By Dickens Charles
By Dickens Charles
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, was first released in serial form in 1837. It was published in monthly installments before being novelized in 1938. It’s themes of social reform and sweeping storyline made it Dickens’s most well-known work and solidified his career as a writer.
The book was inspired, in part, but Charles Dickens’s own history. Although he grew up middle-class, their family became poor, and at the age of twelve he quit school to work in a factory. His family eventually went to prison for debt, and Dickens’s was left on his own. The terrible conditions at the factory and his temporary orphan status left him with a newfound perspective on the conditions of the poor that undoubtedly went into the writing of Oliver Twist.
Fortunately for Dickens, however, his father escaped debt and Dickens was able to go back to school. He became a journalist, where he was forced into contact with the numerous social problems of the legal system and treatment of the poor.
Oliver Twist specifically critiques the 1834 Poor Laws, which required all public charity to go through the workhouses. The Poor Laws came as a result of Britain’s beliefs about the poor. Because of their rigid social structure, the middle-class wanted to distinguish themselves from the lower classes as much as possible, and the poor became stereotyped as lazy and born of bad blood. This viewpoint is seen often in Oliver Twist as Oliver is automatically assumed throughout the novel to be evil for no other reason than he is a poor orphan.Dickens experienced this same sort of prejudice when he was an orphan temporarily, and wrote Oliver Twist with such a passion it is obvious he continued to sympathize with orphans.
Christianity played a part in the degradation of the poor, as well. Although the religion preaches tolerance and charity, the middle-class of Britain believed that God rewarded the virtuous with wealth and worldly goods. The rich and prosperous, then, were inherently virtuous, while the poor were inherently evil. In Oliver Twist, Dickens attempts to dispel this by creating characters, such as Monks, who were born wealthy but are in actuality incurable villains. Several poorer characters, by contrast, such as Dick, are inherently good and innocent. Dickens does suggest that some people are inherently good or bad, but their nature is not affected by their class.
Through Oliver Twist, Dickens made a colossal statement about the social misconceptions and treatment of the poorer classes of London. He used his autobiographical material as well as his knowledge gained from journalism to reveal how badly the poor were treated in society at the time, and how they were–by the views of the people and laws set in place–forced to stay in poverty and misery.
A dying woman is found on the street and gives birth to an infant in a workhouse. No one knows who the woman is, but since she is not married and no one claims the child he is given to the workhouse to be raised. The infant’s name is Oliver Twist. Until the age of nine, he is sent to an orphanage where the children are almost starved so that the woman keeping them can make a profit. Many children die under her care.
On Oliver’s ninth birthday, he is taken back by the workhouse and given a job. After asking for more food one day, Oliver is locked away and eventually given to an undertaker as an apprentice. Oliver snaps when his mother is ridiculed and runs away to London to try and make a better life for himself.
Starving and on the verge of death, Oliver is forced to accept the help of a band of pick-pockets (although he does not know their trade at the time). On his first assignment, he realizes what his new “friends” do for a living and tries to run away. He is blamed for picking the pocket of an older gentleman, and eventually freed by testimony of a witness. The older gentleman, Mr. Brownlow, takes Oliver in and cares for him, since Oliver has become ill.
When Oliver is better, he runs an errand for Mr. Brownlow and is kidnapped once again by the band of thieves headed by Fagin, the Jew. Fagin attempts to turn Oliver into a cold-blooded thief and gives him over to a house-robber to go on assignment. Forced to break into the house, Oliver is shot in the arm before he can warn the family of the robbery and is left in a ditch to die.He seeks help from the house he was shot in, and is taken in.
After telling his story to the kind ladies of the house, Mrs. Maylie and Miss Rose, they feel for him and decide to take him in and help him in everything. They attempt to contact Mr. Brownlow, but he has moved to the West Indies. They, in turn, move to the countryside for Oliver’s recovery, and Oliver runs into a strange man at the village. The strange man and Fagin wake Oliver up one day while he is sleeping, and it becomes clear that they are trying to take him once again.
The mystery of Oliver’s true identify becomes central to the story. The strange man tracks down Oliver’s mother’s last possessions (the only known clues of Oliver’s history) and destroys them. It becomes clear that Oliver is heir to a wealthy house, and the strange man does not want Oliver to have the inheritance.
Running into Mr. Brownlow once again, he and Rose are forewarned of the plot against Oliver and seek to set it right. Brownlow knows the strange man, who goes by the codename of Monks, and turns out to be Oliver’s older half-brother. Brownlow forces Monks to give a confession and they split the inheritance. The group of friends move out to the countryside to live an easy life, and Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver as his own son.
The novel’s primary focus is to highlight the unfair treatment of the poor in Britain during the industrial revolution. By putting Oliver at the mercy of the system, as Dickens himself once was, he shows how the poor are put into distressing situations and looked down upon so that it becomes almost impossible to live a good and honest life. Oliver faces difficult roadblocks at nearly every point of his adventure because of the simple fact that he was born an orphan, and nothing else.
As a poor orphan, Oliver’s identity is continually defined by the others in power around him. He is defined by Mr. Bumble as evil and of bad blood, by Noah Claypole as a murderer, by Fagin as a would-be thief, and by the law as a pickpocket. Oliver, however, is none of these things. But because of his status in society, he does not have the power to tell his own story. He finally gets the chance to form his own identity when he is taken in by Rose and Mrs. Maylie, and becomes part of the family unit.
One of the largest factors playing in to identity is clothing. Because of Britain’s distinct class structure, clothing is the easiest way to identify someone’s social status. There are many instances where, but changing clothing, certain characters are treated differently. Nancy, to get information about Oliver, disguises herself as a middle-class lady.When Oliver is taken in by Mr. Brownlow, he is given a new suit. After Oliver is kidnapped, Fagin takes his new clothes and gives him his old ones back, literally taking away his new social status and defining him as an orphan.
While clothes may be a social marker, in Oliver Twist beauty, and ugliness, seem indicative of good or inappropriate moral character. Fagin, Monks, and Sikes, for instance, are all old, ugly, and/or disfigured. By contrast, Mr. Brownlow, Oliver, Rose, and Mrs.Maylieare described as beautiful and/or handsome. Oliver’s face, in particular is referred to often as beautiful by other characters. The more extreme the good or evil in a person, the more extreme their beauty or ugliness.Fagin, the most villainous character, is described as hideous and frightful, almost a monster to look at. Rose, the most pure and virtuous character,is described as having the beauty of an angel.
Religion plays a vital role in Oliver Twist’s role, and the views held on the poor. In the mind of the public, wealth is associated with virtue, and thus the poor must have done something terrible to incur God’s wrath upon them. This sort of thinking is seen as hypocritical by Charles Dickens, who uses greedy middle-class characters, such as Bumble, to illustrate the unfairness with which the poor are treated.The owners of the workhouse, including Mr. Bumble, are fat and well-off, while the poor are purposefully being starved. This contrasts to the virtues of charity and selflessness present in the bible and Christianity in general.
There are many different types of justice present in Oliver Twist. There is a stark difference in the types of justice administered, as well. Dickens suggests with Oliver’s trial that the legal system in place administers the opposite of justice. Even though the gentleman thought Oliver innocent, and Oliver was never allowed to testify on his own behalf, he was still sentenced to prison for his “crimes”. By contrast, the end of the novel sees personal justice administered by Mr. Brownlow, who makes Monks admit his crimes and adopts Oliver as his son. By the end of the story, the villainous characters are all either dead or penniless, showing that Dickens believes justice does exist in the world, but is not administered by the legal system.
The thing that Oliver craves more than anything else in his life is companionship. He does not have many friends growing up and goes through the first part of his life alone. When Fagin and crew take Oliver in, it is Oliver’s first taste of what it is like to have friends, and he accepts even those disreputable creatures. When he is later taken in by Brownlow and Mrs.Maylie, Oliver experiences the bliss which comes along with friendship and warm companionship. Rose if the first to acknowledge that the crimes Oliver committed, he did because he was alone in the world and had no choice but to fall in with thieves.
Dickens, though his characters, suggests that a person’s environment shapes their moral character more than their blood. This is most clearly shown through Fagin’s young disciples and Rose Maylie. The Dodger, Charley Bates and Nancy all have good traits in them but were corrupted by the Jew and his thieving lifestyle. Nancy, in particular, becomes trapped by her environment and cannot escape it. Rose, but contrast, is an orphan taken in by the kind Mrs. Maylie, who raised her with love and care. Because of the environment, Rose becomes a kind and gentle woman. If Rose has been an orphan on the streets, such as Nancy was, however, she could have turned out differently.
Following the many trends of good versus evil in the novel Oliver Twist, the theme of rural versus city living is truly distinct. The city is where all the terrible things in the novel occur. It is filthy and poverty-ridden, with everyone stealing and diseased. The country, by contrast, is almost heavenly in its beauty. When Oliver goes to the country to recover, his soul becomes more pure and lovely with every passing day because of the simplicity of life there. At the end of the novel, Oliver and his friends choose to live an ordinary life in the country, and spend their time studying, gardening, and other relaxing activities, in sharp contrast to the filth and chaos of living in the city.
The narrator employs constant sarcastic language throughout the course of the novel, to mimic the hypocrisy of the system and draw attention in a humorous way to the flaws of the evil characters. He repeatedly describes the Jew as a “merry” fellow, for instance, and refers to villainous characters as “respectable” when they are obviously anything but. At times, this opposite language makes it hard to understand the nature of the characters, but as they act in villainous ways it becomes clear.
The protagonist of the novel, Oliver Twist is a workhouse orphan with no knowledge of who his parents were.His mother died giving birth to him, and Oliver is small due to the low amounts of food he is forced to survive on. Despite his horrible situation, however, he has a kind and tender heart and a beautiful face. He refuses to participate in stealing and instead wants only to help people. Eventually, he is taken in by kindly upper-class folks and adopted. He also finds out he is the son of a wealthy man and has a large inheritance.
The parochial beadle of the workhouse, Mr. Bumble is representative of the church during the Industrial Revolution. He is the one who takes Oliver from the orphanage and also attempts to apprentice him to an abusive chimney sweeper. Oliver is scared of Mr. Bumble as a child, but overcomes his fear of the man before he runs away. Mr. Bumble is obsessed with wealth and material possessions and marries his wife for money even though they make each other miserable. He signifies everything that is wrong with the middle-class and is eventually stripped of his position due to his cowardice and greed.
Sowerberry is the undertaker for the workhouse and makes his profit selling coffins to them. He jokes all the time about how the new “poor laws” are good for his business since all the paupers starve in the workhouse. He takes Oliver in as an apprentice, and schemes to make money off the boy at funeral services because of his handsome face. Although Mr. Sowerberry has a soft spot for Oliver, he is forced to beat the boy to save face. It is this beating which leads Oliver to run away.
Noah is Mr. Sowerberry’s other apprentice. Noah is a charity-boy, and so is made fun of in British society for being poor. When he discovers Oliver is a workhouse orphan, he antagonizes Oliver, for there is now someone in society lower than even he, a charity-boy. Noah has a cruel and vicious nature and is shown controlling the female house-maid, Charlotte, who does everything he tells her to do. Noah is also taken in by Fagin, who dislikes the boy, but uses him to eavesdrop on Nancy’s conversation with Brownlow and Rose.
Oliver’s friend from the orphanage he grew up in. Dick is a sickly, weak boy from being constantly starved, and knows he is going to die soon. Despite this, he has a noble nature. Oliver makes sure to say goodbye to Dick before he leaves town, and Dick gives Oliver his blessing. As the first kind words Oliver had ever received in his life, he never forgot them. When Oliver learns of his true identity, he goes back to rescue Dick from the orphanage, Dick has already succumbed to starvation. He symbolizes all the young, innocent orphans who are not as lucky as Oliver, and perish as a result of the mistreatment of the poor.
The Dodger is a highly intelligent boy who works for Fagin. He is the one who finds Oliver collapsed outside of London, and offers him a place to stay, thereby getting Oliver involved with the disreputable gang of thieves. Although Jack is indeed a pickpocket, he has excellent intelligence and wit. The reader is meant to assume that, if born into different circumstances, the Dodger would have been a remarkably successful member of society. This reinforces Dickens’ theme that it is environment that plays the biggest role in determining a person’s moral character.
Fagin is the ringleader of the band of pick-pockets Oliver is recruited into. A master of lies and manipulation, Fagin is, arguably, the most villainous character in the entire novel. He is constantly on the lookout for situations where he can take advantage of others and further himself, the opposite of Oliver’s helpful nature. He is always described as hideously ugly, and it is this outer reflection that reveals the depth of his villainy. Many young men and women were sent to the gallows for crimes committed at the behest of Fagin. When he is eventually caught and sentenced to the gallows himself, however, he goes insane.
A young woman, most likely a prostitute, who was recruited by Fagin at a young age. She has lived a life of crime but exhibits a moral goodness of her own kind. She regrets helping to kidnap Oliver for Fagin and risks her life to bring Rose a message about the plot against Oliver. When Rose gives her a chance to start a new life, Nancy replies that it is too late. Even though it was miserable, she could not leave her life, or Bill Sikes, the man she is attached to. Her environment has shaped her so entirely that she cannot escape it; however, the good left in her even after such a life suggests that she would have been a wonderful person under better circumstances.
The elderly gentleman who first takes Oliver under his wing when he is ill. Although Oliver is a young orphan, Mr. Brownlow assumes the best in the boy and doesn’t accuse him of pick-pocketing and instead helps him. Mr. Brownlow is the key in the book, the connection between Oliver and his heritage. He knew Oliver’s father, and is the one who pieces together the puzzle and apprehends Monks. Brownlow is the representation of rightful justice, the kind of which is not possible in the legal system of the time. He is also portrayed as a man of learning and makes sure that Oliver is well-schooled. At the end of the novel, he adopts Oliver as his own son.
