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Oliver Twist
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Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist, Chp. 5 - 8

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Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Dear Curiosities,

This week’s four chapters tell us how Oliver decides to run away to London and how he falls in with Fagin and his gang. Reading Oliver Twist immediately after Pickwick Papers and some of the Sketches made me wonder how one and the same author could have written two books so vastly different in tone. Oliver’s world is dark and threatening, with no ray of hope on the horizon, and the narrator is grimly sarcastic about everything, and yet at the core of his sarcasm there is no cynicism but rather moral indignation. The narrator of Pickwick, however was more genial and the world he described had dark nooks and corners, but on the whole, it was more of a Merry Old England than the world in Oliver Twist. There is also another difference that struck me, and that is the swift pace at which the narrative proceeds. We have not read one hundred pages, and Oliver is already in London. Compare this to the slow build-up and the various narrative threads of later works like Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend, and you’ll find another aspect of Dickens’s development as a writer. All in all, I get the impression that behind the narrator, we have an angry young man who wants to lacerate the iniquities of his society. I really wonder how the readers of Pickwick Papers responded to that change of tone and pace when the novel was being published in instalments.

In Chapter 5, we see how Oliver spends his first dismal night in Mr. Sowerberry’s workshop, where “the atmosphere seemed tainted with the smell of coffins.” Somehow, this reminded me of the Coen brothers’ version of the film “True Grit”, where the little girl also sleeps in the undertaker’s workshop and the undertaker behaves as though he was doing an immense favour to her. The narrator tells us how lonely and forlorn Oliver feels, not so much because of the gruesome surroundings but even more because of the lack of love in his life:

”The boy had no friends to care for, or to care for him. The regret of no recent separation was fresh in his mind; the absence of no loved and well-remembered face sank heavily into his heart.

But his heart was heavy, notwithstanding; and he wished, as he crept into his narrow bed, that that were his coffin, and that he could be lain in a calm and lasting sleep in the churchyard ground, with the tall grass waving gently above his head, and the sound of the old deep bell to soothe him in his sleep.”


The next morning, Oliver makes the unpleasant acquaintance of Noah Claypole, who also stands in Mr. Sowerberry’s employment, and who immediately starts putting Oliver down, both by making fun of him for being an orphan and by using physical violence against him. Dickens shows great insight into human nature when he gives us the reasons for Noah’s behaviour:

”Noah was a charity-boy, but not a workhouse orphan. No chance-child was he, for he could trace his genealogy all the way back to his parents, who lived hard by; his mother being a washerwoman, and his father a drunken soldier, discharged with a wooden leg, and a diurnal pension of twopence-halfpenny and an unstateable fraction. The shop-boys in the neighbourhood had long been in the habit of branding Noah in the public streets, with the ignominious epithets of 'leathers,' 'charity,' and the like; and Noah had bourne them without reply. But, now that fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphan, at whom even the meanest could point the finger of scorn, he retorted on him with interest. This affords charming food for contemplation. It shows us what a beautiful thing human nature may be made to be; and how impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lord and the dirtiest charity-boy.”


Some thoughts
Can we see Noah, too, as a victim of circumstances, as a boy who has undergone so many humiliations that now he jumps at the chance of venting his pent-up frustration? And why is it that charity-schools in Dickens’s universe always turn out such snivelling hypocrites like Noah, Rob the Grinder, and, last but not least, Uriah Heep?

A month goes by, and Mr. Sowerberry is quite satisfied with Oliver – so much so, in fact, that he decides to employ him as a mute for children’s funerals. A mute was typical of Victorian funeral rites, which tended to be rather pompous: Mutes were paid mourners that had to look rather glum and melancholy, not doing anything else. Coming to think of it, what does it tell you about Oliver’s life that the 10-year old boy, in Mr. Sowerberry’s eyes, seems so well-disposed to go as a mute?

The chapter then tells us how Oliver for the first time goes to a funeral with Mr. Sowerberry: The scene is a masterpiece of bitter sarcasm in that the poverty of the mourners is set against the callousness of those involved in the funeral via their procession. The late woman’s mother is obviously out of her mind with hunger and deprivation, and the fact that the family is given some bread and cheese, plus the right to use a cloak for the funeral, really seems to be more important to her than her daughter’s death. Still, one cannot help but feel that this seemingly unnatural mother is not really herself. The callousness of the other people at the funeral, however, cannot be explained that way:

”There was not so great a necessity for hurrying as Mr. Sowerberry had anticipated, however; for when they reached the obscure corner of the churchyard in which the nettles grew, and where the parish graves were made, the clergyman had not arrived; and the clerk, who was sitting by the vestry-room fire, seemed to think it by no means improbable that it might be an hour or so, before he came. So, they put the bier on the brink of the grave; and the two mourners waited patiently in the damp clay, with a cold rain drizzling down, while the ragged boys whom the spectacle had attracted into the churchyard played a noisy game at hide-and-seek among the tombstones, or varied their amusements by jumping backwards and forwards over the coffin. Mr. Sowerberry and Bumble, being personal friends of the clerk, sat by the fire with him, and read the paper.

At length, after a lapse of something more than an hour, Mr. Bumble, and Sowerberry, and the clerk, were seen running towards the grave. Immediately afterwards, the clergyman appeared: putting on his surplice as he came along. Mr. Bumble then thrashed a boy or two, to keep up appearances; and the reverend gentleman, having read as much of the burial service as could be compressed into four minutes, gave his surplice to the clerk, and walked away again.”


What does it say about a clergyman if he does this sad duty with such a laxity and with such a lack of feeling and pity? You also get the impression that the dead woman is put into a mass grave because apparently the grave-digger does not have to work long before her coffin is covered with earth, which means that she cannot have been buried very deep.

All in all, the reader will start to fear for Oliver because his obvious rise in Mr. Sowerberry’s eyes will bring upon him the wrath of Noah, and from what passes between Mr. Sowerberry and his wife, one gets the impression that he is one of Dickens’s many hen-pecked husbands.

Favourite quotation:

”Thus saying, Mr. Bumble put on his cocked hat wrong side first, in a fever of parochial excitement; and flounced out of the shop.”



Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Chapter 6 gives us a very important event in Oliver’s life, a clash between himself and Noah, which will eventually make Oliver run away from Mr. Sowerberry’s and try his luck in London.

First of all, however, the narrator gives us two examples of his caustic wit, namely this one:

”It was a nice sickly season just at this time. In commercial phrase, coffins were looking up; and, in the course of a few weeks, Oliver acquired a great deal of experience. The success of Mr. Sowerberry's ingenious speculation, exceeded even his most sanguine hopes. The oldest inhabitants recollected no period at which measles had been so prevalent, or so fatal to infant existence; and many were the mournful processions which little Oliver headed, in a hat-band reaching down to his knees, to the indescribable admiration and emotion of all the mothers in the town.”


It makes you really stop and think whether you ought to laugh or cry, but especially the last part of the quotation reminds me of people’s behaviour during funerals. From what I have experienced in my earlier years, which I spent in a small village, funerals also served people as occasions to see what other people were wearing, or how the funeral was organized, e.g. how much money went into the exteriors (the coffin, for instance) – the interior usually being for free.

Then the narrator ironically comments on most people’s admirable ability to bear their losses with great fortitude, an ability that impresses Oliver very much and teaches him a lot about life.

Do you rather enjoy these bits of jaundiced comments by our narrator, or do you miss the light-heartedness of Mr. Pickwick’s world? Does Oliver’s constant plight remind you, maybe, of a fairy-tale situation, in which a girl like Cinderella is mistreated by her family and everyone around her? Do you consider the bleakness of his situation, his utterly hostile environment, exaggerated, or do you think it was a realistic depiction of the situation of such a child? Apart from that, would a child subjected to such treatment still remain as patient and docile as Oliver? Here is his situation, put in a nutshell by the narrator:

”That Oliver Twist was moved to resignation by the example of these good people, I cannot, although I am his biographer, undertake to affirm with any degree of confidence; but I can most distinctly say, that for many months he continued meekly to submit to the domination and ill-treatment of Noah Claypole: who used him far worse than before, now that his jealousy was roused by seeing the new boy promoted to the black stick and hatband, while he, the old one, remained stationary in the muffin-cap and leathers. Charlotte treated him ill, because Noah did; and Mrs. Sowerberry was his decided enemy, because Mr. Sowerberry was disposed to be his friend; so, between these three on one side, and a glut of funerals on the other, Oliver was not altogether as comfortable as the hungry pig was, when he was shut up, by mistake, in the grain department of a brewery.”


Be that as it may, our chapter now describes how Oliver finally loses his patience and strikes back. Characteristically, this does not happen on his own behalf but because Noah starts vilifying Oliver’s mother in the meanest manner. Oliver gives him fair warning first, but finally, on Noah’s persisting in calling her names, the young boy attacks his tormentor, and it is just by the united forces of Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry that Oliver can be restrained. Since Mr. Sowerberry is not at home, the undertaker’s wife sends Noah for Mr. Bumble after they have shoved Oliver into the dust-cellar.

At this interesting point, the instalment breaks off, but unlike Victorian readers, we need not wait to see what is going to happen but can right away plunge into the ensuing chapter.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Chapter 7 takes up the action right where Chapter 6 left us: Noah runs to the workhouse, not without making sure that his condition looks as though he were extremely ill-used and terrified, and tells his tale to Mr. Bumble. As ill-luck would have it, the gentleman in the white waistcoat – and how white it must be – walks past and notices the distraught Noah, who now paints a picture of Oliver as a bloodthirsty murderer, having tried to despatch not only him, i.e. Noah, but also Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry. He absurdly adds that Oliver had also said he would have wanted to kill his master, too, if only he were in.

