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Free Study Guide-Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens-Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 17

Summary

The introductory paragraphs of the chapter dwells philosophically on the juxtaposition of the tragic and the comic in real life and in books. The passage prepares us to witness a scene from a small town where Oliver was born. Mr. Bumble is on duty. He comes to the workhouse to exchange a few words with Mrs. Mann and hands over the stipends. He informs her of his trip to London, which he will take with two paupers to settle a case in court. Mrs. Mann reports the death of two inmates and the deteriorating condition of Dick. The sick boy is called and questioned by Bumble. Dick expresses his desire to die in order to meet his little sister in heaven. He also requests Mr. Bumble to pass on a note written by him to Oliver expressing his love and wishes for the older boy.

Mr. Bumble arrives in London with the paupers. After putting the children to bed, he has a sumptuous dinner and relaxes to read the newspaper. His eyes immediately notice an advertisement put up in the paper by Mr. Brownlow asking for information about Oliver and offering a reward to the person providing it. Within minutes Mr. Bumble reports at the residence of Mr. Brownlow. After the initial interrogation, the old gentleman asks Mr. Bumble to provide information about the boy. The beadle, in his excitement, gives a completely negative picture of the boy, his antecedents, and his behavior. Mr. Brownlow is disappointed but hands over the reward to Mr. Bumble as promised in the advertisement.


After the beadle leaves, Mr. Brownlow calls Mrs. Bedwin and informs her that Oliver was an imposter. The old woman refuses to believe his words. Mr. Grimwig chides her while Mr. Brownlow requests her not to talk about the boy again. As the chapter closes, the scenes shifts to the den where Oliver sorrowfully remembers his good friends.

Notes

The behavior and attitude of the officers of the Church are no better than those of the criminals. On his visit to the workhouse, Mr. Bumble is informed about the failing health of Dick. Instead of visiting the boy in his room, he calls the boy and questions him. Aware of his impending death, Dick does not fret but expresses a desire to meet his sister in heaven. He doesn't ask anything for himself but sends his best wishes to Oliver. The little boy's spirit of resignation and selflessness only enhances the petty and self-centered existence of the members of the parish. Dick's humble request is turned down by Mr. Bumble. Instead of applauding the boy's selflessness and granting his innocent wish, the beadle curses him.

Reaching London, Mr. Bumble reads the advertisement in the paper given by Mr. Brownlow and rushes to his residence. He is desperate to get his reward. Thus in his greed he blackens the character of Oliver and brands him a wretch. Mr. Bumble does not mind spoiling the reputation of Oliver as long as it would earn him five guineas. Once again Dickens reveals the immoral parochial world through the character of Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Mann.

This chapter provides a comic relief to the story. Mr. Bumble's imposing behavior in the workhouse, his callous remarks to Mrs. Mann and his enthusiasm to give a distorted image of Oliver bring a smile to our faces though it may sadden our hearts.

CHAPTER 18

Summary

The chapter opens with Fagin giving a lecture to Oliver on sin, punishment and loyalty. The poor boy is shaken out of his wits when he is warned of capital punishment. Frightened to speak out, he remains quiet under the shadow of Fagin. When he feels bored or lonely he starts exploring the place. One day Dodger and Bates ask Oliver to assist them with their toilet before going out work. They talk to him jocularly and tempt him to follow their example. Fagin too joins them in extoling the virtues of their trade.Thus, Fagin and his associates try to lure Oliver into their profession by poisoning his mind.

Notes

The delicate boy with a tender heart is surrounded by cunning and manipulative human beings. Oliver feels isolated. Fagin instills fear into his heart by talking about sin and capital punishment. Bates and Dodger tempt him to join with them by talking to him in a light hearted manner. While Fagin tries to win over Oliver through threats, Bates and Dodger lure him towards them through friendship. The chapter reveals Oliver's helplessness and creates anxiety in the reader for the welfare of the boy.

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