Special thanks to Sarina Byron, a BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Sarina is a British Author and Contributing Writer living in California. Sarina enjoys bringing forth a different perspective and encouraging a different way of thinking through her writing. Visit her blog to read her reviews, and check the end of the review for a link to her Instagram.
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Oliver Twist?
**A NOTE FROM SARINA: This review/recap has omitted one objectionable reference and one objectionable incident in light of the transformed world we live in.**
Oliver Twist was born in a workhouse. His mother died as soon as she gave birth to him, and he was dispatched to a branch workhouse where the children were housed. The warden of the infants’ home used to steal from the budget allocated to the children whilst feeding them next to nothing. The Board assigned to the welfare of the children never visited unannounced lest they witnessed something that needed to be dealt with. Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, who was present at the birth of Oliver’s mother, came to get him when he turned nine as he was now too old for the juvenile home.
At the workhouse, Oliver got into trouble when he asked for more food. He was punished by being put into solitary confinement and only allowed cold water to wash with whilst being caned by Mr. Bumble. He was also flogged in front of the other boys as a lesson to them and was only allowed to listen to their prayers but not participate in them. The Board had decided to send him as a cabin boy aboard a ship when the village undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry, came looking for an apprentice. Oliver was sent with him.
Mr. Sowerberry took Oliver to his home where he met Mrs. Sowerberry. Mr. Sowerberry asked his wife to give Oliver some cold cuts, which he devoured fiercely, causing Mrs. Sowerberry to worry about his appetite. The next day Oliver met the two other workers of the household, Noah Claypole and Charlotte. As soon as Oliver joined the business, Mr. Sowerberry realized he had a handsome melancholy face which would work very well as a mute.
Noah would bother Oliver at every opportunity, but one day he went too far and said uncomplimentary things about Oliver’s mother. Oliver’s patience gave out at last, and he started hitting Noah. Charlotte came to Noah’s defense and was joined by Mrs. Sowerberry. The three of them beat Oliver and locked him in the cellar. As Mr. Sowerberry was away, Noah went to fetch Mr. Bumble, painting Oliver as a villain.
Mr. Bumble came at once, and when Oliver shouted at him through the cellar door, he told Mrs. Sowerberry she had aroused an “artificial spirit” in Oliver by feeding him meat. He advised her that as Oliver came from “bad stock,” he needed to be starved to keep him behaving well. When Mr. Sowerberry came home, he was fed an untrue tale of Oliver’s dangerous behavior by Mrs. Sowerberry, and he gave Oliver a fresh thrashing. He was locked in the back kitchen and sent to bed with fresh insults.
Oliver cried himself to sleep that night and left the undertaker’s house at dawn the next day. He decided to head to London with his clean shirt, two clean stockings, a piece of bread and a penny. On his journey, he slept under hay in fields and sped through villages that threatened people against begging. No one showed him any kindness on his journey except a turnpike man who gave him food and an old lady who shared with him what she could.
At Barnet, Oliver met Jack Dawkins, a boy his age named who bought him ham and bread and took him to a pub. He offered to put Oliver up with his friend in London who was popularly known as “The Artful Dodger.” Oliver was taken to meet Jack’s “friends” through the back lanes, and he slept soundly for the first time since he left the undertaker’s house.
The next day, he met Charley Bates, who came in with The Dodger. They spoke with Fagin about “work,” which Oliver soon realized was to pick pockets. They practiced their skill through role play in front of Oliver. Fagin then trained Oliver to pick pockets as well, and after a few days, Oliver headed out to put his skills to use with Charley Bates and The Dodger. They picked a gentleman standing at a book stall, but the stall owner realized what they were up to and raised an alarm.
Bates and the Dodger got away, but Oliver was caught by the crowd. Oliver was taken to appear in front of the magistrate by a policeman and Mr. Brownlow, the gentleman whose pocket he was about to pick. Mr. Brownlow and the magistrate, Mr. Fang, were rude to him. When Mr. Fang turned to Oliver, he could not take the pressure and fainted.
Then the book stall owner ran in. He was keen to testify that the boy who had been caught was innocent. He had seen two other boys with him who managed to get away. They also discovered that in the panic and haste of the moment, Mr. Brownlow forgot to pay for the book he was holding. Mr. Brownlow decided to take Oliver home with him. The band of pickpockets attempted to locate Oliver after the incident through Nancy, a prostitute who worked with them. Nancy pretended that Oliver was her lost brother.
