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Oliver Twist | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Chapters 31–33

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 31–33 of Charles Dickens's novel Oliver Twist.

Oliver Twist | Chapters 31–33 | Summary



Chapter 31

Two Bow Street officers—Blathers and Duff—arrive, examine the scene, and interview Giles and Brittles. They determine that the servants were not involved in the crime and ask to interview the boy. To buy time the doctor and the Maylies offer them drinks, which the officers accept. Rose Maylie induces Blathers to tell a long story about a previous investigation. Then the doctor takes the investigators to Oliver's sickroom, where he explains that the boy was injured in an accident on a nearby property and that Giles mistook him for the burglars' boy. Oliver himself is too fevered to respond to questions. The two officers interview Giles and Brittles again and investigate the gun Giles used. They find that it is loaded with powder and paper only—the doctor removed the ball while the officers sat with the Maylies—and largely lose interest in Oliver, who recovers and continues living happily with the Maylies.

Chapter 32

It takes some time for Oliver to recover from his broken arm and fever. When he does Mr. Losberne takes him up to London. On the way Oliver points out the dilapidated house where he stayed in the hours before the burglary attempt. The doctor stops the carriage and pounds on the door. The hunchback who opens the door claims to have lived there for 25 years. The interior of the house looks nothing like Oliver's description, and they leave, but not before the hunchback gets a look at Oliver. Upon arrival at Mr. Brownlow's, they discover that the house is empty and for rent; Mr. Brownlow has moved to the West Indies, taking Mrs. Bedwin and a gentlemen friend. Oliver feels disappointed as he hoped to let them know he is not a liar or thief. Two weeks later the Maylies move—taking Oliver with them—to their country cottage. There Oliver has a tutor who helps him improve his reading and learn to write. On Sundays they attend church and engage in charitable activities.

Chapter 33

In the summer Rose becomes gravely ill. Mrs. Maylie gives Oliver a letter for Mr. Losberne and asks the boy to take it to the inn in the nearest market town; she gives him her purse to pay for the letter to be carried to Chertsey as quickly as possible. Oliver does this task, and he bumps into a man in a long cloak as he's leaving the inn. The man curses at him, demands to know what he is doing there, and then falls to the ground in an epileptic fit. Oliver fetches help for the stranger and then goes home. That night Rose's condition worsens, and she becomes delirious. Mr. Losberne arrives the following evening, but he does not hold out much hope. However, a day later, Rose passes the crisis and begins to recover.


Mr. Brownlow, readers learn in Chapter 32, has gone to the West Indies. In 1837 the British Empire included a number of islands in the Caribbean and Atlantic. These were important economically and militarily. Sugar was grown on plantations worked by slaves and processed in factories, and the islands, especially Jamaica, hosted important British naval bases. When slavery was banned in British colonies in 1838, the economic value of these holdings declined.

In Chapter 32 the Maylies move with Oliver to their country cottage. Dickens had spent the best years of his childhood in the countryside, and like Dickens, Oliver is happy there. The country is everything the city is not—bright, colorful, and safe. Through the activities of Rose Maylie, Oliver also learns about true charity, which differs drastically from the institutional mistreatment of the poor masquerading as charity that had characterized his early youth.

Dickens does not specify what is wrong with Rose in Chapter 33, but it is miraculous that she should recover from so serious an illness. From the symptoms that Dickens describes and since Rose spends a lot of time outside, Rose may have contracted typhus. Rose's aunt, Mrs. Maylie, immediately realizes Rose is likely to die. But why is she so pessimistic? Today the use of antibiotics has made death from typhus rare, but Dickens was writing more than a century before antibiotics came into widespread use.

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