Another villain of the novel, Bill Sikes is a robber by trade and is distinguishable by his white dog that follows him around everywhere. A cruel man, and quick to anger, Bill is nonetheless loved by Nancy, whom he eventually murders. Where Fagin is slow and manipulating, Bill is somewhat reckless. His dog serves as a reflection of his inner self and mirrors his movements and mental states throughout the novel.
The nurse-maid who helped Oliver’s mother gives birth. Although she only makes a brief appearance in the novel, she is the key to Oliver’s family. Oliver’s mother, on her deathbed, gave the nurse a golden locket and a wedding ring with her name engraved on it, saying that it could help lead Oliver to people who would care for him. Instead of helping the boy, she sold the locket to a pawn-shop, where it was later tracked down and thrown into the river by Monks.
An older wealthy woman, Mrs.Maylie has a generous spirit. She rescued Rose as an orphan, despite the stain on her name circulated by Mrs. Leeford, and raises her as her own daughter. Although she is generous, she is also highly aware of society’s views and is practical about how to navigate socially. When her son wishes to marry Rose, Mrs. Maylie discourages him, saying that her uncertain birth will lead to his political ruin. She is also the one to help Oliver when he is shot, first as Rose’s wish and then on her own.
Rose is a young, beautiful girl adopted by Mrs. Maylie. She always assumes the best in people, and is the first person in the novel to guess correctly that Oliver’s unfortunate situation in life led him down a path he didn’t want to follow. She has an almost saintly virtue and pureness about her and is often described as having the beauty of an angel.
Mrs. Maylie’s handsome son, Harry is madly in love for Rose and proposes to her. However, he is also running for a powerful position in parliament and is advised against marrying Rose because of her uncertain history. In the ultimate statement about marrying for love versus monetary gain, Harry gives up his political influence and buys a small house in a village. Rose accepts his proposal, and they lead a simple, happy life in the country.
First appearing as a tall, mysterious stranger in a cloak, Monks has a strange obsession with Oliver. He is a villain in league with Fagin and Sikes and portrayed as disfigured and manipulative. The end of the novel reveals that Monks’ real name is Edward Leeford, and he is Oliver older half-brother. He tried to get rid of Oliver so that his father’s entire fortune passed directly to him. Mr. Brownlow tries to give Monks another chance by halving the inheritance, but Monks squanders the money and ends up dying in prison.
Oliver – protagonist of the novel, orphan boy with a mysterious past
Mrs. Mann – headmistress of the orphanage Oliver grew up in. She starves the children at the orphanage to save money
Mr. Bumble – the beadle of the workhouse, obsessed with wealth and status
Mr. Gamfield – an abusive chimney-sweeper who attempts to apprentice Oliver
Mr. Sowerberry – the undertaker for the workhouse, he makes a living selling coffins. He takes on Oliver as an apprentice
Mrs. Sowerberry – the undertaker’s wife. Dislikes Oliver because Mr. Sowerberry favors him
Noah Claypole – charity-boy, apprentice to Mr.Sowerberry. Makes fun of Oliver because he is a workhouse orphan
Charlotte – maid to the Sowerberry’s. Is obedient in every way to Noah Claypole
Dick – Oliver’s sickly young friend from the orphanage
Jack Dawkins (The Artful Dodger) – pupil of Fagin, highly intelligent
Charley Bates – pupil of Fagin, has a good sense of humor
Fagin (The Jew) – ringleader of the band of thieves Oliver falls into, a master of manipulation
Betsy – a young girl who works for Fagin
Nancy – a young girl who works for Fagin, helps Oliver and is killed for it
Mr. Fang – arrogant courtroom judge who presides over Oliver’s case
Mr. Brownlow – the elderly gentleman who first takes pity on Oliver, eventually helps solve the mystery of his identity and adopts him
Mrs. Bedwin – Brownlow’s housekeeper, very fond of Oliver
Bill Sikes (The Housebreaker) – a professional robber, kills Nancy
Bulls-eye – Bill’s white dog, as vicious as he is
Mr. Grimwig – Brownlow’s friend, never says what he actually means
Tim Chitling – a member the gang of thieves
Barney – a member of the gang of thieves
Toby Crackit – a member of the gang of thieves, does house robberies with Bill Sikes
Mr. Corney (later – Mrs. Bumble) – matron of the workhouse, listens to Old Sally’s last words
Old Sally – the nurse who helped birth Oliver, and was given his mother’s last possessions
Mrs. Maylie – a wealthy, elderly woman who adopts Rose, and later takes in Oliver
Rose Maylie – a beautiful orphan girl taken in by Mrs.Maylie, in reality, is Oliver’s aunt by blood
Mr. Losberne (The surgeon) – local doctor, highly impulsive, friends of the Maylie’s
Mr. Giles – Mrs. Maylie’s servant, shoots Oliver in the arm
Brittles – Mrs. Maylie’s servant, always referred to as a boy even though he is 30
Blather and Duff – London police officers who examine the scene of the robbery
Harry Maylie – Mrs. Maylie’s son who is running for political office, in love with Rose
Monks (Edward Leeford) – tall man who always wears a cloak and plot to turn Oliver into a thief, in reality Oliver’s greedy older brother
Mr. Leeford – Oliver’s father, forced to marry for money when he was young, later falls for Oliver’s mother
Agnes – Oliver’s mother and Rose’s sister, Agnes runs away from home when Mr. Leeford dies
The story opens with a sense of vagueness as the narrator states that the exact time and place of Oliver Twist’s birth isn’t important. What is noteworthy, however, is the fact that he was born in a workhouse. Workhouses were places made to benefit the poor in Britain’s society, and to shelter them from starvation and abuse. As such, the people in the workhouse were the lowest rung on the societal ladder, and the narrator acknowledges that there is a workhouse in every city.
Oliver is born on a dirty mattress with no one but a surgeon and a drunken nurse attending. He has trouble breathing but eventually cries out. His mother asks to see the boy before she dies, and the surgeon places the baby in her arms. When she is gone, the nurse reveals that they found her on the streets and don’t know her identity. The surgeon notices the absence of a wedding ring.
The nurse takes the child and swaddles him in rags, marking him as a workhouse orphan, and thereby deciding his fate.
The infant was reported to parish authorities and sent to an orphan house ran by an elderly female named Mrs. Mann. She is paid by the government for each child she takes in, which is more than enough for food and clothes, but instead of spending the money on the children she gives them as little as possible and keeps the profits for herself. It is common for many children to die in her care, but it is always found to be of natural causes.
The story picks up on Oliver’s ninth birthday. He is thin and small but has a sturdy spirit. He is celebrating his birthday with two other boys when a guest comes to the gate. It is Mr. Bumble, the beadle of the workhouse. Oliver and the boys are sent away, and Mrs. Mann invites Mr. Bumble in.
Over drinks, they discuss Oliver Twist. Mr. Bumble says they never found the identity of his parents, and since he is now too old to stay at the orphanage, must go back to the workhouse with him. Mrs. Mann orders Oliver cleaned up and brought in, and Oliver, cued by Mrs. Mann, feigns grief at leaving to hide the poor conditions of the orphanage.
He goes to meet the board, a group of eight to ten men. He is frightened, but they assign him a trade to learn and a place to bunk. He cries himself to sleep.
The workhouse used to be a place for the poor to go for help and recovery, but the narrator details a new system in which the workersare given just enough gruel to survive, and they suffer a slow starvation. One of the boys threatens to eat another he is so hungry, and lots are cast to determine who among the boys are going to ask for more food. Oliver’s name is chosen, and one day at lunch he asks for another portion. The authorities are outraged, and lock him in confinement, flogging him as an example for the others. A note is posted on the door for a five pound reward to whoever will take the orphan off the hands of the workhouse.
Oliver spends a week in solitary confinement, crying all day and sleeping restlessly at night. Outside, a low-life chimney sweep named Mr. Gamfield is thinking about how he needs rent money when he sees the notice. He stops his donkey, violently beating him, and goes to inquire about the boy. The board doesn’t approve of his offer to apprentice the boy, and it is revealed by the narrator that Mr.Gamfield has already beat several “apprentices” to death. They bargain, however, and a deal is struck.
Oliver is given a clean shirt to wear and a slice of bread, which makes him think he is going to his death. When he finds out he is to be apprenticed, he is relieved but still terrified. They go to see the magistrate to finalize the apprenticeship and Oliver is horrified by the sight of his new master. He gets down and begs the magistrate not to send him with the mean-looking man, and the magistrate calls off the apprenticeship. Oliver is taken back to the workhouse, and the notice is placed outside the gates again.
The board, not knowing what to do with Oliver, conspires to have him hired aboard a vessel as a cabin boy, thinking he would die quickly. Before this fate can come about, however, Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker who makes coffins for the workhouse offers to take the boy. The board agrees, and Oliver is once again sent for.
On the way to the inspection, Oliver cries in grief, professing his utter loneliness. Mr. Bumble ignores his sobbing and takes Oliver to the Sowerberry house where he meets Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry.
Mrs. Sowerberry remarks that workhouse orphans cost more than they are worth, but offers him bits of meat the dog didn’t eat as dinner. Oliver devours the scraps and is sent to sleep under the counter in the coffin-room.
In the morning, Oliver is woken by a knocking on the door and meets Noah Claypole, Mr. Sowerberry’s apprentice and a charity boy. Over breakfast Noah and Charlotte, the maid, make fun of Oliver. Though they are poor, Oliver is beneath even them and thus a perfect target for derision.
Over dinner, about a month after Oliver’s arrival, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry think Oliver would make a great mute because of his perpetual melancholy.
Mr. Bumble comes in one day to order a coffin for a pauper. Oliver hides frightened of the man. Mr. Sowerberry takes Oliver with him to the house where the dead woman is still lying on the floor, covered by a sheet. Her husband cries, ranting that she was starved to death, and the dead woman’s mother asks for a loaf of bread and a cloak.
The funeral is short and disrespectful, with the boys jumping over the coffin before it is buried. After, Mr. Sowerberry asks Oliver if he likes the business, and Oliver says no. Sowerberry tells Oliver he will get used to it.
Oliver is formally apprenticed, and gains lots of experience due to the rate of measles being unusually high. Sarcastically, the narrator details how “well” family members and friends deal with the deaths of their loved ones.
Oliver is continually tormented by Noah, who is jealous at the attention Oliver gets from Mr. Sowerberry. Charlotte hates Oliver because Noah does, and Mrs. Sowerberry dislikes him because Mr. Sowerberry likes him. As a result, he treated poorly at the house.
One day Noah makes fun of Oliver’s mother, badgering until Oliver snaps. Enraged, Oliver grabs Noah by the throat and punches him to the ground. Noah screams for the girls, who come in, also screaming, and they all three beat Oliver and throw him into the cellar.
The three of them talk about how lucky it is none of them were murdered, and how horrid the workhouse orphans are from the minute they are born. Not knowing what to do with Oliver, they send Noah to fetch Mr. Bumble.
Noah runs to the workhouse, and works up such a story of terror he attracts the attention of the higher-ups, including Mr. Bumble. Noah accuses Oliver of trying to murder everyone in the household, and Mr. Bumble immediately sets off to the house to right things.
Back at the Sowerberry’s, Oliver is still kicking at the cellar door. He is not afraid of Mr. Bumble’s voice anymore, to which Mr. Bumble is shocked. He tells Mrs. Sowerberry that she has fed the boy too much meat and that this behavior wouldn’t have happened if the boy had eaten gruel.
Mr. Sowerberry arrives and takes Oliver out of the cellar. When Oliver says Noah called his mother names, Mr.Sowerberry says she deserved it. He beats Oliver to satisfy the spectators and sends him to bed.
Once alone, Oliver finally cries. He stays up all night, and when it is morning goes outside. He walks to the workhouse and sees a young playmate of his named Dick. Dick says he is dying; he heard the doctors say so. Oliver tells the boy that he is running away, and the boy blesses him. It is the first kind word Oliver has ever received.
Running out of town, Oliver is afraid someone will come after him. He sees a sign that says 70 miles to London, and decides to travel there. Over the course of his seven day journey, he weakens to the point of collapsing in a small village. There are signs that say no begging, but he is approached by a ragged young man named Jack Dawkins who buys Oliver a hot meal and tells him of a place he can stay. Oliver realizes this young man can’t be up to anything good because of his dress, but has no choice but to take him up on the offer.
The next morning they make it into London, which is the filthiest place Oliver has ever seen. They enter a disgusting, blackened house in the most squalid part of town, and Jack introduces Oliver to Fagin, the elderly Jew who is the leader of the mysterious band of boys. They are having dinner, and there are silk scarves hanging everywhere. Oliver eats his fill and is given gin and water before drifting off to sleep.
Oliver wakes late in the day, drowsy and half-dreaming with sleep. The old Jew is making coffee, and, after checking to make sure Oliver is asleep, takes out a box filled with expensive jewelry. After examining some of the pieces, the Jew sees Oliver watching him and brandishes a knife at the boy. It becomes clear that the man is a thief, and Oliver saw his secret stash, although Oliver himself doesn’t make this connection. Oliver’s meek reply and disinterest in the treasure console the old man, and he puts down the knife.
Jack Dawkins, also known as Dodger, and another boy named Charley Bates come in. They are pickpockets and have gotten some pocketbooks and silk handkerchiefs. Oliver expresses a desire to learn their trade, is laughed at for being green, and allowed to observe them practice. The old man walks around, and the boys try to pick his pockets without him feeling it.Oliver laughs until he cries; the scene is so funny.
After practice, two women show up, and it becomes clear that they are in the business, as well. They leave with Jack and Charley, and after they are gone Fagin, the Jew, tells Oliver to practice taking a handkerchief without him noticing. He gets it on the first try, and the Jew tells him he is a bright boy, giving him a shilling as reward.
For the next several days, Oliver works taking markings out of silk handkerchiefs. Finally, he is allowed to go out with the Dodger and Charley for their work. He wonders what they are going to do, when they spot an older gentleman reading a book. While Oliver watches, they pick his pockets. The pieces connect in Oliver’s head, and he realizes he has joined a bunch of thieves. Frightened, he runs away.