At Mr. Brownlow’s place, Oliver was looked after by a kindly lady called Mrs. Bedwin. As Oliver recovered and grew stronger, Mrs. Bedwin, Mr. Brownlow, and other members of his staff were shocked to notice Oliver’s face strongly resembled a lady whose portrait hung on the wall. It took Oliver almost a month to recover, and when he finally did, Mr. Brownlow bought him a new suit. Oliver gave his old suit to a servant boy and asked him to sell it to someone in need.
Mr. Brownlow was about to talk to Oliver about his life one evening when his friend, Mr. Grimwig, arrived unannounced for tea. Mr. Grimwig was suspicious of Oliver and showed it. In order to prove to him that Oliver was trustworthy, Mr. Brownlow sent him to return some books to the bookstall owner. He also gave him a five pound note to pay for the books. As soon as Oliver left, Mr. Grimwig prophesized he would not return. Mr. Brownlow was confident he would, and they decided to wait with a stopwatch between them until it was dark outside.
Whilst this discussion was taking place, Oliver was excited to prove his worth to Mr. Brownlow, so he took a shortcut to the book stall. He ran into Nancy on one of the backstreets, and she pretended she had been distressed over “losing” Oliver and convinced the onlookers he was her brother who had run away from home. Bill Sikes joined in the pretense, and they dragged him away. They took him to their hideout, where Fagin tried to beat him, but Nancy screamed at him and Bill Sikes. She told them they ought to be satisfied in having him. Meanwhile, dark fell over the city, and Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig sat in the growing darkness with the watch between them.
Mr. Bumble found himself in London when he saw an advertisement in the paper by Mr. Brownlow seeking information about Oliver. He particularly noticed the part where there was a reward offered in return, and he went to see Mr. Brownlow to claim it. He told them his version of Oliver’s “truth” in which he sounded like an errant boy who had forever been ungrateful to those who were doing their best to look after him. When he finished telling an uncomplimentary version of Oliver’s story, Mr. Brownlow told him if he had given him better news, he would have given him more money. For now, he would only pay the promised amount. After his visit, Mr. Brownlow summoned Mrs. Bedwin and the other household staff and told them Oliver was a trickster. Mrs. Bedwin said she would never believe it.
Meanwhile, Fagin kept Oliver isolated from all the others and regularly told him stories about the ill fate suffered by those who had dared to cross him. Oliver was given his old clothes to wear, and he realized the clothes had been the clue that led the thieves to his whereabouts.
Oliver worried endlessly about what the kind folks at Mr. Brownlow’s must be thinking about him. The thieves, however, were planning to put him to best use again. They decided to take him along to a house they were planning to rob. On the way there, they spent a few hours at Bill Sikes’ home, where Nancy looked after Oliver. At about three in the morning, Sikes, Crackit, and Oliver headed to the house they were planning to rob. Sikes and Crackit told Oliver to jump the gate to open it. He was terrified and didn’t want to do it. He had almost achieved his mission when someone from the house shot at him. Sikes and Crackit ran away with him, but Sikes placed him in a ditch as the people in the house released their dogs after them. Sikes and Crackit then ran in different directions.
Back at the workhouse where Oliver was born, the matron Mrs. Corney sat begrudgingly at the bedside of a dying woman, Old Sally. Old Sally had assisted Oliver’s mother at his birth and her death. She died whilst confessing what she had stolen some gold from Oliver’s mother, money which may have helped his life circumstances. (The mystery is left unsolved for now.)
The day after the attempted robbery, Fagin visited Crackit after hearing he and Sikes went different ways and Oliver got shot. Nancy was furious and told Fagin she wished Oliver died in the ditch Sikes left him because he bothers her conscience. Fagin then visited Monks at the pub, The Three Cripples, to talk about the events of the night. Monks was convinced someone was eavesdropping on them. Fagin showed him evidence this was not possible.
Back at the house that was to be robbed, we meet Mr. Giles, Brittles, and The Tinker. They were relating the events of that fateful night to the rest to of the staff and exaggerating the physical proportions of the intruder. Whilst this was going on, Oliver awoke in the ditch and somehow dragged himself to the gate of the house. Though exhausted, he panicked as he recognized it but did not have the option of trying his luck elsewhere.
His knock startled all those listening intently to Mr. Giles, Brittles, and The Tinker. As soon as they got to Oliver, he fainted. Giles carried him inside, where Mrs. Maylie, who owned the house, and Rose, her 17-year-old companion, had him brought upstairs. Dr. Losborne was summoned, and he put two and two together that Oliver had been the intruder. Since Giles had been boasting about shooting the intruder, they summoned the policeman and questioned Giles, Brittles, and The Tinker so sternly that they admitted that the intruder could not have been Oliver. Having thus absolved him of any crimes, Dr. Losborne set about treating him. It was evening before Oliver gained consciousness and told them his whole sad tale.