The gentleman in the white waistcoat then tells Mr. Bumble to betake himself to the Sowerberrys’ house and flog Oliver. When the beadle arrives at his destination, he finds that Oliver, to whom he speaks through the keyhole of the door of the dust-cellar, does not show any signs of intimidation or fear at the sound of his voice. Mr. Bumble is horrified at finding that his authority no longer daunts the refractory child, but he does not concur with Mrs. Sowerberry in thinking that Oliver must have gone downright mad. Instead, he says, and this is one of the funniest quotations in this chapter,

”'It's not Madness, ma'am,' replied Mr. Bumble, after a few moments of deep meditation. 'It's Meat.'

'What?' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.

'Meat, ma'am, meat,' replied Bumble, with stern emphasis. 'You've over-fed him, ma'am. You've raised a artificial soul and spirit in him, ma'am unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs. Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It's quite enough that we let 'em have live bodies. If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma'am, this would never have happened.'”


Matters come to a head when Mr. Sowerberry arrives and finds himself compelled, because everyone present expects it, to inflict corporeal punishment on Oliver. During this beating, Oliver does not shed a tear or utter so much as a wail, but when he is left alone, he bemoans his fate, and in the early morning, he finally lets himself out of the house and runs away from the undertaker’s. As chance has it, his way takes him past the house of Mrs. Mann, where, it being very early, only one young boy – a former playmate of his – is weeding the garden. This little child recognizes Oliver and, on hearing that Oliver is running away, wishes him luck and blesses him. The chapter ends thus:

”The blessing was from a young child's lips, but it was the first that Oliver had ever heard invoked upon his head; and through the struggles and sufferings, and troubles and changes, of his after life, he never once forgot it.”


Now over to some thoughts and questions:

I was very surprised to find Oliver, who appeared very timid and shy to me, all of a sudden displaying so much spirit and strength. Not only does he resist Bumble’s threats, which might not be so difficult after all, through a closed door, but he also makes a successful effort at not showing any signs of pain to his enemies when Mr. Sowerberry beats him. What does this tell us about Oliver?

One might also want to say one or two words about the philosophy towards the poor shown in Mr. Bumble’s word quoted above. It is also very mean of Bumble that he falls in with the invectives against Oliver’s mother, and perversely, he seems to hate her for the determination she has shown in making sure that she could give birth to Oliver in a sheltered place. Here is what Bumble says about Oliver’s mother:

”'Ah!' said Mr. Bumble, when the lady brought her eyes down to earth again; 'the only thing that can be done now, that I know of, is to leave him in the cellar for a day or so, till he's a little starved down; and then to take him out, and keep him on gruel all through the apprenticeship. He comes of a bad family. Excitable natures, Mrs. Sowerberry! Both the nurse and doctor said, that that mother of his made her way here, against difficulties and pain that would have killed any well-disposed woman, weeks before.' [my underlinings]


Another question is what to make of Mr. Sowerberry. The narrator gives us some brief insight into his character:

”To do him justice, he was, as far as his power went--it was not very extensive--kindly disposed towards the boy; perhaps, because it was his interest to be so; perhaps, because his wife disliked him. The flood of tears, however, left him no resource; so he at once gave him a drubbing, which satisfied even Mrs. Sowerberry herself, and rendered Mr. Bumble's subsequent application of the parochial cane, rather unnecessary.”


Then, what do you think of the narrator’s way of treating Oliver’s running away? Is it a spontaneous impulse, or a well-determined plan? To me, it seems like a kneejerk reaction since the narrator never mentioned any plans of Oliver’s wanting to run away before, and since Oliver does not even know where to go. All in all, this shows how desperate the little boy is, and the narrator’s description makes Oliver appear like some kind of martyr:

”It was a cold, dark night. The stars seemed, to the boy's eyes, farther from the earth than he had ever seen them before; there was no wind; and the sombre shadows thrown by the trees upon the ground, looked sepulchral and death-like, from being so still.”


If stars are lights of hope, Oliver is, indeed, very far away from even the nearest of stars.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Chapter 8 takes us and Oliver on a strenuous journey to London, and it is interesting that originally, Oliver had not intended to go at London at all. In fact, the little boy had started out with no concrete idea to going anywhere particular, and it is just when he sees a milestone that he remembers what some workhouse inmates said about London, namely that it is a place where no “lad of spirit” need suffer want. Apart from that, Oliver also thinks that in such a large city, it will be very hard for Mr. Bumble to track him down, should he be so disposed.

So, is it fate or just coincidence that leads our protagonist into the English metropolis?

London is 65 miles away, and Oliver is on foot and has only small provisions, but nevertheless, he commences this fierce journey undaunted. On his way to London, he only meets few people who are willing to help him, one of them a poor old woman, who has a son lost in one of the English colonies. Most other people are hard-hearted, or they regard Oliver as an interesting pastime on their own monotonous journey by coach, promising him a half-penny if he showed them how long he could run after the coach. He is far too exhausted to keep up pace with the horses for a long time, which makes them consider him a lazy boy and put their coins back in their pockets. In short, the odds of ever reaching London are strongly against Oliver, but still he keeps on trudging on his way. I don’t know how many of you have ever watched Roman Polanski’s movie version of the novel, but if I remember it correctly, the director gave a lot of room to Oliver’s odyssey. Apparently, it revived memories of his own childhood in the Second World War, e.g. his flight from the ghetto in Krakow in 1943, and his successful attempts at hiding from the Nazis when he even pretended to be a Catholic boy in order to find shelter among Polish farmers, who sometimes shared the anti-Semitic hatred of the Nazis. On another level, this passage also reminds me of a similar situation in David Copperfield, namely when David decides to walk on foot to Dover, where his aunt, of whom he only has dim childhood recollections, lives.

Oliver eventually arrives in the town of Barton, where he sits down on a doorstep, tired and exhausted. Here, he is noticed by Jack Dawkins, aka The Artful Dodger, probably one of the most interesting characters in the whole novel. The Artful Dodger is described as a boy who gives himself the airs of an adult man, and to Oliver, meeting such a world-wise and precocious boy, whose language is full of expressions unknown to Oliver, must surely be a bewildering experience. There is one little detail that takes the reader aback concerning Jack Dawkins, and I am giving you part of the description to let you figure out which detail I mean:

”He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bow-legs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment--and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in the bluchers.”


The Artful Dodger provides Oliver with some food and drink and then asks him whether he would not like to accompany him to London. We can only guess about the motives of this young gentleman, but can it be completely ruled out that the Artful Dodger feels pity for Oliver? After all, even by introducing Oliver to Fagin and his own kind of life, Jack Dawkins might still be thinking to do Oliver a favour since the Artful Dodger probably does not know any other kind of life. What made him the boy he is? Did he go through similar experiences as Oliver? Is he really only interested in profiting from leading Oliver into Fagin’s den – as the other boys there are interested in emptying Oliver’s pockets for purely egoistic reasons?

Oliver, on the other hand, is not too grateful and disinterested himself. I would even say he is rather priggish, and I have got the following little passage to support my impression:

”Oliver concluded that, being of a dissipated and careless turn, the moral precepts of his benefactor had hitherto been thrown away upon him. Under this impression, he secretly resolved to cultivate the good opinion of the old gentleman as quickly as possible; and, if he found the Dodger incorrigible, as he more than half suspected he should, to decline the honour of his farther acquaintance.”


So, for Oliver, the Artful Dodger serves as a means of making the old gentleman’s – it does sound like a euphemistic expression for Old Nick, doesn’t it? – acquaintance, but he is also determined to cast him off once he has served his purpose. What do you think of that?

I was pointing out the implications of the often-used expression “the old gentleman” with reference to Fagin here. When we later meet him at the end of the chapter, the old man is described as holding a toasting fork and roasting some sausages. Is this a pure coincidence, or are we given to understand that Fagin is, indeed, a devilish character? Fagin is also identified as a Jew from the very beginning, something that caused some of Dickens’s contemporary (and later) readers to accuse the author of pandering to anti-Semitic stereotypes. In my Penguin edition, it says, however, that Fagin was partly based on a real-life Jewish receiver, whose name was Ikey Solomon and who was somewhat notorious in London. This rises the question whether Dickens used the stereotype of the Jewish fence without any real anti-Semitic background, or whether he wanted to exploit potential anti-Jewish feelings among his readers. We all know that he atoned for this early stereotype by creating the Jewish character Mr. Riah in his last complete novel, but still one may wonder.


Mary Lou | 2519 comments ...between these three on one side, and a glut of funerals on the other, Oliver was not altogether as comfortable as the hungry pig was, when he was shut up, by mistake, in the grain department of a brewery...."

This quote played a bit of a mind game with me. For just a quick moment, I heard Sam Weller's voice and I had to remember just which book I was reading. To me, this Wellerism just didn't fit in well with the the tone of OT.


Mary Lou | 2519 comments It would seem that Dickens was nearly as cynical about the funeral industry as he was the legal profession. I get that - surely it's only gotten worse in the 21st century. But I was a bit surprised at how jaded he seems to me to be about death in general. Dickens is a contradiction. On the one hand, he writes melodramatic death scenes (Jo, Stephen Blackpool, Betty Higden, and [I'm told] Little Nell to name a few), but then he writes this:

..."he had many opportunities of observing the beautiful resignation and fortitude with which some strong-minded people bear their trials and losses.
For instance; when Sowerberry had an order for the burial of some rich old lady or gentleman, who was surrounded by a great number of nephews and nieces, who had been perfectly inconsolable during the previous illness, and whose grief had been wholly irrepressible even on the most public occasions, they would be as happy among themselves as need be- quite cheerful and contented- conversing together with as much freedom and gaiety, as if nothing whatever had happened to disturb them. Husbands, too, bore the loss of their wives with the most heroic calmness. Wives, again, put on weeds for their husbands, as if, so far from grieving in the garb of sorrow, they had made up their minds to render it as becoming and attractive as possible. It was observable, too, that ladies and gentlemen who were in passions of anguish during the ceremony of interment, recovered almost as soon as they reached home, and became quite composed before the tea-drinking was over. "


Now, some might say that Dickens was being literal, and that these mourners truly did an admirable job of "bearing their trials and losses" but I read it as a more cynical look at human nature. How do all of you see it? Are these mourners of the same ilk as Miss Havisham's relatives in Great Expectations or Martin Chuzzlewit's many hopeful heirs? How can one man - a very young man - write those death scenes and yet already be so cynical? I really don't expect answers. Just something I want to chew on for a bit.