The old man, taking notice, realizes he has been robbed and starts up the cry of “stop, thief!”. Soon Oliver is being pursued by what seems everyone in the town. Eventually he is stopped, and, although the old gentleman seems to take pity on him, Oliver is taken away by an officer.
Oliver is taken to the police and put into a cell. The elderly gentleman, Mr. Brownlow, who had been robbed accompanies him, saying he thinks the boy is innocent and does not want to press charges. He thinks he recognizes Oliver, but cannot place his features.
Presently, they are summoned before the magistrate, Mr. Fang. He conducts his court in chaos and is arrogant, rude, and quick-tempered. Mr. Fang scares Oliver so bad he faints and doesn’t let the Mr. Brownlow state his case. He sentences Oliver to three months hard labor, and orders him taken out. Just then, the book-keeper runs in. He saw everything happen, and reveals it was the other two boys, not Oliver, who robbed the man. Oliver is discharged, and everyone ordered out.
Mr. Brownlow sees Oliver is sick and takes pity on him, ordering a coach. The book-keeper accompanies them, and they drive away with haste.
The coach carrying Oliver leaves London and travels to a small town and a friendly, quiet house. In Mr. Brownlow’s house a bed is made, and Oliver is tended with care by the maid Mrs. Bedwin.
For days, Oliver is weak with fever, and when he wakes up Mrs. Bedwin is at his side. He is grateful for her care and has the feeling his mother is watching over him from heaven. The elderly lady is moved to tears and tells him to rest.
When Oliver wakes again a doctor has come to check on him, and the next day Oliver feels well enough to sit up in bed. He is taken down to Mrs. Bedwin’s chambers after a few more days recovering because Mr. Brownlow is coming to visit him. Mrs. Bedwin gives him soup and washes him. During this, Oliver sees a picture of a beautiful woman and is fascinated by the portrait.
When Mr. Brownlow comes in, Oliver tries to stand out of respect, but cannot. The old gentleman feels so much pity for the boy he cries, and tries to hide it. He suddenly gasps, seeing the portrait and comparing it Oliver’s face, for they are exactly alike. Oliver faints out of excitement.
The scene cuts back to the Dodger and Charley as they run after Oliver. Once the crowd is large enough, they go quickly back to Fagin’s, wondering what he will do.
At Fagin’s house, the old Jew demands to know what happened to Oliver. The Dodger says he got caught, and they almost come to blows. A booming voice interrupts them, and it turns out to be a man named Bill Sikes. Eventually Oliver’s story is told, and the men want to know more information.
Nancy at Betty, the two girls from earlier, comes in, and Nancy is entreated to go to the police and find information. Under the guise of being Oliver’s sister, she discovers he is with Mr. Brownlow.
She relays this information to Mr. Fagin, who erupts into swift action. He plans to kidnap the boy before he gives the authorities any information about their thievery.
When Oliver wakes from his faint, Mr. Brownlow and the housekeeper are sure not to bring it up again for fear of exciting him. Oliver spends his days recovering, listening to Mrs. Bedwin and playing cards.
One night, about a week later, he is summoned to Mr. Brownlow’s library. Oliver is amazed at all the books, and Mr. Brownlow asks him if he wants to be an author. Oliver says he wants to stay and be a servant and is afraid of being sent away. The old gentleman says this won’t happen as he has a peculiar attachment to the boy. Mr. Brownlow wants to know Oliver’s story, and just about Oliver is about to begin a Mr. Grimwigis announced.
Mr. Grimwig is old, with bad manners, but deep down he is a good heart. He cautions Brownlow, however, about the boy since he has no past. Mr. Brownlow asks Oliver to tell him everything in the morning, and Oliver says he will.
Before Grimwig leaves, an order of books arrives. Mr. Brownlow realizes they are not all paid for and sends Oliver off with the money before it gets dark. Mr. Grimwig predicts that Oliver won’t return, and the two old gentlemen sit waiting.
In a public-house, Bill Sikes was sitting with his white dog by his side. He and the dog get into a scuffle, when Fagin walks in. The Jew gives Bill his share, which isn’t much. Nancy comes in with information about Oliver, and Bill leaves.
Meanwhile, Oliver is on the way to the bookstall. He makes a wrong turn and decides to keep going. Suddenly, hands grab him. It is Nancy in disguise, and she pretends Oliver is her runaway brother. Oliver calls for help, but no one believes him. Bill walks over pretending to be his “father” and they take him into a dark alley.
Back at the house, Mrs.Bedwin is waiting for Oliver to return. She watches the two gentlemen, sitting there, also waiting even though it is long dark.
When they are far away, they slacken their pace. Oliver realizes resistance is useless when Bill tells Oliver he will sick the dog on him if he tries to run. The bell tolls 8 o’clock when they reach the house. Dodger comes to the door with a candle and leads them upstairs, where Charley and the old Jew are waiting.
Charley and Fagin laugh at Oliver in his new suit, and mock him as a “gentleman”. They go through his pockets and find the five pound note and take the books, as well. Oliver begs to be taken back to the genial old man and lady, or at least to let him give the money back. Fagin, of course, doesn’t agree to this, and Oliver runs out of the room screaming for help.
Bill is about to sick the dog on Oliver when Nancy comes to the boy’s defense. She regrets bringing him here and ruining his chances of a happy life. She herselfwas dragged into this business by Fagin and thinks him a villain who keeps her trapped. She tries to rush them and ends up fainting.
When Nancy is no longer a threat, Fagin takes off Oliver’s new suit and gives him his old one back. The old clothes were the clue that led them to Oliver. They leave him to fall asleep.
The perspective shifts back to the town of Oliver’s birth, following Mr. Bumble on his way to see Mrs. Mann. When he is in her house and seated, he tells her he is being sent to London and gives her the monthly stipend for the children. Since he has been gone last, two more have died, and Dick, Oliver’s friend, is near death.
Dick is brought in to see Mr. Bumble, and requests that a letter be written after his death to Oliver Twist, his dear friend. Dick is locked away, and Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Mann are outraged.
That day Mr. Bumble leaves and stays at an inn outside London. He happens upon a reward in the newspaper for information on Oliver Twist and rushes to Mr. Brownlow’s house. He relates the story, making Oliver sound evil and twisted, is given the reward, and sent away.
Mr. Brownlow is devastated, although Mr. Grimwig professes to have known all along. Mrs. Bedwindoesn’t believe the beadle, and comes to Oliver’s defense, but Mr. Brownlow tells her not to speak Oliver’s name again.
The next day Fagin lectures Oliver on his behavior and tells Oliver a story of a similar boy who ended up being hanged because he threatened to go to the police with information. Oliver clearly understands this threat, and acts humbled.
During the next few weeks, Oliver is left alone in the house while everyone else goes out. He thinks of his kind friends and hopes for companionship. Eventually, the Dodger and Charley Bates allow Oliver to clean their boots, and Oliver is so starved for communication he agrees. They try to get him to join their trade again, and Oliver says no.
Just then, Fagin, Betsy and a newcomer named Tim Chitling walk in. Fagin and Tim talk trade, and Oliver listens. Over the next few days, Fagin lets Oliver watch the old game between him and the boys, and tells funny stories of robberies over the fire. He is trying to turn Oliver over to him.
Fagin heads over to Bill Sikes house one night. When he arrives Nancy is there as well, and more humble since the last time he saw her. Bill is planning a house robbery, and he needs a boy small enough to open a certain door. Fagin suggests Oliver, and Bill agrees under the condition that he can kill he boy if he shows any hesitation to do the job.
They plan for Nancy to take Oliver tomorrow night, and for Oliver to be put under Bill Sike’s watch until the robbery is over. Fagin leaves and goes back to his house. He is going to wake Oliver up to tell him, but sees him sleeping, pale and death-like, and leaves him be.
When Oliver wakes, he has new clothes. He thinks they are letting him go, but the Jew tells him he is going with Bill on a job. That night, Fagin leaves with a warning to follow Bill’s orders, and Oliver is so confused he doesn’t know what to do. He is left with a book and a candle. The book is full of bloody tales of criminals, and Oliver is so frightened he begins to pray.
Nancy comes in, giving no hint as to what Oliver will be doing, except that it won’t be good. She warns Oliver that if he tries to escape they will both be killed, and that she has his best interests in mind. Oliver goes with her quietly to the house where Bill is waiting.
Bill shows Oliver his pistol and puts the loaded gun to his head, threatening him if he ever disobeys. Oliver is shocked but remains quiet. They have supper and sleep, and in the morning they get ready to leave. Oliver wants Nancy to tell him something else, or give him a kind word, but she does neither of these things.
Oliver and Bill are on the streets before the sun is fully risen. Around them, the city of London is coming to life. They pass through the market, and all the sights and sounds amaze Oliver. Bill catches a ride out of London with a driver and they pass through several towns.
The coach stops, and they go to an inn for dinner. Oliver falls asleep, and when he wakes up Bill has found another ride. They pass more towns, and finally get off and start walking. Oliver sees a town off in the distance, and they must cross a river over a bridge to get to it. When Oliver sees the bridge and the water, he thinks Bill means to murder him, but instead the duo goes into an abandoned house.
Inside the house, Bill’s fellow thieves, Barney and Toby Crackit, are waiting. They eat and drink, forcing Oliver to drink wine with them, and then sleep. Oliver has no idea what is going on, or what the men are talking about.
At half-past one, they all get up and get ready. Toby and Bill set out with Oliver between them, and they go through the town to a solitary house. When Oliver realizes they plan to rob the house, he protests and begs not to do it. Bill pulls the gun out and threatens Oliver’s life, but Toby says not to shoot him because it will make too much noise.
At the house, Bill pries open a small window and tells Oliver to go in and let them in the front door. Oliver goes in, planning to run upstairs and warn the family, when there is a noise and a gunshot. The family has awakened, and Oliver is shot in the arm and bleeding badly. Bill and Toby pull him back out, and Oliver loses consciousness.
It is a cold night, and Mrs. Corney, the widowed matron of the workhouse, is making tea. She remembers her dead husband, when there is a knock at the door. It is Mr. Bumble, who has come to her with a bottle of wine. He is about to leave when Mrs. Corney invites him to stay for tea.
Mr. Bumble sits and begins flirting with the matron, scooting his chair close to hers before kissing her on the lips. The matron is shocked and protests when there is another knock at the door. A servant has come to tell Mrs. Corney that a lady in her care, Old Sally, is near death and has a message for her. Mrs. Corney tells Mr. Bumble to stay in the house until she gets back and leaves with the messenger. Mr. Bumble inspects the silverware and furniture.
The matron is taken into the room of the dying woman. The apothecary is there, and the woman is asleep on the bed. Two elderly female servants conspire together by the fire and laugh at Old Sally’s fate. After ten or fifteen minutes, the matron gets angry and goes to leave, when Sally sits up and orders the two old servant outs.
She tells the matron that she took something valuable from a woman they found on the road. The woman gave birth to a baby boy in the workhouse named Oliver before she died. She gave Sally a gold locket, saying it would help lead to people who would take care of the child. Before she can give any more information about the whereabouts of the locket, Sally dies. The matron lets the other women back in, saying that Sally didn’t say anything of importance.
Fagin, Tom, Jack and Charley are sitting in the house. Fagin is staring at the fire, and the others are playing cards. Jack, the Dodger, is always winning despite the odds, and Charley is laughing at everything.
The bell rings, and Fagin ushers everyone out before Toby Crackit comes in. He eats and drinks before telling Fagin that the robbery failed. Toby tells the story of how they ran from the house, but everyone was chasing them and they were forced to leave Oliver, shot and bleeding, in a ditch.Fagin, upset, yells and runs out of the room.
Fagin runs down the streets, to the part of town where pick-pocket sell their wares. He inquires of a small merchant named Mr. Lively of Sike’s whereabouts. The man knows nothing, so Fagin goes to a public-house called The Three Cripples. Inside, he looks at all the faces, but none of them is Bill Sikes. He asks about a man named Monks, but he is not there either.
Taking a coach to Bill’s place, Fagin finds Nancy alone and drunk. Nancy says Bill is in hiding, and wants to know about Oliver. When Fagin tells her, she hopes Oliver died because that would be better for him than a life under Fagin’s rule. When it becomes clear that Nancy is far gone, Fagin leaves to go home.
Outside his house, a mysterious stranger is waiting for him. Inside everyone is asleep, and the two go to the upper room to talk. They whisper, discussing Oliver, who is of value to both men. The strange man is named Monks, and he is extremely interested in the boy. Monks thinks he sees the shadow of a woman, but they find no one in the house. Monks departs, leaving Fagin alone.
Mr. Bumble, waiting for Mrs. Corney to return, is still poking around her house. He opens her chest-of-drawers and finds a small locked box with something heavy inside. Putting it back, Mrs. Corney rushes in, obviously flustered. Mr. Bumble offers her wine, and they drink together.
Mr. Bumble hints that the overseer of the workhouse is ill, and when he is gone Bumble will most likely take his place. He asks for Mrs. Corney’s hand in marriage and she says yes. She won’t tell Bumble what Old Sally said on her deathbed, however.
Mr. Bumble leaves and goes to the undertaker’s house to commission a coffin for Sally and sees the family in the kitchen eating oysters. Charlotte is feeding oysters to Noah, and they joke about kissing. Bumble, enraged, lectures them for being immoral before leaving.
The story goes back to the night of the robbery, when Sikes is carrying the boy away from the house. The boy is getting too heavy, and Sikes calls out to Toby, who is already ahead. Seeing the dogs and servants coming closer, Toby tells Sikes to leave the boy and run. Sikes covers Oliver with his cloak and attempts to draw attention away from the place he is hidden before running off.
The servants call the dogs back, and it soon becomes clear that they are scared. The two household servants, Mr. Giles and Brittles, decide to turn back. Meanwhile, Oliver is left alone in the ditch, unconscious.
