Oliver Twist | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Chapters 28–30

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 28–30 of Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist.

Oliver Twist | Chapters 28–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 28

With their pursuers close on their heels, Toby Crackit and Bill Sikes leave Oliver in a ditch. Their pursuers give up shortly afterward and head for home. Several hours later Oliver wakes, tired, cold, and weak with pain. He staggers along the road through the rain until he reaches a house—the same house they had tried to rob the night before. He knocks at the door and collapses on the doorstep. The servants, the tinker, and the tinker's dogs go together to answer the door. Giles recognizes Oliver as the boy he shot during the break-in and brings Oliver inside. Their young mistress asks them to fetch a constable and a doctor and to treat the boy kindly.

Chapter 29

While at breakfast Giles fills Mrs. Maylie and her niece Rose Maylie in on the night's events. The doctor, Mr. Losberne, arrives and goes upstairs, where Oliver has been installed in a bedroom. After some time he returns and insists that Rose and her aunt accompany him to meet his patient.

Chapter 30

Rose and Mrs. Maylie want to help Oliver rather than turn him over to the law, and Mr. Losberne agrees on condition that he question Oliver when he wakes to make sure the boy isn't a hardened criminal. Rose, who was an orphan Mrs. Maylie took in and raised, clearly feels that she herself might otherwise have ended up in Oliver's shoes. Oliver doesn't wake until evening, but then he tells the doctor and the two women the story of his life. Mr. Losberne goes to the kitchen, where he convinces the constable and the staff that Oliver is not the same boy who broke in. At that moment the Bow Street officers arrive.

Analysis

In Chapter 28 readers meet Rose Maylie. Rose was the first of several young female characters in whom Dickens memorialized his wife's sister, Mary Hogarth, who lived with the couple for several months before dying of a sudden illness in May 1837—just three months after the first installment of Oliver Twist was published. Like Mary, Rose is a pretty, sweet-tempered 17-year-old girl. Rose's sudden illness in Chapter 33 also recalls Dickens' real-life loss. Like Harry Maylie (Chapter 34), Dickens was 25 at the time of Mary's death.

In Chapter 28 Oliver has been given a second chance to escape the criminal environment imposed by Fagin and Sikes. Dickens sometimes offered his young characters the opportunity to change their lives for the better and more than once gave them second chances. Readers should note the chances offered to Nancy in later chapters and her response to those opportunities.

Mr. Losberne is summoned to dress Oliver's wound and set his broken arm. Dickens makes a point of saying that Mr. Losberne is a surgeon but is referred to as "the doctor." He makes this distinction because in Victorian England one became a surgeon through apprenticeship; in contrast, a physician attended university and earned a medical degree. So only a physician could be called a doctor, while a surgeon was addressed as "Mr."—a form of address still used today.

The Bow Street Runners were a specialized force created in the mid-18th century by the Westminster court justice (and novelist) Henry Fielding to apprehend criminals. In addition to investigating crimes, the Runners patrolled major roads into and within London and testified at trials. Police offices modeled after Bow Street were set up around the city, and in 1842, the first professional detective force was established. Still the Bow Street Runners were not viewed as an official force, and tricking them, as Mr. Losberne will in Chapter 31, would not have been considered illegal or even distasteful.

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