Mary Lou | 2519 comments Tristram wrote: "London is 65 miles away"

Let's just think about that for a moment. Oliver is malnourished; small for his young age. If he had shoes, they were probably ill-fitting and worn. He had no money, no friends, almost no food, no drink. We're told it's winter.

I know Dickens walked a lot, probably covering many miles in an outing, whereas I am a couch potato. Even giving Dickens the benefit of the doubt as to what might be physically possible, I wonder how a little fellow like Oliver manages this? It's extraordinary to me that he didn't die on his first night out. I don't specifically remember the Polanski film, but I think he was right to give this journey a bit of extra screen time.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Tristram wrote: "Compare this to the slow build-up and the various narrative threads of later works like Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend, and you’ll find another aspect of Dickens’s development as a writer...."

One of the things that struck me reading Bleak House was Dickens's rich descriptions of London. I will be looking for that going forward, but I haven't seen that kind of writing yet in OT. Not sure I'm going to see it either. This is a different Dickens in temperament and abilities, I think.

I keep reading how much darker Dickens's writing got as the years went by. I'm not sure if darker and angrier are the same thing, but dickens seems pretty angry here. Or is it that his anger is just more obvious, and later in his career, when he is more artful at plying his craft, he's better at burying his anger in the narrative, the characters, and the exaggeration?

Reading of Oliver sleeping among coffins reminds me of sister Crucifix in Les Miserables sleeping in her coffin all those years. I thought that entire chapter, including the good sister's burial, to be Dickensian parody.

All those "orphans" in London also remind me of all those "orphans" Hugo speaks of in Paris.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Tristram wrote: "Can we see Noah, too, as a victim of circumstances, as a boy who has undergone so many humiliations that now he jumps at the chance of venting his pent-up frustration? ..."

Yes, but he's older than Oliver and smart enough to recognize the threat Oliver poses. Sowerberry sees a future in OT, and Noah sees him seeing it. So he disposes of Oliver efficiently. How did Noah know Oliver's mother would be his soft yet angry spot? Probably because it would have been Noah's too or any child's from an orphanage or a workhouse.

Have you noticed how differently Noah, who lives in an orphanage, is treated than Oliver, who lived in a workhouse, is? Noah's shown some respect and more than a little kindness, while Oliver is treated like scum. This is something else I noticed in Les Miserable -- sorry for all the references to Hugo's work. If I should stop, say so -- it's as if penury is judged a crime, and even the children are guilty by circumstance.

One thing Dickens has had from the get-go -- his way with names.

Sowerberry
Bumble the Beadle


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Tristram wrote: "The blessing was from a young child's lips, but it was the first that Oliver had ever heard invoked upon his head; and through the struggles and sufferings, and troubles and changes, of his after life, he never once forgot it..."

this was the passage that struck me like a bolt, unlike any other in the story so far.


message 11: by Xan (last edited Jun 10, 2018 10:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Tristram wrote: "It is also very mean of Bumble that he falls in with the invectives against Oliver’s mother, and perversely, he seems to hate her for the determination she has shown in making sure that she could give birth to Oliver in a sheltered place. Here is what Bumble says about Oliver’s mother:..."

This is interesting. First, it's both wrong and right. She's found face down in the road unable to go on. She is delivered to the workhouse. An exaggeration on Bumble's part? The nurse's? A legend making the rounds in the workhouse?

But it's also true. Oliver's mother will not die until she can see his face. After all she's been through, though left empty and without energy, she still shows strength. And so does Oliver.


Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Chapter 6 gives us a very important event in Oliver’s life, a clash between himself and Noah, which will eventually make Oliver run away from Mr. Sowerberry’s and try his luck in London.

First of ..."


Pickwick is so far away.

As Tristram has noted, we see in OT a narrator who is intent on guiding his readers. Consider the following:

“And now I come to a very important passage in Oliver’s history; for I have to record an act, slight and unimportant perhaps in appearance, but which indirectly produced a material change in all his [Oliver’s] future prospects and proceedings.”

In this passage Dickens addresses his audience directly to mark a specific point in the plot. He does so with a clear and unambiguous voice. Was the younger Dickens unsure of how effectively he was engaging his reading audience? I don’t think so. With Sketches and PP behind him, Dickens was very secure in his writing and his voice. Dickens would continually refine his voice, of course, but there is little here to suggest any unease. Perhaps it was simply the fact that Dickens wanted to engage his audience directly. Such interpolations in his work were, if not as common as Trollope’s, still frequent.

Whatever the reason, the connection that was being formed gives Dickens that special voice that will be heard again and again in our readings.

Dickens frequently moves between the author’s voice, the narrator’s voice and the character’s voice. This fluidity brings intimacy between Dickens and his readers.


message 13: by Alissa (last edited Jun 10, 2018 08:59PM) (new) - added it

Alissa | 317 comments I was shocked by the violence and unfairness to Oliver at the Sowerberry's. They all teamed up against him, even Sowerberry himself. Oliver hitting Noah was a fateful event indeed, where everybody showed their true colors.

Even Mr. Bumble sided with Noah instantly, even though he named Oliver and watched him grow up, while Noah was an outsider and a liar. It surprised me how easily Bumble fell under Noah's sway. He didn't even think to ask Oliver's side of the story.

Even so, I couldn't help but laugh at Dickens's humor. I like how he points out the silliness of the bad guys. These lines in particular cracked me up:

"He's turned wicious, replied Noah...And here, Noah writhed and twisted his body into an extensive variety of eel-like positions..."

"Certainly, my boy; certainly, said the gentleman in the white waistcoat: smiling benignly, and patting Noah's head, which was about three inches higher than his own. You're a good boy—a very good boy. Here's a penny for you."



message 14: by Alissa (new) - added it

Alissa | 317 comments I think the meat is symbolic. In chapter 4, Dickens describes the meat as "victuals" which I had to look up, and it comes from a root word meaning "to live." So, meat is the life force or essence that Oliver got access to for the first time. It strengthened him and increased his spirit to fight for his rights, just as Bumble feared.

This reminds me of Gandhi's story. Some Indians argued that the British ruled India because the British were meat-eaters, which made them stronger, while the Indians were vegetarians, which made them weak and docile. Gandhi believed it and started eating meat, but eventually changed his mind and went vegetarian again.


message 15: by John (last edited Jun 11, 2018 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jdourg) | 1120 comments One thing that I came into with OT was the idea that it was "simplistic." I got this idea from several biographies of Dickens I read that basically said his narrative powers and plot complexity and overarching themes were not yet manifested. Frankly, given what I've read so far, this strikes me as either unfair or inaccurate.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "London is 65 miles away"

Let's just think about that for a moment. Oliver is malnourished; small for his young age. If he had shoes, they were probably ill-fitting and worn. He ha..."


To make it even more understandable: A distance of 65 miles equals a distance of roughly 105 kilometres! On a nice summer's day, with the prospect of a crunchy pork knuckle and one or two mugs of beer before me as soon as I reach the next beer garden, I normally cover about 6 km an hour - but I am not half-starved like Oliver and have good shoes. Just consider that Oliver walked that distance in the winter, with shoes that were falling apart and not much more than a shirt to his back. I remember that he had a penny with him, which he converted into a crumb of bread on the first day, when he even walked - correct me if I am wrong - some 20 miles. It is a wonder that he lived to see the town of Barton, only to find himself exchanging the frying pan for the fire.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "It would seem that Dickens was nearly as cynical about the funeral industry as he was the legal profession. I get that - surely it's only gotten worse in the 21st century. But I was a bit surprised..."

I must say that I find Dickens's bitter cynicism in this novel quite appealing, although it would have been more efficient in smaller doses. Maybe, Dickens made a difference between death itself on the one hand - and therefore we have the very touching death scenes, and the cheesy one of Little Nell [sorry, couldn't resist] - and people's way of dealing with death on the other, which gives us the bunches of greedy legacy hunters.

By the way, the passage you quote reminded me of one of my favourite bits from Bierce's Devil's Dictionary. Here it is:

"HANDKERCHIEF, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals to conceal the lack of tears."



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Tristram wrote: "London is 65 miles away

To make it even more understandable: A distance of 65 miles equals a distance of roughly 105 kilometres!"


I fail to see how saying 65 miles is equal to 105 kilometres can make anything more understandable.


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Tristram wrote: "Can we see Noah, too, as a victim of circumstances, as a boy who has undergone so many humiliations that now he jumps at the chance of venting his pent-up frustration?"

There certainly are some mean people in this book. I would have thought that Noah, knowing how it felt to be humiliated by other boys his whole life would go out of his way not to do it to someone else, but would show him kindness to see that this new boy would feel better than he ever did. Thinking to when I was a girl in elementary school and those lovely days of being humiliated because of my seizures or my falling down because of the medicine, or having my gums swell and bleed constantly, (also because of the medicine) giving me a not so nice smile that, while making you look terrible in pictures - something I still avoid - makes you an easy target for getting picked on. Thinking of those things even back then I know I never, ever did the same thing to anyone else. Nothing could have made me do such a thing. Back to what I said in the beginning, people in this book are just mean.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "London is 65 miles away

To make it even more understandable: A distance of 65 miles equals a distance of roughly 105 kilometres!"