Oliver wakes in the rain, delirious with pain. Realizing he is near death, he crawls to the road where he sees the house. When he gets closer, he realizes it is the house they tried to rob the night before. Since he has no strength to turn away, he goes up to the door.
Inside, Giles and Brittles are regaling the other servants with their tale of the robbery. Mr. Giles is in the middle of acting out the shooting when they hear a knock at the door. Frightened, no one wants to open it, but eventually they do and find Oliver collapsed on the porch. Mr. Giles brings him in, saying he’s captured the thief, and to call for the mistress.
The niece of the woman who owns the house comes down, and orders Oliver to be taken to bed and a doctor called for.
At the house, the two women are sitting at the breakfast table, with Giles serving them. The elderly lady, Mrs. Maylie, is mistress, and she is kind and pleasant. The younger, her niece, Mrs. Rose, is a seventeen year old beauty.
The local surgeon, Mr. Losberne, rushes in, exclaiming astonishment that the two women are not frightened at the burglar in their house. He goes upstairs to tend on Oliver and is gone a long time. When he comes down, he exclaims that it is extraordinary and that the two women must come see the boy. They have not seen him yet, and Mr. Giles (in an effort to prolong his “bravery”) has not told them the thief is a mere child. They go upstairs.
The doctor leads the two women upstairs, and they are terribly surprised to find, not a hardened thief, but a small boy. Mrs. Rose kneels by his bedside and cries tears for him, begging her aunt not to send the boy to jail because he is so young. The doctor tells Rose that it is entirely possible for him to be an incurable criminal, despite his young age, but Rose gives Oliver the benefit of the doubt, guessing (correctly) that he didn’t do it willingly. They wait for Oliver to wake before passing a verdict.
It is evening before Oliver wakens, and he wants to tell them his story as soon as possible. All three are moved by the hardships the small boy has endured, and the surgeon goes downstairs to question Giles and Brittles. They are once again going over the day’s adventures, and the surgeon asks them if they are positively sure it is the same boy. Before the servants can answer, the bell rings. It is officers from London, summoned by Brittles earlier that day.
The officers are let in the house, and everyone, including the doctor and the mistresses of the house, are questioned. The officers, after examining the scene, determine that two men and a boy attempted to break in, and ask about the boy upstairs.The surgeon and the two kind ladies conceal Oliver’s true story, which they believe to be true, and convince the officers that Oliver did not try to break in. The officers leave with no further suspicion.
Although Oliver is seriously ill, he slowly recovers due to the kindness and warmth he receives from Mrs. Rose and her Aunt. He continually thanks them and wishes to repay their kindness, which they promise he can do when he is well.
When Oliver is well enough to travel, they arrange for him to visit Mr. Brownlow near London. On the way out of town, Oliver spots the house where Sikes brought him. The doctor, an impulsive man, stops the carriage and rushes in.Nothing meets Oliver’s description, however, and they move on.
When they turn onto the street Mr. Brownlow’s house is on, Oliver becomes joyful. The house, however, is empty, and a neighbor reveals that Mr. Brownlow, his maid, and Mr.Grimwig all went to the West Indies to live. Disappointed, they back out of town.
Some time later, they travel to the country for some fresh air. Oliver substantially improves in this atmosphere, and spends his time playing, reading, and accompanying the two women. By the end of the three months, Oliver and the womenare intensely attached.
One summer evening, Rose falls ill with a fever and goes to bed. Oliver tells Mrs. Maylie that he hopes she will feel better in the morning, but Mrs. Maylie predicts she will grow worse.
The next day, their fears are realized, and Mrs. Maylie asks Oliver to take a letter into town asking for Mr. Losberne’s assistance. Oliver makes the long trek to town and ensures the letter is sent. On his way out of town, he is stopped by a tall man in a cloak, who curses him and asks what he is doing there, before falling down in a fit. Oliver makes sure the man is taken care of and rushes back to Rose and Mrs. Maylie.
Finding Rose even worse, Oliver forgets about the incident with the strange man entirely. Mr. Losberne arrives and tells them that she is not likely to recover. Oliver prays as he has never done before for Rose’s health. Rose has entered into a deep sleep and will either die or wake up and recover. Miraculously, she wakes up, and Mr. Losberne says she will survive.
Oliver is beyond happiness with the news of Rose’s recovery. The next day, he goes out to pick flowers for her when a coach rushes by. It stops, and Giles is inside asking for news of Mrs. Rose. A handsome young gentleman is also present, and we find out he is Mrs. Maylie’s son, Harry Maylie. He earnestly inquires after Rose as well, and Oliver tells them both she is going to recover.
Back at the house, Harry and his mother get into an argument concerning Rose. Harry is in love with her, but Mrs. Maylie warns him that Rose has a “stain” on her reputation (though through no fault of her own) and that marrying the girl will thwart Harry’s ambitions. Harry is steadfastly in love with Rose, despite Mrs.Maylie’s warnings.
In the morning, Harry goes and gathers flowers with Oliver, and Rose spends the next few days recovering.
One night Oliver falls asleep studying and dreams that he hears the Jew’s voice. Oliver wakes up to find Fagin and the stranger from the village staring at him through the window. As they disappear, Oliver calls for help.
At Oliver’s cry, Giles and Harry rush in and attempt to follow the thieves. After a thorough search, however, no trace of the men is found. Harry suggests that maybe it was just a dream, but Oliver firmly states it was real. They search over the next several days but still find nothing.
Rose is getting better and can walk about now. One morning Harry asks to speak to her alone, to declare his love for her. Rose loves him as well but turns down his proposal for marriage because of the blight on her name. She does not want to hinder Harry in any way, and so will keep herself from happiness. Harry promises to propose one more time within the year, and if Rose refuses him again he will never speak about the matter.
The doctor and Harry are getting ready to depart to London in the morning. Harry pulls Oliver aside and asks the boy to write once a fortnight (every two weeks) with updates on the health and happiness of the members of the household. It is understood that Harry is primarily concerned with the happiness of Rose, however. Oliver readily agrees; glad to be of importance to his benefactor’s son. The two of them leave, and Rose watches out the window, tears of sorrow running down her cheeks.
Mr. Bumble has become the master of the workhouse and married Mrs. Corney, and regrets the decision. Without the clothes of his former beadle-hood, he feels powerless and is hen-pecked by his wife and the other paupers. They constantly argue, whereas before they did nothing but flirt and kiss.
To get away from his wife, Mr. Bumble goes to a bar. He sees a stranger, a tall man wearing a cloak, who keeps stealing glances at him. They being conversing, and the man wants information about Old Sally, the nurse-maid who helped birth Oliver. He pays Mr. Bumble for information, and Mr. Bumble reveals that the old maid is dead. When the stranger turns to go, however, he also reveals that one woman was summoned to her bedside in her final moments. The stranger is intensely interested in this, and demands the woman to be brought to him the following evening. When Mr. Bumble asks the man’s name, he tells him it is Monks.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumble enter a disreputable part of town, and try to find the meeting place. They end up at an abandoned factory by the river, which is swollen because it is raining. Mr. Monks beckons them inside and takes them upstairs.
Mr. Bumble is afraid, although tries to put up a front. Mrs. Bumble, on the other hand, is confident and willing to bargain with Monks for the information he wants. She agrees to twenty-five pounds for the information, and begins telling the story. The only difference is after the old woman died, Mrs. Bumble found, in her hand, a pawnbroker receipt and exchanged it for the locket, which she produces then and there. The gold locket contains two locks of hair, a gold wedding ring and is engraved with the named “Agnus” on the side.
After Monks has the locket, he tells the couple to stand back and opens a trap-door to the river below, weighting the locket and throwing it down. He tells them that their business is concluded and to leave quickly.
Outside, Monks waits until they are gone and calls to a boy who has been hidden, before going back upstairs.
The next evening Bill awakes in his (now poor) apartment. He has been sick, and Nancy nursing him. Fagin and the boys come in with food, and Bill demands that the Jew give him money to get back on his feet. Fagin reluctantly agrees and takes Nancy back with him to retrieve the money.
Just as they are about to make the transaction, Monks appears and wishes to speak to the Jew alone. They go upstairs, and Nancy follows, eavesdropping on their conversation. The reader is not told what the conversation was about, but afterwards Nancy is shaken and anxious. Back at Bill’s the next, she is afraid he will catch on, but he merely falls asleep.
Nancy leaves and runs to a wealthy part of town, arriving at a nice hotel. She asks to speak to Miss Maylie, but since she is dressed in poor clothes she has to beg to have a message sent up. A message is finally sent, however, and Nancy is allowed upstairs.
As Nancy walks up the stairs to meet Rose, she is ashamed of her haggard appearance, but goes up all the same. Miss Rose is beautiful and gives her kind words, for which Nancy is grateful and wishes more people were like her. Nancy admits that she is the one who kidnapped Oliver, but she is risking her life in coming here in an effort to try and save him.
She asks Rose if she knows a man named Monks, and Rose doesn’t. Nancy relays the conversations she eavesdropped. In the first, she heard Monks give Fagin an offer if he brought the boy back and made him a thief. Before she could hear more, Monks saw her shadow. In the second, Monks said the last evidence of Oliver’s true identity lies in the bottom of the river, and now Monk’s inheritance is assured. He is Oliver’s older brother. Although Monks cannot harm him directly, he has laid numerous traps for the boy.
Rose is shocked by this information, and as Nancy turns to leave Rose offers to save her and give her a better life. Nancy replies that she is beyond saving, all she knew was the streets and that she cannot leave a certain man to whom she is attached (Bill). Rose wants to know how she can get ahold of Nancy again, and Nancy replies that she will walk across the London Bridge every Sunday night if she is alive. Nancy leaves, and Rose is left alone with her thoughts.
Rose is trying to decide what to do with the information Nancy has given her, when Oliver and Giles rush into the room. Oliver says that he spotted Mr. Brownlow and Giles got his new address. Rose tells them to get ready, and they will pay him a visit.
When they arrive, Rose goes in by herself and finds Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig in the library. She tells them that she has information concerning Oliver Twist, and they are truly surprised. Mr. Brownlow asks about the boy’s character, and Rose dispels any doubts that Mr. Bumble put into his mind that Oliver is indeed a noble soul.
When Mr. Brownlow discovers that Oliver is down in the coach, he immediately rushes down to retrieve him. Even Grimwig is happy. Bringing Oliver upstairs, Brownlow summons Mrs.Bedwin, who is overjoyed. Leaving Bedwin and Oliver to talk, Rose and Brownlow exit to another room. There Rose tells Brownlow all the information he knows, and he agrees that they need to have a conference with the others involved.
Later, when Mrs. Maylie and Doctor Losberne are present, the information is given to them. Harry and Grimwig are brought in, as well. Losberne wants to have all the thieves arrested, but Brownlow realizes if they do that they will never discover Oliver’s true identity. He thinks that they need to meet with Nancy the following Sunday, and keep it a secret from Oliver.
The same night Nancy went to visit Rose, a male and female are walking into London. They are none other than Noah Claypole and Charlotte, run away from the Sowerberry’s. They happen across The Three Cripples, and, not knowing it is truly a public house for thieves, request room and board.
Fagin comes in and realizes there are strangers from the country. He eavesdrops on their conversation while they are having dinner, and, at the mention of a twenty pound note decides to take advantage of them. Noah is frightened at first because Fagin makes it clear he has overheard their conversation, but Fagin offers to let them join his merry band. Noah accepts, and Fagin assigns him to robbing children. He gives the false names of Mr. and Mrs. Bolter, and agrees to meet Fagin tomorrow.
Noah and Charlotte are visiting Fagin the next day. Fagin is instilling in the two a sense of respect and considerable fear. He reveals that he needs a new best man since his Dodger was taken yesterday for pick-pocketing a silver snuff box. Charley is upset about it, but Fagin cheers him up by saying how he will become famous for his wit.
Fagin asks Noah to go and watch the Dodger’s trial, which Noah does reluctantly. The trial commences, Jack making jokes all the while. After he is committed, Noah hurries back to Fagin’s.
Although Nancy has resolved to keep her betrayal a secret, throughout the course of the week she behaves oddly, and Sikes and Fagin both notice. On Sunday night while the two are talking, Nancy tries to leave but is stopped by Sikes, who holds her down until midnight.
Fagin is under the mistaken assumption that Nancy has a new lover, and plots to get rid of Bill and acquire both Nancy and her new obsession.
At breakfast, Fagin asks Noah to perform a special mission. He promises Noah a pound if he will follow a girl, one of their own, who he suspects of having “new friends”. Noah readily agrees, and the next Sunday they go to Sike’s house to wait. Nancy comes out and begins walking, and Noah follows at some distance behind her.
Nancy, with Noah following, arrives at the bridge. She paces back and forth until an older gentleman and a young woman step down from their carriage. Nancy hurries them off the bridge, to a safer spot, and Noah conceals himself within hearing distance.
They begin talking. Nancy has been dreaming of death all day long, and is particularly nervous at this meeting. Brownlow asks her for information on Monks, so that they may find him, but if they cannot, he wants her to betray Fagin. Nancy will give them all she knows about Monks, but will not betray Fagin, one of her own kind. As she begins describing Monks, Brownlow starts, and begins muttering. It becomes apparent that he knows who Monks is.
Brownlow and Rose once again offer Nancy their assistance, but she refuses all help, taking only Rose’s scarf as a memory of her kindness. Brownlow and Rose depart, and Noah runs to Fagin’s as fast as he can.
Fagin is enraged and frightened at Noah’s report. He sits ruminating on all this new information when Bill comes in, back from his most recent robbery. Fagin asks Bill what he would do to a traitor, and Bill answers that he would have them killed, no matter who it may be. Fagin wakes Noah up, and has him reveal Nancy as the traitor. He leaves out, however, the promise that none of her associates be hurt in any way. Bill, enraged, runs home where Nancy is sleeping and wakes her up. Nancy begs for her life, but Bill ignores her and beats her to death.