Oliver was looked after beautifully by Mrs. Maylie’s staff. He and Rose grew particularly fond of each other. When he was strong enough, he asked to be taken to Mr. Brownlow’s house so he could explain how and why he had gone missing. When he arrived, the house was devoid of any inhabitants. They learnt through the neighbors that Mr. Brownlow had sold the house and left for the West Indies with his friend, the glum Mr. Grimwick.
Soon after this, Mrs. Maylie, Rose, Oliver, Brittles, and other members of Mrs. Maylie’s household headed to her country home. Oliver loved his time in the country and kept up with his lessons quite well. Rose fell ill about three months into the trip, and Oliver spent his days being worried about her. In his preoccupation of her illness one day, he ran into a man in the village pub who behaved strangely upon seeing him.
Oliver panicked as he got home that day as Mrs. Maylie looked worried, but it turned out Rose’s health had improved, and the doctor was confident that she would survive. In the midst of all this Mrs. Maylie’s son, Harry, arrived. He was in love with Rose and was thrilled to discover she was better. As soon he got to the house, Harry told Mrs. Maylie he intended to tell Rose he loved her. She reminded him to consider Rose was self-sacrificing, and her doubtful birth may prevent her from accepting his love. Nevertheless, she agreed to convey his concern for Rose to her.
Rose’s recovery put Oliver in higher spirits, and he dedicated each morning to picking the best flowers for Rose, which Harry would arrange beautifully. To his and his tutor’s surprise, he started doing excellently at his lessons as well. One afternoon, as he sat tending to his lessons, he drifted away into a semi-awake sleep. In that half-asleep state, he heard Fagin and a man speaking about him, which snapped him out of his reverie. When Fagin and the old man saw him wake up, they fled. Oliver raised the alarm and ran after them. Oliver was quickly joined by Harry, Giles, Dr. Losborne, and others who searched high and low but found nothing.
The panic of that day lessened as Rose continued to grow in health and began to spend time outside her room. Harry and Rose would often engage in long private conversations. The author makes us privy to one such conversation where we find out Rose is refusing to marry Harry. She’s afraid he will lose his place in society on account of her lack of aristocratic birth and connections. Harry asked her if he could broach the topic with her once more within the year, and she agreed on the condition it would not be to ask her to change her mind.
Harry departed soon after and asked Oliver to send him detailed accounts of life at home and of his own exploits. He looked up at Rose’s window to see if she was there, but the curtain was drawn. Unbeknownst to him, she was standing behind the lace curtain and weeping as he left.
As we begin to wonder what will happen to their story, Dickens takes us back to Mr. Bumble, who has now married Mrs. Corney, the matron of the workhouse. Mr. Bumble has become the Master of the workhouse, where he had been the beadle for all those years. Mr. Bumble was regretting both of his decisions when he and the new Mrs. Bumble had a nasty fight. Mr. Bumble headed out to recover his mood and ended up at a pub. He was enjoying his drink when he saw a man he thought he recognized. The man appeared to recognize him, too, as they both exchanged a few glances before speaking to each other. The man recognized Mr. Bumble as the beadle of the workhouse, and Mr. Bumble made him aware of his new station as master of the workhouse. The man asked him to meet at a certain address at nine the next evening as he was looking for some information from him. Mr. Bumble chased after him to ask him his name. It was Monks, the same Monks who worked with Fagin.
The next day, Mr. and Mrs. Bumble went to see Monks. Mrs. Bumble took charge of the situation by negotiating twenty-five pounds in gold in exchange for the information. She told Monks that Oliver’s mother had a gold pendant inscribed with the name Agnes that Old Sally had stolen along with two locks of hair and a plain gold wedding ring. Monks threw all of them in the sewer and told them the matter was now closed. Then Monks went to see Fagin, and Nancy overheard them talking about something that caused her to run into the street in panic. She was to go see Bill Sikes to drop off Fagin’s money but ran in the opposite direction at first. When she showed up at his place and handed him the money from Fagin, Sikes was too sleepy to notice her panic.
Nancy went to see Rose Maylie at the hotel they were staying at and told her she had overheard Monks and Fagin saying Monks was Oliver’s brother. She also told Rose Monks said he could have been satisfied with just Oliver’s money, but he needed him to become a hardened criminal, too. Rose was grateful for the information and offered to help Nancy leave her old life behind. Nancy cried and told her she would love to, but she has to go back as she was in love with Sikes.
