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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The scene unfurls to show Fagin looking concerned and troubled by the disappearance of Oliver. He questions the boys and admonishes them. When they fail to give a convincing explanation, he seizes them by the collar and turns violent. Bill Sikes enters the scene and stops Fagin from hitting the boys. However, when he hears about the arrest of Oliver he realizes the danger it could pose to them. He agrees to help Fagin in locating the boy and when Nancy arrives, he gives her the responsibility of collecting information about the boy. Initially she refuses to do the job, but is persuaded and goes in search of the boy. She reaches the police station and acquires information about Oliver. She passes on the information to Sikes and Fagin that the boy was taken to Pentonville. Fagin wants all of them to be on the lookout for Oliver and to bring him back alive.
This chapter offers a study in contrast to the previous one. In the last chapter we saw Oliver experiencing peace in the tranquil atmosphere of a loving home. This chapter shows Fagin and his companions experiencing fear and anxiety. Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin shower their love on Oliver, while Fagin showers curses on Dodger and Bates. The previous chapter hints at a pleasant discovery while the present one forebodes an awful event. Through such contrasts Dickens highlights the delicate fabric of Oliver's life.
The Chapter opens with Oliver recovering from a fainting spell. Both Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin avoid talking about the portrait. However, when Oliver comes down to the room of the housekeeper, he looks at the wall and finds the picture missing. He looks disappointed. Mrs. Bedwin assures him that the portrait will be replaced on the wall after he recovers completely. To distract his mind from wandering she narrates stories about her family to him and plays games with him. Mr. Brownlow gets a new suit, a cap, and a pair of shoes for the boy to wear. Oliver thus finds true happiness in the company of these loving people.
A week after the portrait incident, Mrs. Bedwin takes Oliver to met Mr. Brownlow in his study. The boy looks fascinated by the numerous books stacked in the shelves of the library and expresses a desire to read some of them. Mr. Brownlow jokingly asks him about his interests and then tells him that he would like to talk to him at length. Oliver gets frightened that his benefactor might ask him to go away from his house. However, Mr. Brownlow assures him that he would never do such a thing and then asks him to relate his past history. Oliver gets emotional and tells about his life at the farm and the time he was taken to the workhouse.
At that moment they hear someone knocking the door. Soon Mr. Grimwig makes his appearances and complains about finding an orange peel on the staircase. Looking at Oliver, he accuses the boy of throwing the peel on the staircase. Mr. Brownlow sends Oliver down to Mrs. Bedwin in order to save the boy from hearing such harsh words. Mr. Grimwig is critical about Oliver's looks and upbringing and inquires about his past. Mr. Brownlow tells his friend that he would extract the necessary information from Oliver the next morning.
Over tea Mr. Grimwig expresses doubts about Oliver narrating his story the next morning. Mr. Brownlow disagrees with his friend. Mr. Grimwig suggests that Oliver should be sent on an errand to exchange some books and money. Mr. Brownlow is hesitant at first. However, in order to clear doubts about the boy's integrity he accepts his friend's challenge and sends Oliver with the books and the money.
The boy feels delighted to be of use to his friends and leaves for the shop immediately after getting instructed about the directions from Mrs. Bedwin. While the housekeeper looks anxious, both Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig wait for the boy to return with apprehension. It is a long wait since Oliver does not return till nightfall.
This chapter is suggestive. Soon after his birth, Oliver is separated from his dear mother who alone could have provided him security in life. In this chapter, Oliver is denied the pleasure of looking at the portrait of the beautiful woman who had captivated his heart. The removal of the portrait from the wall forebodes insecurity for the boy in the near future. A few days after this incident, Oliver is sent on an errand which could prove costly to his life.