Sikes feels the corpse of Nancy is watching him as he makes his preparations to leave. He covers what’s left of her up with the rug and burns all the evidence he can. He leaves London, rambling around the countryside before stopping at an inn for dinner. Here, a salesman comes by selling stain-remover, and spotting blood on Sikes’ hat, wants to use him as an example. Sikes runs out of town and overhears two people talking about the ghastly murder of a woman in London.
Sikes hides in a shed. He feels haunted, and doesn’t know what to do. In the town that night there is a fire, and Sikes spends the night helping the townspeople put it out. He overhears the firemen talking about the murder, and realizes the police are after him. He decides to go back to London, where they won’t expect him to go. He realizes, however, that the dog is a dead giveaway for his identity. He tries to drown the animal, but it escapes.
Monks is brought into Mr. Brownlow’s house. He doesn’t want to come in, but Brownlow threatens to turn him in if he does not. Monks walks in and sits. Brownlow reveals that Monks real name is Edward Leeford and how he pieced together the puzzle of Oliver’s identity.
Mr. Leeford was Brownlow’s old friend. At a young age, he was forced into an arranged marriage to a wealthy older woman. Unhappiness turned to hatred, and the couple eventually separated. Leeford fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Agnes Fleming, Oliver’s mother. He gave Brownlow a picture painted of her, the face almost identical to Oliver’s.
A sizeable fortune was left to Mr. Leeford, and he went to Rome to claim it, leaving Agnes alone and pregnant. Hearing of the inheritance, his wife and Edward went to Rome as well. There, Leeford fell ill and died, the mother burning his will so the fortune fell to them.
After meeting Oliver and having suspicions about his heritage, Brownlow traveled to the West Indies, where Monks had been living on the last of his money. He did not find Monks, however, because he had already returned to London. Brownlow accuses Monks of multiple crimes and deceit, and Monks can no longer pretend innocent.
Mr. Losberne bursts in with news that Sikes is close to being caught for the murder of Nancy, and that Fagin will be caught soon.
Toby Crackit and Mr. Chitlingare lying low in a destitute part of town. They are talking about Fagin and Noah’s capture, as well as The Three Cripples become a trap. The white dog comes in through the window, and a few hours later Sikes appears as well. He wants to know information about Fagin’s, and whether the body is buried.
There is another knock at the door, and Charley Bates comes in. He calls Bill a monster, and tries to attack him, calling for the others to help him. They are on the ground wrestling when the mob and police arrive. Bill, desperate, gets rope and climbs up onto the roof, planning to lower himself down. At the last second, however, he sees the eyes that have been haunting him all day, loses his balance, and accidentally hangs himself. The dog commits suicide as well by jumping out the window.
Two days later, Oliver, Rose, Mrs. Maylie and Monks travel to the town of Oliver’s birth. Seeing the familiar places brings back emotional memories for Oliver, but after all his adventures he views things differently. He mentions his friend at the orphanage, Dick, and wants to know if they can meet.
At the hotel, Grimwig is waiting for them. Oliver knows something significant is going on, and is nervous. Brownlow brings in Monks, introducing him as Oliver’s older brother. Oliver is shocked, but the story is not over.
Monks reveals that when he and his mother went to Rome they found a letter address to Agnes Fleming in which they found information of the affair and the locket. They also found the will, which they burned. The will stated that Agnes’ child, if a girl, should inherit his estate, and, if a boy, on the condition that he is not guilty of any crime.
Brownlow continues the story. When Edward was 18 he stole his mother’s jewelry and money to go live on the streets of London. His mother came to Mr. Brownlow, asking him to help find her boy before she died. On her deathbed, she told Edward that she was sure Agnes had a male child, and that he was alive. She entreated him to find the boy and put an end to him.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumble are brought in and questioned about the locket, the proof of Oliver’s heritage. They pretend to know nothing, until the old servant ladies reveal that they eavesdropped at the door the night Old Sally died, and saw Mrs. Bumble get the locket and ring. Mr. Brownlow ensures that neither of them will hold a public office again.
There is yet more to the story. Mr. Brownlow asks Monks what happened to Agnes’ family when Mr. Leeford died. Monks reveals that, pregnant and alone, Agnes left her family so their name would not be stained. The father died of a broken heart, and her younger sister was given to the care of two poor cottage-dwellers. His mother, out of spite, visited the family and assured them that Rose was born of bad blood, and her reputation was stained. Later, Mrs. Maylie, having seen the girl and taking pity on her, adopted her as her own. This means that Rose is Agnes’ sister, and Oliver’s aunt.
After all the excitement is over, Harry comes in and proposes to Rose once again. He renounced his name and fortune, and bought a humble house for them to live in. Rose accepts his proposal, and everyone gathers for dinner. Oliver begins crying, for he hears that his dear friend, Dick, is dead.
Fagin is sentenced to be hanged by the court and is escorted into his cell alone. There he must wait several days until his sentence is fulfilled, and he becomes increasingly mad during his imprisonment.
Mr. Brownlow and Oliver, on the day of his hanging, visit Fagin. Mr. Brownlow asks Fagin where the papers concerning Oliver are, as Monks left them in his care. Fagin is delirious and ranting, and eventually tells Oliver where the papers are before trying to escape. He is taken out of his cell down to the gallows.
Three months after the events of the novel concluded, Rose and Harry are married and move to their small town in the country. Mrs. Maylie, Dr. Losberne, Mr. Brownlow, Oliver and their servants all move to the town as well. Mr. Grimwig visits often, and makes jokes about his distrust of Oliver originally. Giles and Brittles divide their attention among all the good friends equally, so that no one knows whom they actually serve.
With Sikes dead and Fagin hanged, Charley Bates decides to lead an honest life and becomes exceedingly happy working on a farm. Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, deprived of their stations, become so poor they are forced to live in the workhouse Oliver was born in.
Most importantly, Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver as his son. The inheritance is split between Oliver and Monks, so that Monks might have a chance to redeem himself, but he squanders the money and ends up dying in prison. Mr. Brownlow tutors Oliver in all manner of subjects, and the two become truly close. A simple tombstone with the name Agnes is raised in the graveyard, and the narrator speaks of the importance of Mercy and Benevolence.
The party from London was soon to arrive, and the news agitated Emma. Mr. Knightley came into the room and told her that Harriet Smith was engaged to Mr. Martin. Emma was surprised, but Mr. Knightley had heard the news from Mr. Martin himself. He is afraid that Emma does not like the news at all, as he feared, but suggests that time will bring her around. Emma exclaims that Mr. Knightley has mistaken her silence—she is just surprised he asked her again. It does not make her unhappy. Mr. Knightley reveals how it happened: Mr. Knightley asked Mr. Martin to deliver some papers to John and was asked to join a party which Harriet had attended. He then dined with them the following day and during this visit found an opportunity to ask Harriet. Mr. Knightley thought Mr. Martin was very happy. He knows that this engagement cannot bring Emma happiness, but in reality she is only trying to hide how happy she was. Emma admits that Harriet has done well, but is surprised as she had reason to believe Harriet was quite against him. Mr. Knightley did not think that Harriet could refuse a man who dearly loved her, and Emma had to laugh at this.
Mr. Knightley is surprised at how much Emma’s opinion has changed on this matter. Emma admits that she was a bit of a fool where it was concerned. Mr. Knightley admitted he has changed where his opinion of Harriet was concerned, too. He had made great efforts to talk to her and get to know her a bit better. He considered that Emma probably thought he was pleading Mr. Martin’s case, but he only wishes Harriet the best. She has excellent principles and good notions, which have secured her happiness. Mr. Knightley believes that Emma is to thank for this, and Emma cannot feel she deserves this praise.
There would now be pleasure and happiness in Harriet’s return, especially as it meant not having to hide anything from Mr. Knightley anymore. On visiting Randalls, they find that Frank and Jane are visiting. Emma and Frank meet for the first time in a long time. He thanks her for forgiving him, and Emma expresses her pleasure at being able to share in his joy for his engagement. They joke about their past tricks with the name Dixon, and Frank shares his surprise that Emma never suspected he and Jane were engaged. He wonders if Emma has pity for them not having met since the day they reestablished their engagement, and Emma does. Frank had endless compliments for the health Jane now had. Emma reminds him of the day he commented that he did not like her complexion. They laugh at this. Emma accuses him of being very amused by his trickery. Frank denies this—he was very depressed by it. Emma compares their behaviour—they are both prone to finding amusement in odd places. They are also to marry two people superior to them. Frank does not think Emma has a superior, but agrees on account of Jane. They are very pleased to have seen each other again. As Emma left Randalls, she was very pleased to have seen Frank again—not only because it meant their friendship was reestablished, but because she was now sure Mr. Knightley was the more superior of the two.
In a few days, Isabella, John and Harriet arrived from London. After an hour alone with Harriet, Emma was satisfied that he feelings for Mr. Knightley were gone and replaced for those for Mr. Martin. Harriet was a little ashamed for the past, but Emma had immediately soothed these feelings by congratulating her on her engagement. Harriet was then very pleased to give her all of the details of the engagement itself. It suggested to Emma that Harriet had always loved Mr. Martin.
They discovered Harriet’s origins: she was the daughter of a tradesman, not of a gentleman as Emma had sworn. Her low rank would have been a blight on a marriage to the Knightly, Churchill or Elton family. Emma accepted Mr. Martin at Hartfield and approved him as a good match for Harriet. Although Harriet would be among people she belonged with and who loved her, it would mean less visits to Hartfield. It was, Emma thought, for the best. Harriet was married to Mr. Martin before the end of September and were the first of the three couples to be so. Jane Fairfax had already left Highbury and had returned to live the Campbells. Frank and Mr. Churchill were in town, and the couple were waiting until November. Emma and Mr. Knightley had decided to have their marriage while John and Isabella were still at Hartfield so they could go away for two weeks to tour the seaside. Mr. Woodhouse was miserable when he heard of the plan, and Emma could not bear to see him suffering.
When Mrs. Weston’s turkeys were stolen one night, Mr. Woodhouse grew scared of Hartfield being broken into and wanted either John or Mr. Knightley to be at Hartfield to protect him. John had to be back in London by November, and so Emma was allowed to decide on the date for her wedding. The wedding itself is far too modest for Mrs. Elton, but all those present wished them well.
David takes charge of transporting Steerforth’s body back to London—Steerforth’s body was carried to the same cottage that currently housed Ham’s body, but once they got him there, it seemed wrong to the carriers to have him under the same roof, so they brought him to the inn. The body didn’t remain there long. Knowing he was the only one who could break the news to Steerforth’s mother, David wasted no time getting an appropriate means of transport from Joram’s, and he set out for London that night at around midnight. Even at that hour, contrary to expectation, groups of townspeople waited to watch them leave.
David arrives at the Steerforth home, which looks shut down—David arrived in Highgate the next day. Leaving the carriage driver with orders to wait for further instructions, he walked the rest of the way to the Steerforth home. The parlor maid who answered the door could see immediately that something was wrong. She asked David whether he was ill, but he replied that he was just tired and distraught. As he sat in the drawing room waiting for the maid to return from announcing his arrival, David noticed that the house had a dismal, shut-down look. The harp hadn’t been played in a while, and he learned from the maid that Mrs. Steerforth never left her room anymore. She had taken to living in her son’s room, probably out of loneliness over his absence.
Miss Dartle quickly loses her composure—After the usual greeting and introductory conversation, David tried to break the news to Mrs. Steerforth as gently as possible, but Miss Dartle caught on quickly and lost her composure. She began to rail on Mrs. Steerforth and David, too, when he tried to calm her down or berate her for her lack of compassion. In Miss Dartle’s mind, no one loved Steerforth more than she had. She would have been his devoted, self-sacrificing wife if she had had the chance. Instead, she received a scar on her lip that marred her face for life. In her view, Mrs. Steerforth had ruined him, encouraging his faults and discouraging whatever was good in him. As far as she was concerned, the mother had gotten what she deserved.
Mrs. Steerforth becomes nonfunctional on hearing the news—Throughout this diatribe, Miss Dartle showed no compassion and a good deal of contempt and mockery of Steerforth’s mother. But it almost didn’t matter. Once the mother realized what had happened, she lapsed into a semi-catatonic state, with an occasional moan being the only sign that she was alive.
Miss Dartle finally expresses compassion for Mrs. Steerforth—David was concerned that Miss Dartle would remain in her relentlessly cruel mode, but just before he left, she drastically changed her manner and began showing affection and concern for Mrs. Steerforth. Still, all Mrs. Steerforth could do was stare into space with a fixed look and moan. As David left the room, he was followed by Miss Dartle’s curses.
Steerforth’s body is returned home; David says his last farewell to his friend—David returned later that day with Steerforth’s body. Mrs. Steerforth was still in catatonic mode, despite multiple attempts by the doctors to help her. She and Miss Dartle hadn’t left Steerforth’s room, so David and those who helped to carry the body laid it on Mrs. Steerforth’s own bed. Before leaving the house, David closed all the curtains and shades, leaving the room with Steerforth for last. In a final act of farewell to his friend, he took Steerforth’s motionless hand and placed it against his heart.
David takes steps to prevent Mr. Peggotty and Emily from learning about Ham and Steerforth–David was determined not to let word of Ham’s and Steerforth’s deaths get back to his emigrant friends, so he told no one, with the exception of Traddles and Mr. Micawber, whose help he enlisted. Mr. Micawber’s job, which he took on with great flourish and enthusiasm, was to prevent Mr. Peggotty from seeing a newspaper.
The Micawbers adjust their style for the great outdoors—As preparation for his new life in Australia, Mr. Micawber had outfitted himself with an oilskin jacket, a straw hat, and a telescope. Mrs. Micawber had wrapped herself in a shawl and put on a tight bonnet, as had Miss Micawber. Master Micawber wore a Guernsey shirt and sailor pants, and the younger children were all dressed in waterproof clothing. In short, they were ready for the great outdoors.