Close on the heels of this incident, Oliver came home terribly excited after his walk with Giles. He had spotted Mr. Brownlow, and he and Giles had made inquiries with the neighbor to confirm he lived in the home they saw him go into. They made a note of the address, and Rose went to see Mr. Brownlow. She told him all about what had happened to Oliver the day he’d disappeared from Mr. Brownlow’s place. Mr. Grimwig was also present at the narration and was not open to hearing any clarification on Oliver’s behalf at first. Once Oliver had been sworn innocent by Rose, however, and Mr. Brownlow had rushed out to meet Oliver, who was waiting in the carriage, Mr. Grimwig was so thrilled that he kissed Rose. Mrs. Bedwin also enjoyed a joyful reunion with Oliver.
The next day, Rose met with Mr. Brownlow at the hotel and told him all about Nancy’s visit and the information she had entrusted to Rose. Rose confessed to not having mentioned any of this to Dr. Losborne as he was given to a quick temper. Mr. Brownlow told her she had made the right decision and spoke to Dr. Losborne himself. Mrs. Maylie was also brought up to date with the new developments, and they all began to hatch a plan to catch the criminals. More help was needed, and by popular vote, Harry Maylie and Mr. Grimwig were added to the little committee.
They planned to start by taking Nancy up on her offer of meeting with her at London Bridge between eleven and twelve o’clock every Sunday night. In the five days between when the above transpired and Sunday night, Noah Claypole and Charlotte arrived in London. They headed to the Three Cripples and asked for food and ale whilst talking about entering the pickpocket trade. Fagin was hiding in a concealed corner and listening to their conversation. He wanted to assure himself Noah had the cunning required to survive in this trade and Charlotte was sufficiently under his control to be a suitable accomplice. When he had satisfied himself, he came out and spoke to Noah. Noah gave him an assumed name called Morris Bolter and referred to Charlotte as Mrs. Bolter. They arranged to meet at the Three Cripples the next day. Fagin told them he would introduce them to the one they need to meet, which was himself under his true identity.
Fagin had a new problem, Nancy was growing disinterested in the band, and it was beginning to show. She was physically present but mentally absent at all times. He grew suspicious when she tried to leave on Sunday night to see Rose and asked Sikes to restrain her. Sikes did so and Nancy was forced to sit through the appointed hour. However, her insistence at wanting to head out made Fagin uncomfortable, and he asked Noah Claypole/Morris Bolter to follow her closely. He intended to find out her secret through Noah and blackmail her into getting rid of Sikes for him.
Fagin pointed out Nancy for Noah, and he followed her the next Sunday night to London Bridge, where she met with Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie. She gave them a description of Monks and told them where to find him. Mr. Brownlow and Rose offered to help Nancy leave her life of crime, but she turned the offer down once again. Rose tried to offer her purse to Nancy, but she declined to take anything of value. She did, however, ask Rose for a souvenir of a handkerchief or gloves to remind her of her goodness. She went wailing into the night, and Rose was gently led away by Mr. Brownlow.
Fagin was infuriated on hearing about this rendezvous and made him repeat the same to Sikes as soon as he came in. Sikes was infuriated as well and headed to see Nancy. He burst into her room, and though she begged him to let her tell him all, he was too angry to pay attention. He killed her, and she died holding Rose Maylie’s handkerchief to her face. That instant, Sikes became a hunted and wanted man.
In the meantime, Mr. Brownlow got a hold of Monks and confronted him about trying to disinherit Oliver of their father’s money by turning Oliver into a hardened criminal. As it turns out, Oliver’s father, Edwin Leeper, had been married to Monk’s mother. The marriage was sour, and they were unhappy, so she went away to Paris with Monks. Edwin Leeper met Oliver’s mother, Agnes Fleming, and her father and grew close to them. Edwin and Agnes fell in love, and Oliver was conceived.
Leeper had to travel to Rome just then to tend to the affairs of a relative who had died there without a will. He left Agnes with a ring, a locket inscribed with her name and a promise to return. He never returned, however, as he died there. His wife travelled to sort his affairs and found amongst them a mention of the child that was to be born. She was the source of Monk’s information that if Oliver ruined the family name, he would never inherit anything from his father. That was when he made sure to keep an eye out for Olive and made sure he fell in with Fagin and his lot, which was sure to ruin him. Mr. Brownlow then left with Dr. Losborne on the hunt for Sikes.
