Oliver Twist | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Oliver Twist | Chapters 25–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

In the Whitechapel house, Jack Dawkins, Charley Bates, and Tom Chitling are playing cards. Fagin, meanwhile, appears distracted and pays little attention. When the bell rings, Jack goes to answer; Toby Crackit reports, alone. This worries Fagin, and he shoos Charley and Tom out of the room while Jack fetches Crackit. Toby says he hasn't eaten in three days and insists on doing so before telling his story. Fagin knows from the newspaper that the burglary failed, but he hasn't heard from Bill Sikes. Toby says he and Bill carried Oliver away, but they were being hunted by armed men and dogs and left the boy in a ditch. Fagin cries out and runs from the house.

Chapter 26

Fagin heads to the Cripples, asks after someone called Monks, and leaves a message that Monks should visit him the next day. He then goes to Bill Sikes's room, where Nancy is sitting alone and distraught. In their emotional exchange, it becomes clear that Oliver is more valuable to Fagin than any of his gang, all of whom he could send to the gallows with a word. He also lets slip that he himself is bound to "a born devil that only wants the will, and has the power to, to—" but he catches himself before finishing his thought and doesn't go on. Having made sure that Nancy did not notice his slip, Fagin heads home, where Monks confronts him. Monks is angry that Fagin has lost Oliver and wants Oliver transported, but under no circumstances dead—not if it can be tied to him in any way. Suddenly, Monks cries, "What's that?" He has seen the shadow of a woman outside the door. But a search reveals nothing.

Chapter 27

While awaiting Mrs. Corney's return, Mr. Bumble continues his inventory of her belongings. When she finally arrives, she is in a state, and the beadle pours her a teacup of liquid comfort, finishing half of it himself. He tells her that the workhouse master is close to dying, which will leave a vacancy—and provide an opportunity for them to join their "hearts and housekeepings," and they agree to marry. Mrs. Corney tells him that the old woman has died, but she does not tell him what she learned about Oliver's mother. Mr. Bumble goes to the undertaker's to order a coffin for the Mrs. Thingummy. When he gets there, the Sowerberrys are out, and he finds Charlotte feeding oysters to Noah, who has been drinking. When he hears Noah call Charlotte over for a kiss, the beadle berates them for their lewd behavior.

Analysis

In Chapter 25 Fagin's boys are playing whist. Known under other names since the Renaissance, by the 19th century, whist was an exceedingly popular card game. It could be played by partners or, as in the chapter, individually. It was considered a game of intellect, and the Artful Dodger's success at whist is another indication of how clever he is.

Before Fagin asks for Monks in the Cripples, readers have not heard of him. But it can be inferred from Fagin's comments to Nancy about a "born devil" and his uneasiness when he finds Monks waiting for him outside his door that Fagin has had dealings with him before and that Monks is one of the few people Fagin fears. Their conversation deepens the mystery of Oliver's identity. Why should Monks be so desperately concerned about Oliver?

In Chapter 27 Charlotte is feeding Noah oysters. Today oysters are expensive, but in Victorian times, they were eaten by the working and middle classes. Since Mr. Sowerberry is an undertaker, the Sowerberrys are middle class. They can afford some high-protein foods such as bacon and oysters, both of which Dickens mentions as part of their diet. The working urban poor had fewer options, and some never tasted meat. When they did they might eat premature calves (called slink), undesirable cuts of mutton (diseased sheep—called broxy—or sheep's heads), or even spoiled meat. The food fed to workhouse inmates was even worse.

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