Everyone gathers to help with the preparations—David found the Micawbers in front of the Hungerford Steps as they watched some of their belongings leave by boat. They were staying in a room overlooking the river above a nearby pub, where David also found Agnes, his aunt, and Peggotty helping with last-minute clothing preparations before 7 a.m. the next day, when all emigrants had to be on board. Mr. Peggotty was there, too, and in the midst of all the commotion, David quietly told him the false but comforting message that Emily’s note had been delivered to Ham and that all was well. David’s goal was to see his friends off happy and untroubled, no matter how dark the reality was.
Mr. Micawber invites his friends for one last round of punch—Mr. Peggotty announced that all well-wishers could see their friends off the following day in the afternoon at Gravesend, where the ship would be docked before leaving. Until then, Mr. Micawber added, the men would be busy guarding their families and things, and, as Traddles just reminded him, there should be time for one more cup of punch—and all were invited!
More adjustments for life in the bush—David noticed that all the older Micawbers now carried bush knives, and it was his own foot-long version that Mr. Micawber now used to prepare the punch after first getting the ingredients from the bar downstairs. He even went so far as to wipe the knife on his sleeve. Moreover, the Micawbers no longer drank out of glasses but out of tin cups, apparently to get used to the rugged life that awaited them.
Another arrest and bail-out; Mrs. Micawber keeps hoping her family will appear—As Mr. Micawber was expounding upon this, he received a message asking him to come downstairs. Mrs. Micawber’s hunch was that it was someone from her family, finally come to make amends and say goodbye. In fact, it was an officer who had come to arrest Mr. Micawber on another charge by Uriah Heep. David was presently informed of this through another note, and promptly went downstairs to pay it and have Mr. Micawber released. Returning to the room upstairs, Mr. Micawber gave a vague excuse for his absence and then, apparently to ease his own mind, handed Traddles an elaborate calculation of his remaining debts, with compound interest. Unaware of the real reason for her husband’s momentary disappearance, and disappointed but undeterred in her hopes, Mrs. Micawber still believed that her family would show up at Gravesend at the last minute.
Mrs. Micawber’s faith in Mr. Micawber’s prospects in the brave new world of Australia—Aunt Betsey and David urged Mrs. Micawber to write when she got the chance. Both Mrs. and Mr. Micawber assured them they would, and Mr. Micawber added that it would be an easy thing, with all the ships going back and forth, and that the distance wasn’t worth mentioning—an exaggerated assessment in David’s view. Mrs. Micawber then launched into a speech about Mr. Micawber’s talents, his position in the new world, and her expectation that it would strengthen his ties with their home country, which had never given him the credit or opportunity he deserved. She felt he was an uncommon case and that he would rise to a high position in Australia, which would gain him recognition back in England. In her opinion, he should take charge of his destiny now and claim his due. Mr. Micawber, who was ready to put his experience in Britain behind him, had his doubts at first, but gradually saw the merit in her point of view and expressed his gratitude for her determined confidence. On that note, Aunt Betsey proposed a toast, and a beaming Mr. Peggotty shook hands with Mr. Micawber. In that moment, David felt that all would be well and that Mr. Peggotty, too, would do well wherever he went.
A final farewell on board the ship; one last arrest and bail-out—When David checked on them the following day, the Micawbers had already left by 5 a.m. in a boat for Gravesend, where he and Peggotty later met them to say their final goodbyes. The ship itself was mid-river, so that they had to take a smaller boat to get to it, which was apparent from the many boats that already surrounded it. Arriving on deck, David discovered from Mr. Peggotty that Mr. Micawber had been arrested one final time. But per David’s request, Mr. Peggotty had paid the bill, and now David paid him back.
A variety of emigrants and well-wishers crowd the boat; David spots Emily—In the dim lighting of the ship’s hull, David could see it was crowded with emigrants and their belongings. There were people of all different types, ages, and careers: smiths, farmers, children, parents, young adults, newborn infants, old people—all engaged in various activities as they said goodbye and prepared to leave on their long voyage. Off to the side by an open porthole, David noticed someone who resembled Emily. Another woman had just kissed her goodbye and moved off, but by the time David realized that her graceful manner reminded him of Agnes, he had already lost her in the crowd.
David and Mr. Peggotty say their final farewells; David finds Martha among the emigrants—The time had come for all visitors to leave, and Mr. Peggotty turned to David and asked him whether he had any last-minute messages or concerns. David answered that there was one—Martha. Just before that, David had noticed a young woman in black who was helping Mrs. Gummidge organize their belongings. Mr. Peggotty tapped her on the shoulder, and as she stood up, David saw that it was Martha. She was so overcome with emotion just then that she burst into tears. David blessed Mr. Peggotty for taking her with him, and in that moment he felt a deep love and respect for this kind and good man. David’s only other remaining mission was to give Mr. Peggotty Ham’s parting message, without revealing that Ham had died. That was hard, but even harder was not reacting when Mr. Peggotty gave him a loving message in return.
Last goodbyes as the ship moves off into the sunset—Peggotty had been sitting on a chest, crying, and David now said his final goodbyes to his emigrant friends before taking his dear old nurse with him into the little boat. It was sunset by then, and the beauty of the ship, with all the people crowded on deck in silence as they waited to wave their final farewells, left him with feelings of both sadness and hope. As the ship started to sail away, cheers arose from the small boats and were returned by the ship’s passengers. All of a sudden, David noticed Emily standing next to her uncle, who now pointed out David and Peggotty. Seeing Emily waving to them for the last time, David wished in his heart that she would be true to her uncle, who loved and cared for her. As the ship sailed off into the fading light and night fell on the English shore, David felt that night had fallen on his life.
David’s journey: an outline of his inner changes—Chapter 58 is about David’s journey abroad, though it’s more about his inner journey than about his external travels, which he barely mentions. Even then, the chapter is fairly simple as it explains how he went from a sense of overall numbness to grief and despair and, finally, to the remembrance of an old love that might once have become something more.
A three-year journey as a means of processing his emotions—David’s travels abroad lasted three years and encompassed many places and sights, but with little enthusiasm and with an ongoing sense of being removed from it all. As the shock of his recent losses gradually wore off, their reality began to hit home, and David’s suppressed grief rose to the surface. It encompassed not only his own losses, mistakes, and youthful dreams, but what might have been—lives that might have blossomed more fully had they not been cut short.
David’s heart begins to open in the purity of the Swiss countryside—After many months of aimless wandering, David finally arrived in the Swiss mountains. There, in the beauty of a Swiss valley at sunset, he began to feel a faint sense of peace and hope. Something of the purity and wonder of the place opened his heart, and for the first time since Dora’s death, he sobbed from the depths of his soul.
David receives a packet of letters—Immediately before that, David had picked up some letters at the village post office. He had barely kept in touch with his friends and relations, informing them of his latest destination but unable to write anything beyond that. This was the first packet he had received in a while, having missed a number of others.
David reads a comforting letter from Agnes—The letter he opened was from Agnes, who after one brief line about her own happiness and success in her latest endeavors, proceeded to write about her hope and confidence in David’s character and future development. She knew that, no matter what difficulties befell him, no matter how much pain he experienced, he would make the right choices and grow from his trials. He had done this before as a boy, and he would do it again. And she would always be there beside him, proud of his past and future accomplishments. That letter of comfort and hope was exactly what David needed. He read it many times and wrote Agnes, telling her that although he did not yet measure up to her view of him, he would work toward becoming that.
The dawning of a new life—This chapter contains some of the book’s most beautiful scenic descriptions, and like many scenic descriptions in Dickens, they depict a state of being. In this case, the pure beauty of the Swiss valley—the green trees and pasture, the sunlit snow-capped mountains, the singing shepherds’ voices, the fading colors of the sunset—all point to the dawn of a new life and hope, a new purity, like the clearing of the air after a violent storm. At the end of the last chapter, night fell as the ship sailed away, and now, having lived through the dark night of his own soul, David began to see a new light dawning in his heart through the words of one who had been a steady guide and comfort to him since his boyhood.
Agnes’s encouragement gives David new hope and resolve—Buoyed by Agnes’s sense of confidence in him, David resolved to try to become what she saw in him. One thing he appreciated about Agnes was that her vision for him was never accompanied by any sense of pressure. In that spirit, he allowed himself another three months to just be. By then, a year would have elapsed since the beginning of his journey, and he would decide what to do next.
David spends another two years in Switzerland, begins to write again, and regains a sense of self—David spent those three months in the valley, and when they were up, he decided to stay in Switzerland a while longer and write, wintering in Geneva and spending the rest of his time in the valley. He began to come out of his shell again and soon had many warm new friendships, and he took comfort and inspiration from nature. He also resumed his disciplined routine of writing and before long had sent Traddles a finished story for publication. After a break, he started his third novel, and before it was halfway through, he realized he was ready to go home. Aside from regaining a sense of self, he had accumulated much in the way of knowledge and experience, and he felt healthy again, which was not the case when he left England.
David becomes aware of his complex feelings for Agnes—There was one other thing David wanted to mention before leaving this chapter of his life. His complex feelings for Agnes, which remained suppressed for a long time, began to surface during his period of darkness and despair. It occurred to him that, through the impetuous choices of his younger years, he had undervalued her love and possibly thrown away the opportunity of its evolving into something more. Dora’s intuitions on the subject had also haunted him, and he had an inkling that Agnes might have felt something more for him at one point, but he wasn’t sure. Now as he returned to his native shores three years later, he knew he had feelings and thoughts of that nature, but he felt the opportunity to realize them was gone, and he didn’t want to disrupt what they had.
Returning to London in the fall—David returned to London on a cold, dreary, foggy evening in autumn, before the long summer vacation for the courts and universities had ended, Michaelmas term not beginning until October. After his travels through Europe, London’s houses, though familiar, seemed bleak to him, and some had even been pulled down to make way for changes in the neighborhood.
A lonely return by himself in the London fog—Change was, of course, to be expected not only in the physical surroundings but in the lives of those close to him. Traddles was slowly breaking into the legal field and was living in chambers at Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, and Aunt Betsey had returned to her house in Dover. David’s friends and relatives weren’t expecting him so soon, and because he wanted to surprise them, he hadn’t arranged for anyone to meet him and therefore felt a bit lonely. This was quickly eased, however, by the warmth from the familiar shop windows glowing through the fog.
David inquires about Traddles at the inn—On entering into the coffee shop at Gray’s Inn, where David would also be spending the night, he inquired about Traddles’s exact address. He next asked how Traddles was doing in his career as a lawyer. The first waiter David asked was not aware of any great reputation on his part, and the head waiter had never heard of him, nor did he seem interested. He was more intent on taking David’s dinner order.
After a discouraging response, David wonders if Traddles will succeed—David felt sorry for Traddles and wondered if he would ever make a go of it. It didn’t help that the heavy, traditional environment of Gray’s Inn, personified by the head waiter and the coffee room, seemed full of rules and regulations, unbending and unchanging. Everything was perfectly polished and maintained—sedate, old, and expensive. In such an environment, where little changed in a decade, someone like Traddles would come across as an unlikely upstart, and the thought that his friend stood no chance saddened David.
David hears girls laughing as he walks up to Traddles’s apartment—David quickly finished his dinner and headed off to see his old friend. Traddles lived on the top floor of No. 2 in the Court, and as David made his way up the dimly lighted staircase, he was surprised to hear the sound of girls laughing. When he stopped to listen, one of the old, decrepit planks gave way, and the noise he made upon stumbling interrupted the laughter.
A happy reunion—Arriving at Traddles’s door, he was greeted by a young boy attendant, who, after some hesitation, let David in and escorted him to the sitting room to see Traddles. Traddles was sitting at a table, apparently working, and both the boy and Traddles looked out of breath. But whatever hesitation was previously there disappeared when Traddles saw David. Instead, there was a happy reunion, with hugs, handshaking, and a mutual exchange of warm greetings and new information.
Traddles and Sophy are recently married; the laughing girls are her sisters—Traddles was impressed by David’s growing fame, and David learned that Traddles had finally married the “dearest girl in the world” just six weeks earlier. Apparently, David had not received Traddles’s latest letter. Sophy, who had been hiding behind the curtain, now came out, beaming. The laughing girls, it turned out, were her sisters, and just as David was coming up the stairs, Traddles had been playing with them. He had stopped when he heard a visitor arrive in the interest of looking professional.
Traddles makes the best of his situation—Traddles was delighted to have the laughter of young girls in his apartment. He felt it brought a sense of lightness and life to the heaviness of Gray’s Inn, even if it was deemed unprofessional. Living there with Sophy was also considered unprofessional, but they had no other options, and Sophy was extremely capable, which justified it in Traddles’s mind. And, as Traddles mentioned several times, they were ready to “rough it.” David asked which of the girls were there at the moment and learned that there were five, including the oldest (the “Beauty”), the invalid, and the two younger ones, whom Sophy had educated. Sophy had organized beds for all her sisters in their three-room apartment, while she and Traddles cheerfully made do with the floor the first week, afterwards graduating to a small attic room, which Sophy fixed up and which had an excellent view.
Traddles’s patience and determination—Traddles was also thrilled to point out the marble table and flowerpot he had been saving for so long. The other furniture was just functional, and they still didn’t have any silver, but all that would come in due time and would mean even more when they finally had it. After all, it had been a long wait for both Traddles and Sophy, so when Traddles began to make headway as a lawyer, he went down to Devonshire to convince Sophy’s father, the Reverend Crewler, that the time had come for him and Sophy to be married. Sophy, too, was willing, even though Traddles wasn’t completely settled. Her father agreed, on the condition that Traddles would earn £250 a year and provide a decent living space. Traddles also promised that if anything happened to the two parents, he would take care of the girls, assuming he was in a position to do so. The Reverend agreed to convince Sophy’s mother that it was time to let go of her daughter, even if she had been a great help to the whole family. That was easier said than done. Sophy had been so useful to the family that they resented having Traddles take her from them. But they did let go, and Traddles was happy and cheerful, even though he rose at five and worked constantly and hard.
