Oliver Twist

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 51-53

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Summary

Two days later, Oliver, Mrs. Maylie, Rose, Mrs. Bedwin, Mr. Losberne, and Mr. Brownlow travel toward the town where Oliver was born. As they go, Oliver wishes to see Dick again, and to be able to make him as happy as he is now. They arrive at the town’s chief hotel, where Mr. Grimwig is waiting for them, and everything is ready for their arrival. Oliver and Rose, who do not know much of the information that has recently been discovered, wait anxiously.

Mr. Losberne, Mr. Grimwig, Mr. Brownlow, and Leeford enter their room, and Oliver is told that Leeford is his half brother. Although they don’t want Oliver to have to meet him, he must be present for Leeford’s declaration of the truth of Oliver’s birth. Leeford, under pressure from Mr. Brownlow, tells the whole story, and of how he learned the story from his mother on her deathbed, and swore to hunt down Oliver if he existed.

Mr. Grimwig brings Mr. and Mrs. Bumble in, and Mr. Bumble immediately starts fawning over Oliver. Mr. Brownlow questions the Bumbles about selling the locket to Leeford, who deny it, but the two servants who listened when Old Sally told her story to Mrs. Bumble are brought in, and give their evidence. Mrs. Bumble admits her guilt. Mr. Brownlow tells the Bumbles that they will never hold any parochial office again. Leeford also explains that the naval officer’s second daughter was Rose, who was orphaned when her father died of heartbreak from her sister’s death. Rose is therefore legitimate; it was only believed she wasn’t because Leeford's mother spread that lie around.

Harry Maylie comes in, and renews his suit to Rose. She will not accept for the same reasons as before, but he tells her that he has renounced all ambition, and lowered himself to her station, so that they can live together happily. Rose accepts. At the celebration dinner, Oliver comes in crying, because he has learned that his old friend Dick is dead.

The courtroom is completely packed for Fagin’s trial, and everyone’s eyes are on him. Fagin scans the faces of the crowd, and sees that not one face contains any sympathy for him. Fagin, terrified at the grave he feels opening at his feet, cannot think of it directly, and so his mind wanders through the mundane. The jury comes back, and pronounces him guilty. The judge sentences him to be hanged. Fagin is led out of the court and put alone into a condemned cell. On the last day before he is to die, he enters into a paroxysm of fear and wrath so extreme that he has to have two guards with him at all times.

As the hour of his death approaches, Mr. Brownlow and Oliver come to the prison to see him. They find him rocking back and forth, apparently having lost his mind and unaware of the present. Mr. Brownlow asks Fagin where he has put the papers that Monks gave him for safekeeping. Fagin draws Oliver to him, and tells him where the papers are, and asks Oliver to help him escape. Mr. Brownlow and Oliver leave, and find that a crowd has already begun to gather outside to watch the execution.

Within three months, Rose and Harry are married in the church where Harry will work as clergyman. Mrs. Maylie moves in with them, and lives joyfully for the remainder of her days. Mr. Brownlow, wanting to give Monks a chance, recommends that Oliver and he split the inheritance, which Oliver happily agrees to. Monks takes his share to the New World, where he falls into his old habits, ends up in jail and dies.

Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver as his son, and they and Mrs. Bedwin move to the neighborhood of the Maylies. Mr. Losberne too soon follows, and lives happily in their neighborhood. Mr. Grimwig often visits. Noah Claypole, who is pardoned for his crimes for his testimony against Fagin, and Charlotte take to a safer but still dishonest kind of conning to make a living. Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, without their jobs, end up as paupers in the very workhouse they used to run.

Charley Bates, horrified by Nancy’s murder, decides to turn to honest labor, and with hard work ends up as a happy grazier. The Maylies, Oliver, Mr. Brownlow, and Mr. Losberne are all truly happy, and live in as perfect a state as is possible in this world.

Analysis

This section of Oliver essentially wraps up any remaining loose ends. Justice is served, again and again, and almost all of the characters get something close to what they deserve. Oliver and Rose learn their familial origins, and in so doing, both learn the root of their early liking of each other and finally become part of a real family. They also both are now able to take on their surrogate families—Oliver of Mr. Brownlow's, Rose of Harry's—which further emphasizes the importance of knowledge of one’s own roots.

The Bumbles receive the most poetic of ends, losing their jobs and landing in the workhouse themselves, where, undeniably, they are mistreated as they mistreated so many before. This giving of happiness to those who deserve it and meting out punishment to the rest reflects Dickens’s love of fantasy: while he wanted to make a point about the treatment of the poor and helpless in Oliver Twist, he wanted the reader to enjoy it, and so he gives a better ending than one could ever expect in reality.

The ending is not perfect, however, which reminds the reader that it is, in fact, fiction. This is represented largely by Dick, who never escapes the terrible workhouse life, but dies instead. Dickens, though, also seems to have some issue with Fagin’s end. Fagin, with no one left to feel sympathy for him, is given a death sentence for his part in Nancy’s murder, along with his other crimes. The scene of his trial, however, is so like a mob scene, that it is hard to believe that such a sentence came from an impartial jury unaffected by the overpowering assurance of the mob.

This feeling is reinforced as the date of his death approaches. Fagin is never redeemed, he doesn’t ask for forgiveness from Oliver when given the chance, and he never truly repents. Thus shouldn't his death be satisfying on a narrative level? It is not. Fagin's deeply pitiful status by the time his execution day arrives, and the knowledge that he did not in fact lay a finger on Nancy, makes his demise hard to take. The brutal juxtaposition Dickens makes between the gallows and the tools of death, and the sun rising and people gathering in excitement to watch the execution, furthers this feeling that Fagin is being killed for the public’s enjoyment, not for justice.

The novel ends by reinforcing its dichotomy between city and countryside. All of the good characters end up living in the countryside together, in peace and prosperity and happiness, while those left in the city are either dead, in jail, or continue to live a life of crime. This makes it seem impossible for Oliver and his new family to have ever lived in true happiness in London, where so many awful things have happened throughout the novel. Instead they inhabit a village that represents a new community and a new, more hopeful start.