Oliver Twist | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Oliver Twist | Chapters 51–53 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 51

Oliver, Rose, Mrs. Maylie, Mrs. Bedwin, Mr. Brownlow, and a sixth person travel to the town where Oliver was born. Oliver looks forward to seeing Dick, whom he plans to bring to live with him. Mr. Grimwig meets them at the best hotel in town. That evening Oliver meets his brother and is shocked that it is the man he'd bumped into at the inn and later seen with Fagin. The true story of his parentage is revealed: Mr. Brownlow's friend wanted to marry Oliver's mother, Agnes Fleming, but he died before the wedding. He did, however, leave a will, which gave 800 pounds each to his wife and her son, Edward, and left the rest of his fortune to be divided between Agnes and her son—provided her son reached adulthood without engaging in any criminal acts. It is also revealed that Rose is Agnes's sister. Harry Maylie arrives and again asks Rose to marry him. However, she still feels that her sister's history would bring shame on him. Harry tells her he has decided not to make a career in parliament, has renounced any friends who would not accept her, and has become a vicar. The two can marry after all. Oliver is sad, though, having learned that Dick is dead.

Chapter 52

On a Friday Fagin is found guilty and condemned to hang on the following Monday. After his sentencing Fagin sits in his cell in the dark, remembering the faces of all the men he has seen hung, until someone comes to stay with him. He waits through the weekend, counting down the hours he has left to live. Around midnight on Sunday, Mr. Brownlow and Oliver come to see Fagin. As they go in, they hear the scaffold being built. When they reach his cell, Fagin is rambling, talking to people who aren't there. Mr. Brownlow wants to know the location of some papers Monks gave him; Fagin whispers the location to Oliver. Oliver offers to stay and pray with him all night, but Fagin wants the boy to help him escape. His jailers pull him back, and he screams. Outside, the crowd gathers around the gallows.

Chapter 53

Harry and Rose marry, and Mrs. Maylie goes to live with them. Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver and moves his household to the village where the Maylies live. Mr. Losberne also goes to live there, where his new friend, Mr. Grimwig, frequently visits him. Giles and Brittles help in all three households. In the church a white marble tablet has been engraved with the name "Agnes."

Oliver and his brother have split their father's remaining estate equally between them; Monks moves to "a distant part of the New World," quickly spends his inheritance, returns to crime, and is clapped in prison, where he dies. Noah Claypole becomes a professional informer; the Bumbles end up as paupers in the workhouse; and Charley Bates decides crime doesn't pay and becomes a livestock farmer.

Analysis

At the end of Oliver Twist, most of the characters get what they deserve: The criminals and hypocrites are punished, and the virtuous live happily ever after. The only flaw in Oliver's happiness is that Dick is dead. But since Dick told Oliver in Chapter 7 that he looked forward to going to heaven, the reader must assume that Dick also finds happiness.

Fagin, who has taken such pains to keep himself safe, winds up being sentenced to the gallows. The gallows have thrown their shadow across the entire book, beginning with the comments of the gentleman in the white waistcoat, but not until Chapter 52 do readers see the gallows for the first time. The scaffold stands in the rising sun surrounded by a crowd of people gaming, fighting, and joking to pass the time before the execution. In the end the gallows is a means of entertaining the masses rather than a vehicle of justice.

After Dickens's many comments about the hypocrisy of Christians, readers may be surprised to find him espousing Christianity in the final chapter. Dickens was not conventionally religious, but he once wrote that he believed in moral goodness and crafted his good characters to encompass the qualities promoted in the New Testament—humility, true charity, faithfulness, and willingness to forgive.

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