Oliver Twist Summary and Analysis
Nancy goes, with Noah following, to London Bridge, where she waits. At two minutes past midnight, Rose and Mr. Brownlow get out of a carriage, and walk towards the bridge. Nancy sees them, and immediately heads towards them. Nancy tells them she can’t talk in the open, and leads them to a staircase going down to the river. Noah, seeing this, finds the perfect spot from which to overhear them. Nancy says that she has had a horrible fear and premonition of death all day, which was why she was too nervous to speak on the bridge. Mr. Brownlow tells Nancy that he believes her story, and that if she leads them to Monks, they will do their best to respect her wishes, and not turn in Fagin or Sikes.
Nancy tells them about The Three Cripples, and gives them all the information they could need to find Monks there, without arousing anyone’s suspicions. Mr. Brownlow tries to convince Nancy to take his help to escape her life with Sikes and Fagin, but she will not be persuaded. She also refuses to take money, only accepting a token of something that Rose has worn, to remember her by. As Mr. Brownlow and Rose walk out of sight, Nancy collapses into tears. As soon as she carries herself off, Noah runs back to Fagin’s.
After hearing Noah’s report, Fagin sits in profound anger, waiting for Sikes to return from his thieving. Fagin looks at Sikes with such an extreme facial expression, that Sikes fears he will attack him, but Fagin says Sikes is not the source of his anger. Fagin questions Sikes, asking what he would do to Noah, or Fagin himself, or Charley, etc, if they had done what Nancy did. When Sikes has repeated that he would kill whoever did it, no matter what, Fagin wakes Noah up, and makes him repeat the whole story for Sikes.
Sikes storms out in a rage, and both Fagin and he know that he is going to kill Nancy. He rushes home, where Nancy begs him not to kill her, and instead to leave all of this behind with her as per Mr. Brownlow’s offer, but instead he beats her to death with his gun. She manages to say one prayer for mercy before she dies.
The sun rises, shining especially brightly and beautifully, and although he tries, Sikes cannot block it out from the awful scene. After sitting completely still, staring at Nancy’s body, Sikes finally gets up and cleans himself, his clothes, and his weapon off as best he can. He leaves the apartment with his dog, and locks the door behind him. He wanders around, stopping for a bit to sleep, then wanders some more. Finally, by night, he finds a pub remote enough that he feels comfortable entering, and goes in for dinner. While he is eating, a peddler comes in who is selling stain remover. To encourage buyers, he says that he will get the stain out of Sikes’s hat, and grabs it. Sikes lunges for it, and upon getting back, rushes out of the pub.
Sikes walks on without destination, and begins to feel terrified by the sense that Nancy’s ghost is following him. He finds a shed in which he stops for the night, but while there, he has a vision of Nancy’s dead eyes floating in the darkness, everywhere he looks. He is utterly terrified, until he hears men shouting, which, although actually dangerous, energizes him. He rushes out of the shed and sees that there is a large fire, which he runs to. He joins in the fray of people trying to fight it, and works frantically all night. When the fire is out, he eats some food with the other men, and while doing so hears the firemen talking about the murder, and the manhunt for Sikes.
He hurries off until he drops onto the ground and sleeps. He wanders some more, then decides to go back to London and hideout for a week, before escaping to France. On his way, his dog suddenly refuses to follow him anymore, and runs off. Sikes waits for awhile, but the dog never returns, and so he continues on to London alone.
Mr. Brownlow, with two men helping, takes Monks to his house. They do not physically force him to enter, but Mr. Brownlow says that the minute Monks tries to leave, he will call the police, and levy charges of fraud and robbery against him. Mr. Brownlow was Monks’s father’s oldest friend, and Monks’s real name is Edward Leeford. Mr. Brownlow also had been betrothed to Leeford’s aunt, but she had died on the morning of their wedding day. Leeford’s father, Edwin Leeford, had been forced into a very unhappily marriage to Leeford’s mother when he was very young, and they had eventually separated.
After this separation, Edwin became good friends with a naval officer, whose beautiful daughter fell in love with him. Edwin, soon after inheriting a great fortune, dies without a will, so the fortune goes to his first wife, and Edward. Mr. Brownlow reveals to Edward that his father had come to him before he died, and left with him a portrait of the officer’s daughter, Agnes Fleming, and told him that he was planning to convert his new fortune to cash, leave some to his first wife and Edward, and use the rest to flee the country with Agnes.