I fail to see how saying 65 miles is equal to 10..."


It was really a very long time before I could get it into my brain how long an inch or a yard or a mile really is. I also still reconvert Euros into D-Mark in order to get an idea of how much something really costs. It's just a matter of what you grew up with.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
I always thought that Noah's behaviour makes sense, although it does not make the character more likeable at all. He has been looked down on by everyone but Charlotte, and now with Oliver he found somebody even below him on the social ladder, and that's why he happily vents all his pent-up aggressions on that person.

What really makes me wonder, however, is that adult people do not find it below themselves to taunt a little boy by insulting his dead mother.


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Alissa wrote: "I think the meat is symbolic. In chapter 4, Dickens describes the meat as "victuals" which I had to look up, and it comes from a root word meaning "to live." So, meat is the life force or essence t..."

Alissa,

That is a very interesting theory, India and vegetarianism. I did not know that even Gandhi thought that meat-eating gave the British the power to exert their rule in India.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
John,

Congratulations on making your way through Les Misérables! I made several honest attempts but never could make it through the entire book.

As to Dickens's unveiled anger, maybe this is because he was still a young writer. An older man is probably more likely to coat his wrath into a cloak of bitterness, which may not always be better, because as long as I am angry I feel that I might make a change, whereas bitterness is often a twin of resignation.


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John (jdourg) | 1120 comments Tristram wrote: "John,

Congratulations on making your way through Les Misérables! I made several honest attempts but never could make it through the entire book.

As to Dickens's unveiled anger, maybe this is beca..."


Tristram,

I agree with your second paragraph. With regard to the first, it must have been a different John reading Hugo. I've never read that one. I just started reading Philip Larkin's second collection of poems, The Less Deceived, though.


Mary Lou | 2519 comments Kim wrote: "Back to what I said in the beginning, people in this book are just mean. .."

I think this is why I didn't like this book too much the first time I read it many decades ago, Kim. But I'm hoping that there will soon be some light (and hopefully some humor) to balance the darkness we've been submerged in thus far.

Tristram wrote: An older man is probably more likely to coat his wrath into a cloak of bitterness, which may not always be better, because as long as I am angry I feel that I might make a change, whereas bitterness is often a twin of resignation....

Very insightful, Tristram.


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Did you want a coffin Sir?

Chapter 5

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

Oliver was awakened in the morning, by a loud kicking at the outside of the shop-door: which, before he could huddle on his clothes, was repeated, in an angry and impetuous manner, about twenty-five times. When he began to undo the chain, the legs desisted, and a voice began.

'Open the door, will yer?' cried the voice which belonged to the legs which had kicked at the door.

'I will, directly, sir,' replied Oliver: undoing the chain, and turning the key.

'I suppose yer the new boy, ain't yer?' said the voice through the key-hole.

'Yes, sir,' replied Oliver.

'How old are yer?' inquired the voice.

'Ten, sir,' replied Oliver.

'Then I'll whop yer when I get in,' said the voice; 'you just see if I don't, that's all, my work'us brat!' and having made this obliging promise, the voice began to whistle.

Oliver had been too often subjected to the process to which the very expressive monosyllable just recorded bears reference, to entertain the smallest doubt that the owner of the voice, whoever he might be, would redeem his pledge, most honourably. He drew back the bolts with a trembling hand, and opened the door.

For a second or two, Oliver glanced up the street, and down the street, and over the way: impressed with the belief that the unknown, who had addressed him through the key-hole, had walked a few paces off, to warm himself; for nobody did he see but a big charity-boy, sitting on a post in front of the house, eating a slice of bread and butter: which he cut into wedges, the size of his mouth, with a clasp-knife, and then consumed with great dexterity.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Oliver at length: seeing that no other visitor made his appearance; 'did you knock?'

'I kicked,' replied the charity-boy.

'Did you want a coffin, sir?' inquired Oliver, innocently.

At this, the charity-boy looked monstrous fierce; and said that Oliver would want one before long, if he cut jokes with his superiors in that way.

'Yer don't know who I am, I suppose, Work'us?' said the charity-boy, in continuation: descending from the top of the post, meanwhile, with edifying gravity.

'No, sir,' rejoined Oliver.

'I'm Mister Noah Claypole,' said the charity-boy, 'and you're under me. Take down the shutters, yer idle young ruffian!' With this, Mr. Claypole administered a kick to Oliver, and entered the shop with a dignified air, which did him great credit. It is difficult for a large-headed, small-eyed youth, of lumbering make and heavy countenance, to look dignified under any circumstances; but it is more especially so, when superadded to these personal attractions are a red nose and yellow smalls.



Commentary:

An 1885 collection of colour illustrations from Oliver Twist was produced by the artist Frederick Pailthorpe, who also illustrated Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. Like George Cruikshank, Oliver Twist's original illustrator and a friend of Pailthorpe, Pailthorpe uses satire and caricature in his interpretations of the novel's scenes and characters.


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Oliver plucks up a spirit

Chapter 6

George Cruikshank, 1792-1878

Text Illustrated:

"Work'us," said Noah, "how's your mother?"

"She's dead," replied Oliver; "don't you say anything about her to me!"

Oliver's colour rose as he said this; he breathed quickly; and there was a curious working of the mouth and nostrils, which Mr. Claypole thought must be the immediate precursor of a violent fit of crying. Under this impression he returned to the charge.

"What did she die of, Work'us?" said Noah.

"Of a broken heart, some of our old nurses told me," replied Oliver: more as if he were talking to himself, than answering Noah. "I think I know what it must be to die of that!"

"Tol de rol lol lol, right fol lairy, Work'us," said Noah, as a tear rolled down Oliver's cheek. "What's set you a snivelling now?"

"Not YOU,' replied Oliver, sharply. "There; that's enough. Don't say anything more to me about her; you'd better not!"

"Better not!" exclaimed Noah. "Well! Better not! Work'us, don't be impudent. your mother, too! She was a nice 'un she was. Oh, Lor!" And here, Noah nodded his head expressively; and curled up as much of his small red nose as muscular action could collect together, for the occasion.

"Yer know, Work'us," continued Noah, emboldened by Oliver's silence, and speaking in a jeering tone of affected pity: of all tones the most annoying: "Yer know, W ork'us, it can't be helped now; and of course yer couldn't help it then; and I am very sorry for it; and I'm sure we all are, and pity yer very much. But yer must know, Work'us, yer mother was a regular right-down bad 'un."

"What did you say?" inquired Oliver, looking up very quickly.

"A regular right-down bad 'un, Work'us," replied Noah, coolly. "And it's a great deal better, Work'us, that she died when she did, or else she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung; which is more likely than either, isn't it?"

Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair and table; seized Noah by the throat; shook him, in the violence of his rage, till his teeth chattered in his head; and collecting his whole force into one heavy blow, felled him to the ground.

A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected creature that harsh treatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last; the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire. His breast heaved; his attitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid; his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now lay crouching at his feet; and defied him with an energy he had never known before.

"He'll murder me!' blubbered Noah. 'Charlotte! missis! Here's the new boy a murdering of me! Help! help! Oliver's gone mad! Char—lotte!" [Chapter 6, "Oliver, Being Goaded by the Taunts of Noah, Rouses into Action, and Rather Astonishes Him,"


Commentary:

Again, slight but plucky Oliver asserts himself, here acting as the nemesis of the arrogant bully Noah Claypole at the undertaker's. Noah's hectoring about the immorality of Oliver's mother rightly incenses the boy, promoting him to assault an older and more physically powerful boy. Needless to say, the reader's sympathy, reinforced by the illustration, is with the indignant Oliver.

in these early illustrations for the novel, what we see is the result of relatively harmonious collaboration between the great illustrator George Cruikshank, recognized at the time as the worthy successor to Hogarth, Rowlandson, and Gillray as a visual satirist, and the rising twenty-five-year-old writer, cited by one reviewer in the Spectator on 26 December 1836 as the Cruikshank of contemporary writers. This subject, like Oliver's asking for more and Oliver 's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was one which Dickens directly proposed to his illustrator for Bentley's Miscellany. Shortly, as Dickens and Cruikshank quarrelled over who should be the lead artist, the collaboration ceased to be so effective. The rocky relationship endured, however, from 1835 to 1841, from Sketches by Boz to the Pic Nic Papers, and Dickens generously (and wisely) approached the illustrator on behalf of Bradbury and Evans in 1845 to design the serial wrapper for the monthly parts.

Cruikshank followed Dickens's lead as he deployed more and more Hogarthian emblems in Oliver to reinforce aspects of character, plot, and theme. Cruikshank's use, for example, of objects of art is effective, though not as profound as it was in the Sketches by Boz or as the use made of them by Phiz in subsequent novels.

As the present illustration suggests, Cruikshank excels at depicting violence and repressed emotion with explosive force, and grotesquerie such as Noah Claypole's grimacing. The highly detailed depiction in the Sowerberry parlour in Cruikshank's illustration for the sixth chapter anticipates the interiors of Phiz in later novels, with elements of the composition that comment obliquely on the nature of the relationship between the recently arrived Oliver in clothing too small for him, the fashionably dressed undertaker's wife, and Noah, the egocentric charity boy whom Sowerberry has taken on as his assistant and who delights in tormenting Oliver. Cruikshank's organization of the dramatic scene is masterful, with each character in an appropriate pose, the juxtapositions of the four revealing their attitudes to one another, and the whole shaped into a pyramid with the wide-mouthed Mrs. Sowerberry (centre, rear) at the peak, the cowering, gangly-legged Noah at the base, right, and the overturned table drawing the eye to the left-hand corner. As in the accompanying narrative, Oliver in combative stance is centre, and the muscular Charlotte, trying to restrain him, left of centre. The women's fashions, as well as Noah's breeches and stockings, are consistent with the period of the early 1830s — we note as our eyes pass over the background details that another pair of Noah's stockings are drying on the clothesline, implying how well established he is in this kitchen and underscoring Oliver's being the outsider.