David meets Sophy’s sisters—Suddenly, their attention shifted. The girls had come into the room, and Traddles now introduced them to David, who was impressed with their freshness, describing them as a “perfect nest of roses.” David found them all pretty, especially the oldest, but Sophy had a brightness and cheer that made her unique, and it was clear that she loved and believed in Traddles (“Tom,” to her) as much as he did her. She also emphasized that Traddles was David’s devoted friend and that when they visited with Aunt Betsey and Agnes in Kent, the main subject on everyone’s mind was David.
Traddles and Sophy’s cheerful generosity and competency leaves David with a feeling of hope—Another thing that delighted David about both Sophy and Traddles was their generosity and helpfulness toward Sophy’s sisters. Neither of them was troubled by the girls’ various whims and demands, which were ongoing. Instead, they were constantly and cheerfully at their service. They seemed to take great pleasure in being there for others and never appeared exhausted or upset. In the process of serving everyone, Sophy’s knowledge and capabilities in different areas—whether of singing songs, fixing hair, writing notes, or whatever else—had grown so much that no one thought of relying on anyone but her, out of all the sisters, to do anything. In return for all their love and good cheer, Sophy and Traddles received a tremendous amount of love and respect, and the whole experience left David in good spirits. It was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dry and staid environment, and it left him with a feeling of hope about Traddles’s future, regardless of his surroundings.
David recognizes Mr. Chillip in the coffee room—It was in this mood that David returned to the coffeehouse and sat down by the fire. Before long, his thoughts turned from Traddles’s happiness to the difficulties of his own life, and he thought of Agnes and what he had lost by preventing that relationship from ever growing into something more than a brother-sister interaction. As he sat musing on these things, he noticed meek, little Mr. Chillip, the delivery room doctor, sitting off in a corner by himself reading the newspaper. David therefore walked up to him and asked him how he was. After a bit of bantering, Mr. Chillip still couldn’t figure out who David was, so David finally told him. That elicited an emotional reaction, and they got to talking about many things—that David looked like his father, that his fame as a writer was spreading, and that Mr. Chillip and his family had moved from Blunderstone to Bury St. Edmunds about seven years earlier because his wife had inherited some property.
David buys Mr. Chillip a drink and hears about the Murdstones’ latest escapades—David noticed that Mr. Chillip had emptied his glass of negus,[i] so he offered to buy them both another drink. The topic turned to David’s loss of Dora. Mr. Chillip had heard about it through Miss Murdstone, whose distinctive character had made an impression on him. In fact, the Murdstones had moved to the same neighborhood as the doctor and his family. Mr. Murdstone had once again married a young, fresh, innocent woman, and he and his sister then proceeded to terrorize her into a state of misery, weakness, and imbecility. Throughout the conversation, the doctor kept quoting Mrs. Chillip, a “great observer,” who noticed, among other things, that Mr. Murdstone referred to himself as a Divine Nature and delivered dark, severe speeches in the name of religion. Mr. Chillip himself could see no support for the Murdstones’ doctrine in the New Testament, and it was no surprise that the entire neighborhood disliked them, which, in the Murdstones’ view, meant they were all consigned to hell.
Memories of David’s birth; opinions on Aunt Betsey—After a bit more chatting, David discovered that Mr. Chillip was at Gray’s Inn as a professional witness in a hospital patient insanity case. He confessed that such cases made him nervous, just as Aunt Betsey’s behavior at the time of David’s birth had had a detrimental effect on him that took a while to unravel. David noted that he was on his way to visit the same Aunt Betsey and that she was, in fact, a wonderful, kind woman. That was too much for Mr. Chillip to process, and he took it as his cue to go to bed.
A cheerful reunion in Dover—The next day, David arrived at his aunt’s old cottage in Dover, where he was warmly and joyfully received by Aunt Betsey, Mr. Dick, and Peggotty, who now kept house for them. Aunt Betsey got a good laugh from Mr. Chillip’s fearful memory of her, and both Peggotty and David’s aunt went on about Mr. Murdstone and his “murdering” sister.
[i] Similar to hot toddy, a heated mixture of liquor, water, sugar, and spices
Catching up on the news—David and Aunt Betsey spent the evening by the fire talking of things like the emigrants’ successful beginnings in the new world, Janet’s marriage to a prosperous Dover tavern owner, and Aunt Betsey’s approval as shown by her decision to attend the wedding. Mr. Dick, too, was doing well. He had found a new vocation in copying, through which he managed to keep Charles I at bay.
Aunt Betsey steers the conversation toward the subject of David and Agnes’s relationship—Changing the subject, Aunt Betsey wanted to know when David planned to go to Canterbury. His aunt had picked up on something going on between Agnes and him, even though they hadn’t yet admitted it to each other, and now she steered the conversation in that direction. But David wasn’t ready to talk about his love for Agnes, so while it was obvious Aunt Betsey understood, she refrained from being too direct.
More detail about the Wickfields; Aunt Betsey’s intuitive understanding of David’s feelings—Before David even mentioned Agnes, Aunt Betsey read his mind and warned him that Mr. Wickfield had aged but also grown in his understanding of human nature. Agnes, on the other hand, was as beautiful and good as always, and she was busy with her school. In Aunt Betsey’s opinion, if she educated the girls to be like her, she would do much for the world. David hesitated before asking whether Agnes was romantically involved. According to Aunt Betsey, she had many suitors and could have married any number of times. Were there any viable ones, though—any that deserved her? Aunt Betsey had her suspicions but wouldn’t say anything beyond that. David’s stated hope was that Agnes would confide in him as a brother, just as he had always confided in her. But it was clear from the way Aunt Betsey looked at David throughout the conversation that she understood there was more going on. Now she said nothing but quietly placed her hand on his shoulder as they both looked into the fire.
David visits Agnes the following day—David rode to Canterbury the next day. On arriving at the old house, he hesitated at first but finally got up the courage to go in. The maid led him up the stairs to the drawing room, and David was relieved to see that all vestiges of the Heeps’ presence were gone. He had only told the maid he was a friend from abroad, so it was a happy surprise for Agnes when she saw him, and he, too, was happy to be in her peaceful presence again as he hugged her closely. She embodied home for him, a feeling of goodness, welcome, peace, and understanding he had long yearned for. Now she sat beside him, and though he still couldn’t bring himself to express his feelings, her calming influence had already begun its soothing magic, even when she spoke of Emily and of Dora’s grave.
David asks Agnes about herself but backs off when she seems uncomfortable—David asked Agnes about her own personal life, claiming she never spoke about herself. Agnes didn’t know what to say. They had their home back, and her father was healthy and content again, and that, to her, was everything. David pressed for more, but she denied there was anything else. Even so, she seemed uncomfortable, and he noticed a paleness in her face and a sadness to her smile at that moment. He changed the subject, and they spoke of different things—how the school kept her busy, how long David planned to visit, and that the old house was restored to its former happy self.
An evening with the Wickfields brings up thoughts about the past—Agnes had to finish teaching school for the day, so David went out for a walk about the town. The conversation had left him unconvinced that he could ever be anything more to Agnes than a loving brother, so he resolved to do this as faithfully as possible, as she had done for him. When David returned for dinner, Agnes’s father was back from his gardening, his latest pastime, located a bit beyond Canterbury. They had dinner with Agnes and about six little schoolgirls, and after dinner, they all went up to the drawing room, where they had tea while the little girls studied, played, and sang. After the girls left, the three of them reminisced about the past, although Mr. Wickfield spoke of many regrets. Yet Agnes had made it all worthwhile for him, and he would not change anything. For the first time, too, Mr. Wickfield spoke of his wife, who died of a broken heart after her father, a severe man who disapproved of her marriage, renounced her. Agnes was only two weeks old at the time of her death, and in her, Mr. Wickfield saw much of his wife and feared his daughter had suffered in similar ways. David wondered what he meant by this last statement. Yet even without a full understanding on David’s part, Agnes’s devotion for her father was clear, and David now gained a deeper sense of it.
Restrained communication between Agnes and David—When her father finished, Agnes played some old tunes on the piano. While she played, she asked David whether he had any thoughts of going abroad again. He asked her how she felt about it, and when she said she hoped he didn’t, he made it clear that her wish was his wish. He was trying to broach the subject of their relationship, and he finally did, but in a hesitant way. The most he could do at this point was to profess his undying love and commitment to her as a brother, no matter whom she loved or married. He felt he didn’t deserve her after all the years of falling in love with other women, and he misinterpreted the restrained emotional play he saw on her face.
David’s silent hopes—David had promised to be back in Dover by nighttime, and as he thought of their conversation on the way back, it seemed to him that neither of them was happy. He had resigned himself to a restrained love on earth, but he hoped that someday the transcendent nature of their true love would unfold in a heavenly realm.
David visits Traddles to sort through his fan mail, delivered there since his stay abroad—David spent several months in Dover finishing his book, with periodic visits to London to soak up city life or visit Traddles. Traddles had been managing David’s business affairs since his journey abroad, and in the meantime, David’s fan mail had grown so large that he arranged to have it delivered to Traddles’s address. Every so often, David would stop by to discuss some business point with Traddles and to sift through the bushels of mostly irrelevant letters.
Sophy trains herself as a copyist to help out Traddles—By now, Sophy’s sisters had returned to Devonshire, and Sophy herself kept busy managing their domestic affairs and, when necessary, staying out of sight of the stuffy legal types who might disapprove of the presence of a woman in chambers. David also noticed on many visits that Sophy would quickly shove a copybook into a drawer, and he wondered why. Eventually he discovered from Traddles that she had been training herself as a copyist so she could take over that job when “Tom” became a judge someday. He was proud of the professional results she had achieved and had no qualms about saying so, but Sophy herself felt it was better to keep it secret because of current attitudes toward women in the professions.
Traddles praises Sophy’s many wonderful qualities—David commented on what a wonderful wife she was, which got Traddles praising her many good qualities. She was cheerful and adaptable, always on time, discreet in her movements while staying in chambers, an excellent housekeeper, attractive and energetic, a good cook and baker, creative within their means, and fun to be with. For them, taking walks together to go window shopping and dream of what they would buy each other was as good as actually buying the thing. Or they would buy half-price theater tickets and enjoy every minute, or just sit together in a warm apartment on a cold night. Traddles was thrilled to be so lucky.
Mr. Creakle, now a magistrate, invites David to inspect a “model” prison system—David wondered if Traddles ever drew skeletons anymore, and Traddles had to admit that he did occasionally indulge in it. That got them talking about Mr. Creakle, and David remembered he had a letter from their old schoolmaster, who had since been appointed a Middlesex Magistrate and had invited David to observe how well their prison system worked. They claimed that solitary confinement was the secret to creating model prisoners, and David wanted to know if Traddles would come along to verify this great achievement. David also found it interesting that Mr. Creakle, who had been a tyrant toward the schoolboys, was gentle and considerate toward the worst criminals. Traddles was not surprised, and they both agreed to say nothing of their former treatment, which had apparently been forgotten now that David was famous.
David and Traddles tour the prison; David finds the prisoners’ excellent conditions ironic—A day or two later, David and Traddles visited the huge prison, which David remembered cost a great deal to build. They were met by several magistrates and some other visiting gentlemen. Mr. Creakle looked more or less the same, though older, and judging from his manner toward Traddles and David, he had no recollection of his former tyrannical behavior as their school principal. David was struck by the extreme concern the group had for the prisoners’ comfort as well as by the gentlemen’s total focus on prison life. Their tour began in the kitchen, coincidentally at around dinnertime, where David couldn’t help noticing the high quality of the meals being delivered to the prisoners’ cells. It occurred to him that the mass of workers who earned an honest living, including soldiers and sailors, rarely enjoyed a meal of that quantity and quality.
A flawed “perfect” system—The system’s supposed efficacy was based on the “perfect” isolation of individual prisoners, but as the men toured the building, David noticed that the isolation was not as perfect as claimed and that it was likely (and eventually proved) that the prisoners communicated enough that they knew a lot about each other, which was the opposite of the goal. The other thing he noticed repeatedly as they visited the prisoners’ cells was that their professions of remorse and reform all sounded strangely similar. Nor did he get a feeling of trust from any of them. It was easy to profess reform where there was no chance of temptation, but he doubted they would be able to resist reverting to their old ways under real outside circumstances.
Model Prisoner No. 27, the cream of the prisoner crop—Throughout the tour, the group kept hearing about Model Prisoner No. 27, who supposedly far outshone the others in his degree of reformation and his belief in the system that had converted him. He had such a good reputation at the prison that the tour leaders were saving his cell for last, so by the time they got there, David’s curiosity had reached its peak. When they finally arrived at his cell, Mr. Creakle, after looking through the keyhole, reported that No. 27 was reading a hymn book. The excitement that followed that revelation created so much competition for the keyhole that they decided to allow No. 27 to come out and meet the visitors in person.
No. 27 is brought out to meet the visitors—To Traddles’s and David’s great surprise, they found themselves looking at Uriah Heep. Uriah recognized them immediately and inquired after their well-being, which impressed the gentlemen on the tour. When Mr. Creakle asked him how he was, Uriah gave his usual profession of humility. Every time someone asked about his comfort, he used it as a chance to confess how wrong he had been and how much he had changed. Most of the party believed him.