After Edward’s father’s death, Mr. Brownlow went to try to find Agnes, but her family had moved quite suddenly, and so it was not until Oliver appeared, looking so much like her portrait, that he had any idea of his existence. Mr. Brownlow tells Leeford all he knows about his own actions, and overwhelmed by the charges, Leeford admits his guilt. Mr. Losberne comes in, and says that they are on the point of capturing Sikes.
On Jacob’s Island, a place of very deep poverty, Toby Crackit, Tom Chitling, and Kags, an older robber, sit together. It is Toby’s place, and he is not happy that Chitling has come there. Chitling tells them that Fagin and Noah Claypole were taken by the police that afternoon, and Bet, who went mad upon seeing Nancy’s body, was taken to a mental hospital, and everyone at the Cripples was arrested, and Bates is planning to come to Chitling’s too, once it has gotten dark. Sikes’s dog, without its master, jumps into the apartment through an open window. They don’t see Sikes anywhere near, so they relax, but once darkness falls, they hear a knocking on the door, and it is the murderer.
They let him in, seeing no other choice. Sikes looks terrible, and is haunted by the idea that Nancy has not yet been buried. Charley Bates arrives. Upon seeing Sikes, he shrinks back, and when Sikes steps towards him, he calls him a monster. Bates tells everyone that if anyone comes for Sikes, he will give him up in a moment, and starts yelling for help, then runs at Sikes and knocks him over. As Sikes gains the upper hand, Crackit stops him, for the police have arrived. The house is well reinforced, however, so Sikes is emboldened.
As the crowd surrounds them and tries to climb into the house, Sikes gets a rope, and climbs onto the roof, intending to drop into the water on the other side. Bates, however, sees this, and yells to the crowd, who circles round to the back, where Sikes sees the tide has gone out, and there is only mud. Brownlow, from the crowd, offers fifty pounds to the man who can take Sikes alive.
The crowd is distracted from Sikes for a moment when the police finally break into the house, and he takes his chance to make a running noose with the rope, and try to lower himself to the muddy ditch. Right as he puts the rope around his neck, however, he sees Nancy’s eyes, and in a paroxysm of fear, slips, and hangs himself. Sikes’s dog, who was also on the roof, leaps off after him, and dies also.
This section contains some of the most harrowing and dramatic scenes of Oliver Twist. Nancy’s death represents her ultimate inability to escape the life that she was born into, even though she showed signs of having a moral core not unlike Rose’s. That her death is caused by Fagin’s betrayal when she refused to betray him, underscores both how much better her character is than his, and how skewed the balance of power in their relationship is. Sikes’s total physical power over her, and how little effect her begging has on him, further emphasizes this.
Sikes’s character, however, is complicated following his most purely evil act of killing Nancy. When he does, he is described as a beast, and thus does not even seem to have control over himself, to the extent that he cannot even watch as he strikes the fatal blow. Sight and eyes then take on a very important significance, as Sikes becomes haunted by Nancy’s eyes.
This haunting symbolizes Sikes’s conscience, which, though weak, is shown to at least exist. He can barely function, wanders in circles, and ends up going right back to London and almost certain capture because of those haunting eyes. And in the end, it is those eyes, his conscience, which cause him to slip and so accidentally hang himself, enacting justice on himself.
The mob scene leading up to Sikes’s death, though satisfying in the fact that the mob is on the right side, that the man who murdered Nancy is going to be captured, is still disturbing. It recalls the earlier scene when Oliver was chased, incorrectly, by the mob, which reminds us that though the mob is correct this time, it is not because they are moral, or even interested in the truth—it is just luck that they happen to have chased the guilty party. With the mob acting, in a way, in lieu of a court, this becomes all the more disturbing, and recalls a hunt rather than a trial.
This problem of mob justice is also reflected in Mr. Brownlow’s story of Oliver’s birth, for it shows that judgment on people should not be black and white, but is complicated, a fact which capital punishment tries to avoid. Oliver’s parents were not married to each other, Oliver’s father was married to another, and yet though this is a significant sin, neither Mr. Brownlow nor the narrator blame them or judge them absolutely, for they were truly in love, and, additionally, their union resulted in the pure and kind Oliver.
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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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