The scene shifts to Jacob’s Island, a small island just off London Bridge, which was full of abandoned factories. Only the most wanted criminals bothered to hide there. This is where Toby Crackit, Tom Chitling, and Kegs sat one night when Sikes’s dog showed up. As they were debating whether Sikes had abandoned the dog, in walked Sikes followed by Charley Bates. Sikes was shocked to see he had no friends amongst this little crew. Charley Bates started screaming at Sikes and tried to refrain him.
Just then, they heard a crowd accompanied by the police descending on Jacob’s Island, looking for the murderer. Sikes hurriedly locked Bates in the only room in that house and planned his escape by lowering himself into the ditch below using a rope. However, just as he was about to start the mission, Nancy’s haunting eyes distracted him, and he ended up hanging himself instead. His dog, distressed with his death, jumped off the roof to his own death.
Two days after this incident, Oliver and his new-found caregivers all headed to his hometown. Once settled into a suitable hotel there, they started with discussing the entire story in front of Monks. Mr. Brownlow and Monks related the story together. Edwin Leeper had left his wife and Monks/Edward Leeper only eight hundred pounds of his inheritance. He left three thousand each to Agnes and the baby that was to be born.
If the baby was a girl, then she would inherit the money unconditionally. If the baby was a boy, he would have to prove his character before inheriting the money. Monk’s mother had a feeling the baby was going to be a boy, so she destroyed the will and paid a visit to Agnes’s father and shamed him about his daughter’s behavior. She threatened to defame them and ruin their family name. Agnes’s father was keen to avoid the ruin of their name, so he sold all his property and moved to a secluded corner of Wales. He also changed their family name so no one could find them.
This is when Mr. Brownlow arrived in their village to look for them. Edwin Leeper had left a portrait of Agnes with him before he left and promised to send him more details in a following letter. That letter never arrived as he died shortly after arriving in Rome. As Agnes’s father had erased their tracks so well, Mr. Brownlow could not trace them and returned to London to uncover more information. In the meantime, Agnes left her new home to make her way back to where Edwin could find her. She ended up in the village where Oliver was born, and she died. Her father looked for her endlessly and died of a broken heart when he didn’t find her.
In the meantime, Monks’ mother made sure to let him know to watch out for Agnes’s baby, whom she was sure was a boy, and to ruin his reputation so should the contents of the will ever be discovered, he would not be able to inherit anything. Monks agreed to do so. Since he shared in her treacherous nature, he stole all their money and went on a spending and gambling spree. He only returned to her briefly when she was on her deathbed in Paris. He then returned to London and resumed his search for the boy. When he first saw him in London, he knew him to be the one and engaged Fagin immediately on the agreed upon mission.
If you were wondering what happened to Agnes’s sister, she was taken in by some kind neighbors. Although Monks’ mother tried to burden her with her sister’s disrepute, they kept the little girl. One day, Mrs. Maylie came across her and adopted the endearing girl. This girl was Oliver’s aunt, Rose Maylie. As soon as they became aware of this, they hugged each other and cried.
Mr. Brownlow then brought in Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, who refused to acknowledge and recognize Monks. Mr. Brownlow brought in the two workhouse maids who had witnessed Old Sally stealing Agnes’ personal effects and Mrs. Corney/Bumble taking the pawnbroker’s receipts from her upon her own death. That is when they confessed and expressed concern for the consequences which they would suffer. Mr. Brownlow assured them they would be severe. Mr. Brownlow played fair despite Monks’ bad behavior and gave him half of Edwin Leeford’s leftover inheritance. He gave the rest to Oliver.
Harry Maylie asked Rose to marry him again as he had given up his place in society. He had accepted the position of a pastor in a small village and asked Rose to live a happy life with him there. Rose agreed, and Mrs. Maylie took up residence with them. Mr. Brownlow adopted Oliver and moved to the same village with them. They were soon joined by Mr. Grimwig and Dr. Losborne, who did not like London without their friends. Giles and Brittles split their time so well between the various households that no one could tell who they were employed by.
Fagin was executed for being an accessory to Nancy’s murder. Monks took his inheritance and settled in the New World, where he squandered it away again and fell in with thieves and the like all over again. Charley Bates had a rough time of making a decent living but eventually became a grazier in Northamptonshire. Noah Claypole and Charlotte realized a life of crime was not for them and went to work as an Informer after having served as the same for Nancy’s murder. Thus closed the story of Oliver Twist, his various friends and accomplices, and his pure heart.
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