Complementing the pyramidal and rectangular forms underlying the scene are the emotional postures. Charlotte's raised fist draws the eye upwards, to the clothing on the line, but also connects Oliver's face, filled with indignation, and diagonally downward and right, to Noah's ineffectually raised elbow and terrified expression. The lighting and the expressions of the women and Noah all direct the reader's attention to Oliver, who himself is two pyramids: his arms, shoulders, and head form the upper pyramid, his legs, spread wide apart, forming the lower pyramid. He is doubly grounded, then, contrasting the rectangular blocks of chair, archway, door, and sideboard, all crowded into a tight space — incidentally, when Dickens was writing and Cruikshank at his instigation illustrating this scene, the author was anticipating his move from his relatively cramped bachelor's suite at Furnival's Inn to the more spacious accommodations of the townhouse at Doughty Street.

But what impresses the reader most about the composition is its wonderful communication of kinetic energy, for Oliver at the centre (in profile, with yet more to be revealed about his character and fortunes) is the driving force of the action here, even as he is the catalyst for the action of the entire story. This dynamic quality of the figures realizes visually the verbs and verbal forms, gerunds and gerundives, and numerous present and past particles (nodded, curled, continued, emboldened, speaking, jeering, affected, annoying, helped, looking, labouring, transported, started, chattered, dejected, roused, heaved, blubbered, etc.). The picture effectively captures the supporting attitudes of the other characters and the motivation of the protagonist; "the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire". The broken plates (far left), balancing the cowering apprentice (far right), imply that he, too, is about to be broken or shattered by the force of Oliver's temper. As Cohen notes of the animated quality of Cruikshank's figures,

If the characters in Cruikshank's cramped centripetal etchings for the Sketches by Boz seem possessed by "la violence extravagante du geste et du mouvement," said the French poet [Baudelaire, comparing Cruikshank's works to those of Breughel and Francisco Goya], those in Oliver Twist manifest "l'explosion dans l'expression," especially in the many scenes involving strong but repressed emotions.




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Noah running for Mr. Bumble

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1888

Text Illustrated:

'Ah! mercy indeed, ma'am,' was the reply. I only hope this'll teach master not to have any more of these dreadful creatures, that are born to be murderers and robbers from their very cradle. Poor Noah! He was all but killed, ma'am, when I come in.'

'Poor fellow!' said Mrs. Sowerberry: looking piteously on the charity-boy.

Noah, whose top waistcoat-button might have been somewhere on a level with the crown of Oliver's head, rubbed his eyes with the inside of his wrists while this commiseration was bestowed upon him, and performed some affecting tears and sniffs.

'What's to be done!' exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry. 'Your master's not at home; there's not a man in the house, and he'll kick that door down in ten minutes.' Oliver's vigorous plunges against the bit of timber in question, rendered this occurance highly probable.

'Dear, dear! I don't know, ma'am,' said Charlotte, 'unless we send for the police-officers.'

'Or the millingtary,' suggested Mr. Claypole.

'No, no,' said Mrs. Sowerberry: bethinking herself of Oliver's old friend. 'Run to Mr. Bumble, Noah, and tell him to come here directly, and not to lose a minute; never mind your cap! Make haste! You can hold a knife to that black eye, as you run along. It'll keep the swelling down.'

Noah stopped to make no reply, but started off at his fullest speed; and very much it astonished the people who were out walking, to see a charity-boy tearing through the streets pell-mell, with no cap on his head, and a clasp-knife at his eye.


Commentary:

An 1885 collection of colour illustrations from Oliver Twist was produced by the artist Frederick Pailthorpe, who also illustrated Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. Like George Cruikshank, Oliver Twist's original illustrator and a friend of Pailthorpe, Pailthorpe uses satire and caricature in his interpretations of the novel's scenes and characters.


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Oliver Aroused

Chapter 6

Harry Furness

Text Illustrated:

"Work'us," said Noah, "how's your mother?"

"She's dead," replied Oliver; "don't you say anything about her to me!"

Oliver's colour rose as he said this; he breathed quickly; and there was a curious working of the mouth and nostrils, which Mr. Claypole thought must be the immediate precursor of a violent fit of crying. Under this impression he returned to the charge.

"What did she die of, Work'us?" said Noah.

"Of a broken heart, some of our old nurses told me," replied Oliver: more as if he were talking to himself, than answering Noah. "I think I know what it must be to die of that!"

"Tol de rol lol lol, right fol lairy, Work'us," said Noah, as a tear rolled down Oliver's cheek. "What's set you a snivelling now?"

"Not you," replied Oliver, sharply. "There; that's enough. Don't say anything more to me about her; you'd better not!"

"Better not!" exclaimed Noah. "Well! Better not! Work'us, don't be impudent. Your mother, too! She was a nice 'un she was. Oh, Lor!" And here, Noah nodded his head expressively; and curled up as much of his small red nose as muscular action could collect together, for the occasion.

"Yer know, Work'us," continued Noah, emboldened by Oliver's silence, and speaking in a jeering tone of affected pity: of all tones the most annoying: "Yer know, Work'us, it can't be helped now; and of course yer couldn't help it then; and I am very sorry for it; and I'm sure we all are, and pity yer very much. But yer must know, Work'us, yer mother was a regular right-down bad 'un."

"What did you say?" inquired Oliver, looking up very quickly.

"A regular right-down bad 'un, Work'us," replied Noah, coolly. "And it's a great deal better, Work'us, that she died when she did, or else she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung; which is more likely than either, isn't it?"

Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair and table; seized Noah by the throat; shook him, in the violence of his rage, till his teeth chattered in his head; and collecting his whole force into one heavy blow, felled him to the ground.

A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected creature that harsh treatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last; the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire. His breast heaved; his attitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid; his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now lay crouching at his feet; and defied him with an energy he had never known before.

"He'll murder me!" blubbered Noah. "Charlotte! missis! Here's the new boy a murdering of me! Help! help! Oliver's gone mad! Char—lotte!"


Commentary:

This subject, like Oliver's asking for more and Oliver's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was one which Dickens directly proposed to his original illustrator George Cruikshank for Bentley's Miscellany as Oliver plucks up a spirit (April 1837). At this point in concluding The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, that other Dickensian protagonist has been unjustly accused and pronounced guilty, and therefore liable to substantial damages, in the March 1837 installment containing the courtroom scene, so that Dickens seems to have been acutely aware of the essential unfairness of life as the bullies and manipulators get the better of his well-meaning central characters.

As the present subject suggests, Dickens realized that Cruikshank excelled at depicting violence and repressed emotion with explosive force, and grotesquerie such as Noah Claypole's grimacing. Cruikshank's organization of the dramatic scene is masterful, with each character in an appropriate pose, the juxtapositions of the four revealing their attitudes to one another, and the whole shaped into a pyramid with the wide-mouthed Mrs. Sowerberry (centre, rear) at the peak, the cowering, gangly-legged Noah at the base, right, and the overturned table drawing the eye to the left-hand corner. As in the accompanying narrative, Oliver in combative stance is centre, and the muscular Charlotte, trying to restrain him, left of centre. Thus, the original serial illustration (April 1837) and its re-issue in 1846 offered Furniss an excellent model, but also posed him a problem in that he could hardly simply copy the original engraving.

Cruikshank's picture Oliver plucks up a spirit effectively captures the supporting attitudes of the other characters and the motivation of the protagonist; "the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire". The broken plates (far left), balancing the cowering apprentice (far right), imply that he, too, is about to be broken or shattered by the force of Oliver's temper. The Household Edition illustrator, James Mahoney, likewise used the Cruikshank plate as a point of departure for Oliver rather astonishes Noah .

In James Mahoney's engraving, however, Oliver is not being restrained by a towering Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry has yet to come through the door, so that the focus in the 1871 Household Edition version is upon a victorious Oliver, standing coolly above the cowering and chastised bully, who lies on the floor amidst shards of shattered china. As is consistent with Mahoney's realistic style, the wood-engraving constitutes a close-up which focusses upon the contrasting reactions of three actors rather than, as in Cruikshank, the chaotic background, or in Furniss, the violent action caught in a freeze-frame, and the sheer terror on Noah's face. Everything in the Mahoney plate seems solid and three dimensional, as if the reader is a member of an audience watching a theatrical action in which the mayhem has concluded and Oliver's indignation has subsided, so that the overall effect is realistic rather than, as in the other illustrators' treatments, hyperbolic and comical. The treatment of the subject in the Charles Dickens Library Edition is radically different.

Since Furniss enjoyed character comedy immensely, he delights in graphing the chaos that the diminutive Oliver has caused to the kitchen. His enemy, the surly Noah, cries out in terror as Oliver lunges towards him, his fist not quite reaching the bully because a much larger Charlotte has grabbed him by the collar. In the midst of this scene of wanton destruction, a sour-faced Mrs. Sowerberry is glaring are at adversaries from the central door. Everywhere the illustrator's exuberant use of swirling lines creates a sense of the tremendous energy that Noah's taunts have unleashed.