Model Prisoner No. 28; the model prisoners speak—The magistrates now brought out another model prisoner, No. 28, who turned out to be none other than Mr. Littimer. Mr. Littimer emerged reading a book, with his “highly respectable” veneer perfectly intact. Each model prisoner had a champion, Mr. Creakle being Uriah’s and another gentleman being in charge of Littimer, and these champions guided the conversation. When asked how he was, Littimer’s answers had the same hollow ring to them as Uriah’s, but other than David and Traddles, the gentlemen visitors seemed not to pick up on this. The other thing Uriah and Littimer had in common, once they had made a show of how reformed they were, was to point the finger at other people, either as being the cause of their own guilt or as being in need of reform, as though the whole of London shared their qualities and backgrounds. Both Uriah and Littimer specifically addressed David, and Littimer even asked him to relay his “forgiveness” of Emily, in spite of her bad behavior when he tried to “save” her. Uriah gave a similarly sanctimonious speech, mentioning that David had hit him (to the horror of the naïve gentlemen) but that he forgave him. David couldn’t help noticing at one point that Uriah’s expression was more evil than ever and that when Littimer excused himself to return to his cell, he and Uriah exchanged looks as though they knew each other.
David asks a warden about the two prisoners’ crimes—David noticed that the magistrates were not keen to talk about the prisoners’ crimes, so he quietly asked one of the wardens, who he guessed had a more honest, less deluded view of the prisoners. He learned that Uriah was in prison for forgery, fraud, and conspiracy against the Bank of England. He had almost gotten away with the crime, but the bank managed to lure him into revealing himself. He was sentenced to permanent transportation. Littimer had been arrested for stealing £250 worth of valuables and cash from a young gentleman. He was on his way to America when he was recognized, in spite of his disguise, by Miss Mowcher, who grabbed his legs and wouldn’t let go. Littimer tried to beat her off, but even the arresting officers couldn’t pry her away, and she ended up being a star witness in court. Littimer was also sentenced to transportation.
David and Traddles’s conclusions about the model prison—David and Traddles left the prison convinced that no real reform had taken place. Littimer and Heep were the same deceivers they had always been, and the system that was supposed to be so promising held no real promise at all.
David and Agnes still keep their real feelings to themselves—Two months passed, and it was now Christmastime. David had visited Agnes once a week or more during that time, and his deep love and respect for her remained as strong as ever. Still, he could not express his real feelings and had relegated his desires to a mental shelf, where they would take a backseat to whomever she chose as her husband. His only consolation, other than her company, was that he could be to her what she had been to him for so many years—a trusted confidant, counselor, and friend—and that was what he now committed himself to being.
Aunt Betsey’s intuitions; David decides to find out if there’s another man—The only person who had any inkling of their feelings was Aunt Betsey, who silently surmised it through her usual astute observation of her nephew’s face. However, they never spoke of it directly, although Aunt Betsey left broad hints now and then, and there seemed to be a deep understanding between them. Agnes herself showed no signs of change, except for the occasional thoughtful look and sad smile, and she did not seem to have any awareness of David’s real feelings. All this reticence increased whatever confusion already existed, and David convinced himself there had to be another man, but he could not understand why Agnes kept her secret from him. In his determination to repay her for her faithfulness, he resolved to clear things up.
David gets the wrong idea from Aunt Betsey—It was in this frame of mind that David bid his aunt goodbye on his way out into the cold winter’s night. But before leaving, he could not refrain from asking her whether she knew anything more about Agnes’s secret love. Aunt Betsey said she thought she did, and when he asked her whether she was sure, she offered that she thought Agnes was going to marry. Determined to stick to his resolve and face this cheerfully, David wished God’s blessing upon her. His aunt, agreeing, blessed her husband, too. Hearing this bit of news from his aunt, David mounted his horse and set out for Canterbury, more determined than ever to broach the subject with Agnes.
David asks Agnes to reveal her secret love to him—Arriving at the Wickfields’, David found Agnes reading by herself. She quickly realized he was in a serious mood and gave him all her attention. It didn’t take David long to tell her that he knew she had a secret and he wanted her to share it with him, to let him be there for her. He assured her that his motives weren’t selfish, that he could take a back seat to whomever else she chose.
Agnes refuses to tell David and fends him off—Apparently, he struck a painful chord in her. As though she couldn’t face it, she moved quickly to the window, and he saw that she was crying, but something about her tears gave him hope. At the same time, he didn’t want to cause her pain, so he begged her to tell him what was going on, but she was adamant—she couldn’t speak about it just now. As she fended him off, David searched for some clue, and he began to wonder if there wasn’t some hope, after all, for the feelings he had buried. At first, he brushed them off. He wanted her to know that his motives were pure and unselfish, that he would be there for her no matter how their relationship changed outwardly. Hearing this, Agnes quietly informed him that he had misunderstood. Her secret was nothing new. She had held it within her for many years, but it was not something she would share, and she could bear it alone.
In a burst of passion, David and Agnes finally tell each other the truth—David’s thoughts were racing now as he realized the implications of what she was saying. As she began to walk away, he took her by the waist and held her close to him. He hadn’t come to tell her his deeper feelings, but now all his love, passion, and hopes burst forth as he dared to believe she might love him as something more than a friend. It was the closest thing to a marriage proposal, and when he saw her shedding tears of joy, he knew he had understood correctly. All the struggles he had felt in the last few years, the incompleteness he had sensed in his earlier marriage, the feeling of guidance and home she had always provided—all of it came spilling out now, and Agnes, too, admitted that she had loved David her whole life. That night, they walked together in the wintry fields, looking up at the moon and the stars and feeling at last that they had found peace and happiness together.
David and Agnes make their new relationship known to Aunt Betsey—The next day, David and Agnes went to Dover together, arriving in time for dinner. At first, they revealed nothing, but Aunt Betsey sensed something was different because she kept looking at David for clues, which meant putting on her spectacles. When she saw no hint of anything, she would remove them and use them to rub her nose, a sign that something was bothering her. Following dinner, when David told Aunt Betsey he had mentioned their conversation to Agnes, his aunt was perturbed and scolded him for betraying her trust. But when David put his arm around Agnes and they both leaned over her chair together, she caught on and became hysterical with joy—the only time David ever saw her like that. She hugged Peggotty and then hugged Mr. Dick. It was a happy moment for everyone.
David and Agnes are married; Dora’s secret request—Two weeks later, David and Agnes were married. It was a small but joyous wedding, with only the Traddles and the Strongs as guests. Afterwards, as David and Agnes drove off together, David felt at last that this was the love he had waited for all his life. But Agnes had one more thing to confess. Could David guess what it was? The night Dora died, she made Agnes promise that no one else would take her place.
Ten years later, David is a wealthy, successful author who lives in London with his family—It has been ten years since David and Agnes’s wedding. In the meantime, David has grown wealthy and famous as an author, and he and Agnes have moved to London and now have at least three children. When Chapter 63 opens, the family is together in the sitting room on a spring evening. There is a fire in the fireplace, the children are playing, and the scene is one of contentment and peace.
Mr. Peggotty visits from Australia—A servant announces the arrival of a personal visitor, a simple, rugged man resembling a farmer. It is Mr. Peggotty, and there is a joyful reunion. He is older, but still healthy and strong, and the children are immediately drawn to him. Mr. Peggotty recounts how he decided to take the long trip from Australia to visit David and his family before he got too old to do so. He would be staying in England for a month.
Mr. Peggotty tells of the hard work and success of the whole group of emigrants—After insisting that he stay with them, David and Agnes sat on either side of Mr. Peggotty, eager to see him and hear everything he had to tell. The word was that with hard work and patience, all the emigrants had prospered, between sheep farming, cattle raising, and other things. Mr. Peggotty felt with certainty that their group had been blessed.
Emily lives with her uncle, avoiding other people except when helping those in need—David and Agnes both wanted to know how Emily was doing. She had settled in with her uncle and was happy when around him, but she shied away from other people, except when helping those in need. Between that and her chores, she stayed busy. She could have married many times but felt that possibility was over for her, and there was something sorrowful and shy in her manner. No one there knew her history or why she was the way she was, though many people liked her.
Mr. Peggotty thanks David for keeping secret the bad news about Ham and Steerforth—Mr. Peggotty also thanked David for keeping the bad news about Steerforth and Ham from them. Mr. Peggotty himself, when he finally found out, managed to keep it from Emily for a year, but eventually she found out through an old newspaper brought by a traveler. David and Agnes wanted to know if the news had changed Emily. Mr. Peggotty said it did for a long time, but being away from people, out in nature, and staying busy helped her get through it. He saw her too often to gauge it correctly, but he thought he had noticed a difference and wondered whether David would recognize her.
Martha marries and moves to the bush—Agnes and David asked next about Martha. Mr. Peggotty told them that Martha married a year or so after they arrived. Women were few there, and her husband was a farmhand who had traveled a considerable distance. He proposed to her, and they moved to their own solitary place in the bush country. Before doing so, she asked Mr. Peggotty to tell her suitor her real life story, which he did.
Mrs. Gummidge decks a marriage suitor but remains loyal and helpful to Mr. Peggotty—What about Mrs. Gummidge? Mr. Peggotty started roaring with laughter when he heard the question, and soon they were all laughing uncontrollably. Even Mrs. Gummidge received a marriage proposal, and she reacted by smashing a pail over the suitor’s head. That incident aside, she remained completely changed. She totally dispensed with her lost, forlorn attitude and was the most helpful, hardworking, faithful person you could imagine.
The emigrants move to Port Middlebay after thriving in the bush; Mr. Peggotty pulls out the town paper—Finally, there was Mr. Micawber. What happened to him and his family? David and Agnes knew he had paid all his debts, which spoke well for him, but they were curious to learn more. Mr. Peggotty smiled and pulled out a newspaper. He explained they had all gotten their start in the bush country, where Mr. Micawber had worked as hard as anyone. Eventually, though, they had prospered so much they all moved to a town called Port Middlebay Harbour. Mr. Peggotty presented the Port Middlebay Times to tell the rest of the story.
Mr. Micawber fulfills Mrs. Micawber’s prediction; all the Micawbers and Mr. Mell, now Dr. Mell, and his family are thriving—The paper told of a dinner given in honor of Mr. Micawber, who was now a District Magistrate and regular columnist for the paper. The large room was packed to overflowing, and the town’s elite had crowded in to pay their respects to Wilkins Micawber, Esquire. He was introduced and toasted by Dr. Mell, David’s former teacher at Salem House, who had founded his own grammar school in Port Middlebay and was now married with children of his own, one of whom, Helena, was applauded for her beautiful dancing. Mr. Micawber’s own speech was received with great enthusiasm and applause. Further toasts were extended to Mrs. Mell and all the Micawbers: Mrs. Micawber and her extended family in England; Master Micawber, who delighted the audience with his singing; and the former Miss Micawber, now Mrs. Ridger Begs. The dinner and toasts were followed by dancing.
Mr. Peggotty points out a letter in the paper addressed to David and written by Mr. Micawber—Mr. Peggotty now drew their attention to another article, this one written by Mr. Micawber himself and addressed in formal terms to David, with the subtitle “The eminent author.” It was a public expression of gratitude and admiration for David’s contribution and achievements as an author. Mr. Micawber especially wanted to express that the people of Port Middlebay, who were as civilized as anyone, were his avid readers and always interested in David’s latest venture.
Seeing Peggotty and Aunt Betsey; visiting Ham’s grave; saying goodbye for the last time—During Mr. Peggotty’s time with David and Agnes, Peggotty and Aunt Betsey also came to see him. Toward the end, he and David took a trip to Yarmouth to see Ham’s grave, and in keeping with a promise he made to Emily, Mr. Peggotty collected some of the earth. Finally, David and Agnes both saw him off, and David knew it would be for the last time.
What became of everyone?—In his short closing chapter, David recalls the faces of those still living who played a role in his journey, and now he traces the outcome of their lives.
Aunt Betsey—First, there is Aunt Betsey, now in her eighties. Her eyesight might be weaker, but she still stands as tall and strong and energetic as ever, even walking six miles in the cold. Aunt Betsey’s longstanding wish for a goddaughter named Betsey Trotwood has been fulfilled, and that child was followed by a younger sister named Dora.
Peggotty—Then there’s Peggotty, also wearing glasses but still with her wax candle and needlework, and shoved in her pocket is the crocodile book, a cherished remnant of David’s childhood.
Mr. Dick—Entertaining himself and a new generation of boyish Davids with his kites is Mr. Dick. He still holds Aunt Betsey in the highest regard, but he is no longer too concerned with the Memorial.
Mrs. Steerforth and Rosa Dartle—Mrs. Steerforth has grown old and hunched over, and her mind is weak. She is easily confused, until she remembers that her pride and joy, her son, is dead, and she is struck by the pain of that realization. Her companion, Rosa Dartle, is the same edgy, bitter, impatient person, but when needed, she still has some compassion left for Steerforth’s mother.
Julia Mills, Jack Maldon—Julia Mills, now married to an extremely wealthy Scotchman, has returned from India. She is surrounded by the trappings of money and “society,” which includes the likes of such shallow individuals as Jack Maldon—and she has forgotten love and romance. To David, such an existence is the opposite of the things that make life worth living.
Dr. Strong, Annie, and Mrs. Markleham—Dr. Strong, that kindly old gentleman, has gotten as far as the letter D in his dictionary. But his marriage with Annie is happy, and his mother-in-law has been tamed.
Traddles and Sophy—Of course, there’s also Traddles. Time has moved a bit further along at this point, and Traddles is balding now, though what remains is as unruly as ever. He is on his way to becoming a judge, though he is modest about it. And he’s thrilled that he’s achieved all his life goals, and more. He is earning almost twice as much money as he expected to, his boys are receiving excellent educations, and Sophy’s sisters are either happily married or living with either them or their father, the Reverend. Only the “Beauty,” now a widow, is unhappy, having been through an imperfect marriage. But Traddles feels they can and will restore things.
It is Sophy’s birthday, and the house is full of relatives. It is one of the houses Sophy and Traddles once dreamt of owning, long before they could afford it. Now that they actually live there, they still give away the best rooms to Sophy’s sisters, who always seem to be staying with them for one reason or another. But for all their wealth, there is still the same simple good cheer that has always been a part of their home.
Agnes—Such are the faces that people David’s life. Yet among them all, one stands out and shines more brightly than all the others. It is Agnes, the guiding light of his life, who is beside him now and will be there till the end.