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

CHAPTER 37

Summary

In this chapter the reader may perceive a contrast, not uncommon in matrimonial cases. This chapter takes us to a different scene. Mr. Bumble, married for two months to Mrs. Corney, looks a picture of misery. He regrets his present state. No longer a beadle, he is now the master of the workhouse. Still he doesn't feel elevated in life. He curses himself for getting sold for the little wealth Mrs. Corney possessed. When Mr. Bumbles refuses to be moved by her tears, she resorts to violence. She hits him and pulls his hair. Thus humbled, he runs away from her. Having nothing else to do, he goes on an inspection round the workhouse. When he approaches the room where female paupers wash their parish linen he hears voices. Trying to assert his position, he commands them to keep quiet and enters their room without asking for permission. He gets a shock when he meets Mrs. Corney in the room. She insults him and sends him away. Wounded physically and mentally by her assaults, he walks carelessly into a deserted public house where he finds a man in a cloak having his drink. When he exchanges glances with him, the other man comes forward and shows signs of recognition.

Since he had seen Mr. Bumble as a Beadle, the unnamed man asks him about his present status. When the master of the workhouse reveals his position, the man questions him about a woman's death. He wants to know about a woman--Mrs. Corney--who had spoken to her before she breathed her last. When the stranger expresses a desire to meet the woman, Mr. Bumble promises to bring her to him the next evening at nine. Since the address of the stranger bears no name, he asks him about it. In reply, the man gives his name as Monks.


Notes

This chapter presents a tragi-comic situation in the house of Mrs. and Mr. Bumble. Mr. Bumble is married for two months but looks unhappy. Mrs. Corney dominates and insults him. She does so in the same room in which both of them had expressed their love for each other. The woman who had acted coy now behaves like a demon, hitting her husband and tearing his hair. It is a miserable situation in which Mr. Bumble finds himself.

The chapter also shows two of Oliver's oppressors coming together. Monks recognizes Bumble and asks him about Oliver and the nurse. Bumble agrees to bring Mrs. Corney to meet Monks the next evening. The closing lines of the chapter hint at the fate of Oliver in the hands of Monks and Bumble.

CHAPTER 38

Summary

The same characters appear in this scene only with the addition of Mrs. Corney. Both she and Mr. Bumble walk in the rain to reach their destination. They approach a collection of hovels beyond which lies a ruinous building. Reaching the place, they are welcomed by a man who calls them inside before starting the conversation. After recovering from an attack of fits, he asks the matron to reveal the secrets of the nurse. Mrs. Corney being shrewd asks Monks to pay the price. They settle the amount in exchange for an account of the revelation made by old Sally, the nurse who tended Oliver's mother at her death. Monks feels disappointed that the old woman had died without disclosing her secret. However, when the matron tells about the receipt from the pawn broker which she had retrieved from the dead woman's hand and how she had recovered the articles, Monks gets excited and asks her to deposit the items. Mrs. Bumble hands over to him a tiny bag out of which the evil man takes a locket and a ring. Then after telling them to keep the matter in confidence, Monks opens a trap door under Mr. Bumble's feet which reveals a gush of water. He throws the little bag, a convincing piece of evidence about Oliver's birth, into the stream below.

Soon Monks bids Mrs. and Mr. Bumble good-bye after warning them against revealing their secret. Thus ends the mysterious transaction between the Bumbles and Monks.

Notes

This chapter provides a clue to the origin of Oliver. Mrs. Corney, after settling a price for the information, tells Monks about Old Sally's confession and the pawn-broker's receipts. She also hands over a tiny bag containing a gold locket bearing the picture of Oliver's mother and a ring. Monks throws away the bag into a stream below, thus wiping out all the evidence about Oliver's birth.

Both Mrs. Corney and Monks use the information about Oliver's birth for their own benefit. The cunning matron sells off the information for twenty five pounds, while Monks destroys the piece of evidence about Oliver's origin in order to get hold of his property. Both of them play with the life of Oliver to fulfill their greed.

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