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"Oliver rather astonishes Noah"

Chapter 6

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1871

Commentary:

In a town seventy miles north of London, the parish beadle, Mr. Bumble, has placed eleven-year-old Oliver Twist as an apprentice with the lugubrious undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. This dramatic confrontation between the other apprentice (a "charity boy") and Oliver has been building up over the month's trial, but Noah the bully and the victim are now equal, as Oliver has just been formally apprenticed. The altercation, and its interruption by both the maid, partial to Noah, and Mrs. Sowerberry, is the subject of George Cruikshank's illustration for the third monthly instalment in Bentley's Miscellany in April 1837, Oliver plucks up a spirit, so that Mahoney had a working model for the scene, had he chosen to use it. However, in a number of respects, the Household Edition illustrator has chosen to deviate from Cruikshank's handling of the scene, substituting a noble and triumphant Oliver for the earlier, highly-animated, grossly underfed waif.

In James Mahoney's engraving, for example, Oliver is not being restrained by a towering Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry has yet to come through the door, so that the focus in the Household Edition version is upon a victorious Oliver, standing coolly above the cowering and chastised bully, who lies on the floor amidst shards of shattered china. As is consistent with Mahoney's style, the wood-engraving constitutes a close-up which focusses upon the contrasting reactions of three actors rather than, as in Cruikshank, the chaotic background, or in Furniss, the violent action caught in a freeze-frame, and the sheer terror on Noah's face. Everything in the Mahoney plate seems solid and three dimensional, as if the reader is a member of an audience watching a theatrical action in which the mayhem has concluded and Oliver's indignation has subsided, so that the overall effect is realistic rather than, as in the other illustrators' treatments, hyperbolic and comical.


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Oliver and Little Dick

chapter 7

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

He reached the house. There was no appearance of its inmates stirring at that early hour. Oliver stopped, and peeped into the garden. A child was weeding one of the little beds; as he stopped, he raised his pale face and disclosed the features of one of his former companions. Oliver felt glad to see him, before he went; for, though younger than himself, he had been his little friend and playmate. They had been beaten, and starved, and shut up together, many and many a time.

"Hush, Dick!" said Oliver, as the boy ran to the gate, and thrust his thin arm between the rails to greet him. "Is any one up?"

"Nobody but me," replied the child.

"You musn't say you saw me, Dick," said Oliver. "I am running away. They beat and ill-use me, Dick; and I am going to seek my fortune, some long way off. I don't know where. How pale you are!"

"I heard the doctor tell them I was dying," replied the child with a faint smile. 'I am very glad to see you, dear; but don't stop, don't stop!"

"Yes, yes, I will, to say good b'ye to you," replied Oliver. "I shall see you again, Dick. I know I shall! You will be well and happy!'

"I hope so," replied the child. "After I am dead, but not before. I know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of Heaven, and Angels, and kind faces that I never see when I am awake. Kiss me," said the child, climbing up the low gate, and flinging his little arms round Oliver's neck. "Good-b'ye, dear! God bless you!"


Commentary:

Although other illustrators have depicted Oliver as an underfed, sensitive child in the workhouse, Eytinge's treatment includes Oliver's only friend, a fellow sufferer of the parish charity system at Mrs, Mann;s baby-farm (the stage which precedes the workhouse). Here, Oliver stops to say good-bye to his friend and admirer as Oliver runs off to London to escape from the Sowerberries. Leaving behind Little Dick is Oliver's only regret. More times than not, minor characters make an appearance and then are forgotten by the reader. In the case of Little Dick, he makes an impression, not only upon Oliver in Charles Dickens Oliver Twist, but also upon the reader through one small act.

Little Dick learns that Oliver is about to run away from the orphanage. Before Oliver leaves, Little Dick blesses him. This act shows that a small orphan boy, someone mistreated and abused by society, still has a bright soul that he gives his blessing for another to have good fortune. He thinks of the welfare of Oliver above his own. This has an effect on Oliver, in that he wants someday to come back and rescue Little Dick from the orphanage.


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"Good b'ye, dear! God bless you!"

Chapter 7

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

"Hush, Dick!" said Oliver, as the boy ran to the gate, and thrust his thin arm between the rails to greet him. "Is any one up?"

"Nobody but me," replied the child.

"You musn't say you saw me, Dick," said Oliver. "I am running away. They beat and ill-use me, Dick; and I am going to seek my fortune, some long way off. I don't know where. How pale you are!"

"I heard the doctor tell them I was dying," replied the child with a faint smile. 'I am very glad to see you, dear; but don't stop, don't stop!"

"Yes, yes, I will, to say good b'ye to you," replied Oliver. "I shall see you again, Dick. I know I shall! You will be well and happy!'

"I hope so," replied the child. "After I am dead, but not before. I know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of Heaven, and Angels, and kind faces that I never see when I am awake. Kiss me," said the child, climbing up the low gate, and flinging his little arms round Oliver's neck. "Good-b'ye, dear! God bless you!"



Commentary:

An 1885 collection of color illustrations from Oliver Twist was produced by the artist Frederick Pailthorpe, who also illustrated Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. Like George Cruikshank, Oliver Twist's original illustrator and a friend of Pailthorpe, Pailthorpe uses satire and caricature in his interpretations of the novel's scenes and characters.


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Title page Vignette, Oliver at the Milestone

Chapter 8

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

Oliver reached the stile at which the by-path terminated; and once more gained the high-road. It was eight o'clock now. Though he was nearly five miles away from the town, he ran, and hid behind the hedges, by turns, till noon: fearing that he might be pursued and overtaken. Then he sat down to rest by the side of the milestone, and began to think, for the first time, where he had better go and try to live.

The stone by which he was seated, bore, in large characters, an intimation that it was just seventy miles from that spot to London. The name awakened a new train of ideas in the boy's mind. London! — that great large place! — nobody — not even Mr. Bumble — could ever find him there! He had often heard the old men in the workhouse, too, say that no lad of spirit need want in London; and that there were ways of living in that vast city, which those who had been bred up in country parts had no idea of. It was the very place for a homeless boy, who must die in the streets unless some one helped him. As these things passed through his thoughts, he jumped upon his feet, and again walked forward.


Commentary:

Having bid his only friend in the world, Little Dick, a tearful farewell at Mrs. Mann's baby-farm, Oliver now strikes out on the high road to London, as so many picaresque heroes before him — including Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and Sir Walter Scott's Jeanie Deanes (figures who, like Roderick Random and Peregrine Pickle, Dickens encountered in his boyhood reading). In his Household Edition volume of David Copperfield (which he illustrated just the year after Mahoney's volume for Oliver Twist came out in the same edition) lead Household Edition illustrator Fred Barnard makes palpable the connection between the earlier picaresque "adventure" of 1837-39 and the classic bildungsroman of 1849-50 by making his keynote the title-page vignette of the wayfaring David, exhausted and in rags, escaping the misery of his working-class existence in the metropolis for the hope of a better, middle-class life with a distant relative in Dover. The similarity in the plates suggests that Barnard may have seen the connection between Sowerberry's runaway apprentice, the victim of a stern stepfather, and the boy who worked in Warren's Blacking at Hungerford Stairs. Both title-page vignettes reveal Dickens's deep concern with abandoned and abused children — a reflection of his own troubled and psychologically damaging experiences with child labour. Then, too, as a student of the great visual satirist William Hogarth, like Dickens Fred Barnard could not have missed the connection between the novelist's picaresque heroes and the protagonists of the visual "progresses" of The Rake's Progress (1733) and The Harlot's Progress (1734). Oliver, after all, is about to enter the world of Fielding's Jonathan Wilde and Hogarth's Gin Lane.

This visual keynote, then, is very different from that of George Cruikshank in the original serial, in which Oliver challenges the workhouse system by asking for more food, the frontispiece for the 1846 edition. Mahoney's emphasis, then, is on Oliver as the victim of the system, the waif and outcast starting out on the high road of life, rather than Oliver as the protester and rebel, as the illustrator attempts from the first to elicit the reader's sympathy for the parish boy.


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"Oliver's Flight to London"

Chapter 8

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

Oliver reached the stile at which the by-path terminated; and once more gained the high-road. It was eight o'clock now. Though he was nearly five miles away from the town, he ran, and hid behind the hedges, by turns, till noon: fearing that he might be pursued and overtaken. Then he sat down to rest by the side of the milestone, and began to think, for the first time, where he had better go and try to live.

The stone by which he was seated, bore, in large characters, an intimation that it was just seventy miles from that spot to London. The name awakened a new train of ideas in the boy's mind.

London! — that great place! — nobody — not even Mr. Bumble — could ever find him there! He had often heard the old men in the workhouse, too, say that no lad of spirit need want in London; and that there were ways of living in that vast city, which those who had been bred up in country parts had no idea of. It was the very place for a homeless boy, who must die in the streets unless some one helped him. As these things passed through his thoughts, he jumped upon his feet, and again walked forward.


Commentary:

The keynote for Furniss's illustration of a scene heretofore unattempted by illustrators is not the description of the natural environment or the high-road to London, but the briefly sketched in psychological dimension of Oliver's running away from everything he has ever known: "fearing that he might be pursued and overtaken," is the basis for the grotesque vegetation and the psychologically projected figures in the sky. Although the above passage is, indeed, that which both James Mahoney and Harry Furness had in mind for their illustrations of Oliver's running away to London, Mahoney does not specify a particular passage in Chapter 8, and Furniss provides a caption that synthesizes the opening two paragraphs: "Oliver on his long weary journey haunted by visions of those whose cruelty forced him to run away". The nightmarish figures fill the sky above a horizon-line of five coffins which echo the shape of the milestone on which the already-weary Oliver, with packsack and staff, rests, as a gnarled, denuded tree, upper left, reinforces the threat that the environment poses the child-traveller, in contrast to inhumanity of the society he now leaves behind him.

