that between Nancy and Sikes. Unlike Mrs. Bumble, Nancy is almost completely dominated in this relationship, even though Sikes is so ill that he can barely move. He still controls her utterly, and it is only through duplicitous action that she can exert any agency—she has to use drugs to put him to sleep so that she may move without his knowledge. Their relationship is tragic, as opposed Mr. and Mrs. Bumble’s, which is comic, or Harry and Rose’s, which is ideal.
Nancy’s powerlessness, even in her exerting her agency, is clear throughout this section. When she is finally able to get to Rose, she is almost not able to see her because of her appearance and the obvious markers of her class. Even when she does get to Rose, and Rose hears her story without judgment, they both know that there is nothing that they can do without the help of a man.
Nancy also feels completely trapped in her relationships with the men who have power over her, Sikes and Fagin, and so, even with Rose’s offer of help, even with the knowledge that to return to Sikes is probably to give her life, she will not leave or betray them. In this way, although Nancy exerts agency in trying to help Oliver, she can exert no agency in trying to help herself, and thus is ultimately powerless.
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- About Oliver Twist
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-7
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 8-14
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 15-22
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 23-29
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 30-34
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 35-40
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 41-45
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 46-50
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 51-53
- The Real Workhouse
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