The Mahoney and Furniss images of Oliver, alone, unfriended, and in doubt as to his course in life as he puts behind him childhood in the workhouse and his apprenticeship to the grim undertaker (whom Furniss characterizes as a top hatted skeleton waving an umbrella, upper left) is a suitable keynote for the adventures of the orphan in the criminal underworld of the metropolis. In the next Cruikshank illustration, Oliver is already on the northern outskirts of London, at the marketplace of Barnet at sunrise, when he encounters the outlandish figure of Jack Dawkins (otherwise, The Artful Dodger), who introduces the waif to that "kindly, old gentleman," Fagin, in Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (May 1837), a characterisation of the juvenile pickpocket which Mahoney used as the basis for "Hello, my covey! What's the row?". Chipper, self-confident, and self-assured, The Dodger at this point is everything that Oliver is not.

Furniss has assimilated the earlier Mahoney composition so that Oliver, like Dante at the beginning of The Divine Comedy, is lost in a dense wood without a guide at the beginning of his journey towards enlightenment. The proleptic reading of the Mahoney and Furniss illustrations alerts the reader to Oliver's being forced out of his place at Sowerberry's and determining to undertake the journey on foot to London without resources or assistance. The trauma he has endured over the course of his miserable childhood is represented by the aetherial, cartoon-like figures in the sky, while the continual prospect of death, by starvation and neglect, is suggested by the five coffins on the skyline. Furniss's treatment is an interesting and innovative synthesis of the melodramatic pose of the boy and the psychological terrors he must now confront: the fear of the turbulent and menacing woods (left) and the fear of being apprehended and returned the world of the workhouse (as represented by Bumble, swinging his cane; the chairman of the trustees, pointing at Oliver; and the black-faced chimney sweep, waving his broom, upper right) and the undertaker's (Sowerberry, his wife, Charlotte, and, most prominently, a hectoring Noah Claypole above three of the coffins on the horizon).


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Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman

Chapter 8

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

Oliver, groping his way with one hand, and having the other firmly grasped by his companion, ascended with much difficulty the dark and broken stairs: which his conductor mounted with an ease and expedition that showed he was well acquainted with them. He threw open the door of a back-room, and drew Oliver in after him.

The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age and dirt. There was a deal table before the fire: upon which were a candle, stuck in a ginger-beer bottle, two or three pewter pots, a loaf and butter, and a plate. In a frying-pan, which was on the fire, and which was secured to the mantel-shelf by a string, some sausages were cooking; and standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare; and seemed to be dividing his attention between the frying-pan and a clothes-horse, over which a great number of silk handkerchiefs were hanging. Several rough beds made of old sacks, were huddled side by side on the floor. Seated round the table were four or five boys, none older than the Dodger, smoking long clay pipes, and drinking spirits with the air of middle-aged men. These all crowded about their associate as he whispered a few words to the Jew; and then turned round and grinned at Oliver. So did the Jew himself, toasting-fork in hand.

"This is him, Fagin," said Jack Dawkins; "my friend Oliver Twist."

The Jew grinned; and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him by the hand, and hoped he should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance. Upon this, the young gentlemen with the pipes came round him, and shook both his hands very hard — especially the one in which he held his little bundle. One young gentleman was very anxious to hang up his cap for him; and another was so obliging as to put his hands in his pockets, in order that, as he was very tired, he might not have the trouble of emptying them, himself, when he went to bed. These civilities would probably have been extended much farther, but for a liberal exercise of the Jew's toasting-fork on the heads and shoulders of the affectionate youths who offered them.

"We are very glad to see you, Oliver, very," said the Jew. "Dodger, take off the sausages; and draw a tub near the fire for Oliver. Ah, you're a-staring at the pocket-handkerchiefs! eh, my dear! There are a good many of 'em, ain't there? We've just looked 'em out, ready for the wash; that's all, Oliver; that's all. Ha! ha! ha!"


Commentary:

And now Dickens manoeuvers Oliver into the criminal underworld that forms the most exotic and interesting aspect of the novel, introducing respectable middle-class readers to characters and situations glimpsed briefly in the criminal courts and the crime reports in the daily newspapers, the world of the Newgate Novel.

Encountering a street-smart young adolescent wearing the over-sized clothes of an adult at the marketplace in Barnet, Hertfordshire, nine-year-old Oliver, carrying a bundle if clothing, after a week on the Great North Road, continues his "progress" towards London in the tradition of Fielding and Hogarth. Thus begins the masculine "The Harlot's Progress" for the late Regency period. The pickpocket Jack Dawkins, nicknamed the Artful Dodger, inducts Oliver into the heart of Great Oven, the slums of Field Lane, which Dickens would later visit on behalf of the philanthropist and reformer Angela Burdett Coutts. Somewhere in the maze of lanes in Saffron Hill lies the thieves' den over which the master-criminal and fence in his dressing-gown and slippers presides; in a sense, the thieves' kitchen is a sort of ragged school for tomorrow's house-breakers and robbers. With a perspective consistent with the reader's middle class morality, Oliver (still dressed in the clothes he wore in the previous illustration, Oliver plucks up a spirit, April 1837) navigates the notorious rookeries of the criminal underworld. For the London readers of the 1830s the story offers glimpses of a foreign land right under their noses, and its exotic and menacing inhabitants. Oliver may be seventy miles from home, but Dickens's readers were in a world not far removed from their very doorsteps, for if The Pickwick Papers, Dickens's first novel, is a story about middle-class provincial life, his second quickly establishes itself as concerning the less savoury side of the metropolis.

So well-known was the moment in which Dickens introduced the criminal mastermind into the parish boy's progress that James Mahoney, the Household Edition illustrator, seems to have been reluctant to try to outdo the sordid brilliance of Cruikshank's interior scene, preferring instead to realise the meeting of the Dodger and the runaway at Barnet. The American illustrators Eytinge and Darley, on the other hand, appear to have been fascinated by a hypocritical character who can appear to be the benign, charity-dispensing Samaritan, aiding street-boys who have no homes, while in fact he trains and runs them as a pack of thieves. The large, shaggy-bearded Fagin of Eytinge most closely matches Dickens's description of the slovenly crook with the "villainous-looking and repulsive face" wearing "a greasy flannel gown." Darley shows a more playful, comely master thief inducting the newcomer into the art and science of pickpocketing, while Eytinge's fence does homage to his cash-box.

In Cruikshank's plunge into the night world of London's criminal classes we must attend to both elements of composition and background details. In the slums of the metropolis, space is at a premium, so that the artist crams seven males into a small, poorly-lit garret which is both bedroom, kitchen, and dining-room. The illustrator positions the newcomer to the right, carefully scrutinized by the gang surrounding the Eucharistic table, Jack Dawkins as the Dantean guide, centre, and on the left the master of the house, head and shoulders above his charges and bearded to signify that he is the only adult present. While he fulfills the female role as provider and cook, presiding over the toasting fork and frying pan at the coal-fired grate, the reader follows Oliver's gaze left and upward, from the Dodger's head, to Fagin's smiling, mask-like visage, to the artwork above the mantle, and illustrated account of a multiple hanging, a sort of unholy trinity of thieves at the gallows. As in the text, the boys are dressed and behave like miniature adults, smoking pipes. As yet, however, they are not roused to action, and merely contemplate Oliver as both a mark and a future gang-member. Immediately behind the master-thief and his star pupil is a clothesline full of pock-handkerchiefs, implying the gang's success at fleecing "coves." While Oliver and Fagin are rather thin, Jack is substantial, and the other gang members possess disproportionately large heads and spindly legs. The scene involves three complementary "frames": on the right, Oliver is framed by the bare wooden table and the five teenaged thieves whom he about to joint in a grotesque parody of apprenticeship; two of the boys are framed by a curtain, just right of centre; and Fagin and the Dodger are framed by the pocket-handkerchiefs hanging on the line, a weird repetition of the thieves hanging at Tyburn (upper left). An empty bottle serves as a candle-holder, while a full one sits on the mantelpiece, the implication being that, in exchange for alcohol, food, and shelter the boys engage in the Fagin-directed criminal enterprise. In this grim parody of a City corporation, the principal shareholder and chairman if the board presides as the directors of the board survey the firm's latest project.

In the green wrapper which the aging George Cruikshank at Dickens's request designed in 1846 for the Chapman and Hall ten-issue part-publication of the novel, the illustrator underscores the importance of the fateful meeting of Fagin and Oliver by positioning a reversed and simplified version of it immediately to the left of the simplified title, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, no longer "by Boz" the fledgling writer, but by established author "Charles Dickens," the name of the illustrator in much smaller print and clearly subordinate to that of the writer.





Detail of gallows with hanged men


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"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?","

Chapter 8

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1871

Text Illustrated:

He had been crouching on the step for some time: wondering at the great number of public-houses (every other house in Barnet was a tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly at the coaches as they passed through, and thinking how strange it seemed that they could do, with ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage and determination beyond his years to accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boy, who had passed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned, and was now surveying him most earnestly from the opposite side of the way. He took little heed of this at first; but the boy remained in the same attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver raised his head, and returned his steady look. Upon this, the boy crossed over; and, walking close up to Oliver, said,

"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?"

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bowlegs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment — and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in his bluchers.

"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" said this strange young gentleman to Oliver.

"I am very hungry and tired," replied Oliver: the tears standing in his eyes as he spoke. "I have walked a long way. I have been walking these seven days."

"Walking for sivin days!" said the young gentleman. "Oh, I see. Beak's order, eh? But," he added, noticing Oliver's look of surprise, "I suppose you don't know what a beak is, my flash com-pan-i-on?"


Commentary:

In a north of England town, perhaps based on Peterborough since Oliver's birthplace is roughly seventy miles from London, eleven-year-old Oliver Twist, having retaliated against fellow-apprentice Noah Claypole for his unmerciful bullying and taunting, runs away after enduring a caning by the parish beadle. The momentous meeting of Oliver, according to his assigned surname born to twist at the end of a rope for felony, and Fagin's chief pickpocket does not occur in George Cruikshank's sequence of illustrations for the monthly instalments in Bentley's Miscellany. Rather, in the April 1837 instalment Cruikshank provided the underworld scene in Fagin's hideout, Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman.

In James Mahoney's sequence, there is no equivalent to the scene in which Oliver first meets Fagin. In place, then, of this celebrated scene, in the Household Edition James Mahoney has elected to describe the low-key meeting of Oliver and the exemplar of the criminal underclass of the metropolis, an important stage in "The Parish Boy's Progress," if one regards the Hogarthian progresses of the Rake and the Harlot as Dickens's models at this point. The illustrator implies the leisurely pace of village life by the landlord taking his morning coffee (left rear) and one of servants at the inn hauling water from the trough (upper centre). Oliver, with his few meagre belongings wrapped in a bundle (lower right) seems curious about the strange adult-child that dominates the scene, hands in the top-pockets of his corduroy bluchers and battered hat worn at a rakish angle.

Although Eytinge has followed his established practice of presenting a pair of closely associated characters in presenting the Artful Dodger with Charley Bates, Furniss realizes the fateful meeting of Oliver and Jack Dawkins in the marketplace at Barnet, basing his scene in all likelihood on Mahoney's, although he does not offer a thumbnail version of the significant meeting in Characters in the Story, the ornamental frame for the title-page.


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"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?"

Chapter 8

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

He had been crouching on the step for some time: wondering at the great number of public-houses (every other house in Barnet was a tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly at the coaches as they passed through, and thinking how strange it seemed that they could do, with ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage and determination beyond his years to accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boy, who had passed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned, and was now surveying him most earnestly from the opposite side of the way. He took little heed of this at first; but the boy remained in the same attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver raised his head, and returned his steady look. Upon this, the boy crossed over; and, walking close up to Oliver, said,

"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?"

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bowlegs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment — and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in his bluchers.



An 1885 collection of color illustrations from Oliver Twist was produced by the artist Frederick Pailthorpe, who also illustrated Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. Like George Cruikshank, Oliver Twist's original illustrator and a friend of Pailthorpe, Pailthorpe uses satire and caricature in his interpretations of the novel's scenes and characters.


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Oliver falls in with the Artful Dodger

Chapter 8

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

He had been crouching on the step for some time: wondering at the great number of public-houses (every other house in Barnet was a tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly at the coaches as they passed through, and thinking how strange it seemed that they could do, with ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage and determination beyond his years to accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boy, who had passed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned, and was now surveying him most earnestly from the opposite side of the way. He took little heed of this at first; but the boy remained in the same attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver raised his head, and returned his steady look. Upon this, the boy crossed over; and, walking close up to Oliver, said,

"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?"

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bowlegs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment- and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in his bluchers.

"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" said this strange young gentleman to Oliver.

"I am very hungry and tired," replied Oliver: the tears standing in his eyes as he spoke. "I have walked a long way. I have been walking these seven days."


Commentary:

Having run away from his apprenticeship with Sowerberry, Oliver determines to walk the Great North Road to London after he has visited Mrs. Mann's baby-farm to say goodbye to Little Dick, the only friend he made there. Befriended on the road by a charitable turnpike keeper and an elderly lady, on the seventh morning Oliver limps slowly into the marketplace of Barnet at sunrise. At this point, he encounters a boy only a little older than himself, but wearing the clothing and affecting the self-confident manner of an adult. In fact, today the Borough of Barnet is Greater London's second-largest, but in the period in which Dickens has set the story, it was still a small market-town north of central London, in the county of Hertfordshire.

Alluding to Oliver's arrival on the outskirts of London in Chapter 8, the previous significant illustrator of the novel, James Mahoney had provided Furniss with a likely model in the highly popular 1871 volume in the Household Edition, showing Oliver's initial encounter with the self-confident Artful Dodger (and by extension London's criminal underworld) in "Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" The Mahoney and Furniss images of Oliver, alone, unfriended, and in doubt as to his course in life contrast the runaway apprentice from the north of England workhouse with the streetsmart figure of Jack Dawkins (otherwise, The Artful Dodger), who introduces the waif to that "kindly, old gentleman," Fagin, in Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (May 1837), a characterisation of the juvenile pickpocket which Mahoney used as the basis for "Hello, my covey! What's the row?". Chipper, self-confident, and self-assured, The Dodger at this point is everything that Oliver is not.

Furniss has assimilated the earlier Mahoney composition. However, as opposed to Mahoney's generalized conception of the backdrop, he particularizes the morning scene in the suburban marketplace with public houses on either side of the borough high street, as well as the substantial publican conversing with the uniformed postman (surely an anachronism), rear centre. Far from being a realistic representation of the morning scene, despite the architectural backdrop and the birds, Furniss's interpretation is markedly impressionistic, with jagged lines representing the energy of the Cockney youth.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Thanks, Kim, for once more going through all the effort and research in order to provide our weekly illustrations. I always thought I knew Cruikshank's OT illustrations like the back of my hand but never before had I noticed the little detail of the poster of the hanging men above Fagin's mantelpiece!


Mary Lou | 2519 comments I was surprised when reading the description of Dodger, and then seeing him depicted by our artists. I always imagine Dodger as being a good looking, charming, if mischievous, sort of boy -- Hollywood's influence? Dickens, though, certainly doesn't describe him as such, and Cruikshank and Furniss, in particular, seem to see him as a hardened little man.


message 41: by Alissa (last edited Jun 14, 2018 01:54PM) (new) - added it

Alissa | 317 comments Mary Lou wrote: "I was surprised when reading the description of Dodger, and then seeing him depicted by our artists. I always imagine Dodger as being a good looking, charming, if mischievous, sort of boy..."

Mary Lou, I pictured Dodger as charming too. Rough and shabby, perhaps, but charming enough to convince Oliver to go with him. I found this part of the description interesting:

"His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment—and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again."

This gives an impression of teetering on the edge.


Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Oliver and Little Dick

chapter 7

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

He reached the house. There was no appearance of its inmates stirring at that early hour. Oliver stopped..."


Kim. What a cornucopia of illustrations. Thank you.

Oliver’s meeting and farewell to Little Dick reminds us that there is compassion in the novel. To date, Oliver has been beaten, starved, locked in rooms, and heard his mother be insulted by another boy. With Dick, we finally see compassion. The Oliver and Little Dick illustrations are heightened in their emotion as a fence separates them. To Dick, the fence serves as a jail to keep him in. To Oliver, the fence is emblematic of the fact that Oliver is freed from the workhouse, but still isolated from any form of caring emotion or family. Little Dick’s compassion will be important to recall as we read further and see where and when Oliver may find compassion from others.

Other illustrations show us Oliver’s introduction to London and the children who run its streets. While the workhouse life of Oliver was one of total constraint, his London life seems on the surface to be one of freedom with Bates and the Dodger. Not so, for Oliver’s movement’s are closely monitored by Fagin.


Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Good point about the fence, Peter.


message 44: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1341 comments Alissa wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "I was surprised when reading the description of Dodger, and then seeing him depicted by our artists. I always imagine Dodger as being a good looking, charming, if mischievous, sort..."

Agreed. And the Cruikshank illustrations for this book never sit well with me because Oliver looks so different from the other kids that he might as well be a different species. It reminds me of this illustration from much later in the century, so I wonder if maybe Cruikshank was an influence on Tenniel: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collect...

I'm wondering which detail in the description of the Dodger Tristram was thinking of as "takes the reader aback." The part about the hat that Alissa pointed out seems to me the most distinctive, but what took me aback the most was Dodger's "little, sharp, ugly eyes." Such an ungenerous description of a child, and maybe not that unkind a child either, unlike Noah.

I agree that there's something strangely scheming in Oliver's assessment of Dodger. It doesn't make me warm up to him, and that's unsettling after feeling so much pity for him up to this point.

Dodger is a treat. He reminds me a little of Sam Weller, though this is probably just the dialect. Well, no--he also seems to have Sam's confidence.


Mary Lou | 2519 comments Julie wrote: "I'm wondering which detail in the description of the Dodger Tristram was thinking of as "takes the reader aback." ..."

Yes, Julie -- I'm not sure what he was getting at either. Tristram?


message 46: by Xan (last edited Jun 15, 2018 03:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Mahoney has Oliver dressed too well; Pailthorpe does him better.

On the other hand, Mahoney gets The Dodger's age better than does Pailthorpe. And Furniss's Dodger, frankly, belongs in a horror movie. He looks so old he looks preserved.

I wouldn't go anywhere with the Pailthorpe and Furniss Dodgers (well, if I was that hungry, maybe). Mahoney, I think, captures the character much better.


message 47: by Tristram (last edited Jun 16, 2018 03:21AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Good point about the fence, Peter."

And now we know why Dickens was climbing that fence in the photo that one of you posted here one day, He was making a sly reference to OT ;-)


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Mary Lou,

I was thinking of exactly the detail that Julie mentioned - the Dodger's "little, sharp, ugly eyes" because common lore has it that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Even if we might not share such an assumption without any reserve, we might say that the Dodger's eyes probably speak of all the nasty things he has seen in his short life and that the misery around him has maybe made him jaundiced and egoistic. - I found this very remarkable because my general idea of the Dodger is also that of an amiable rogue but Dickens does not at all romanticize him, as I did and do whenever I read the book.


Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "And the Cruikshank illustrations for this book never sit well with me because Oliver looks so different from the other kids that he might as well be a different species. ."

I fully agree, but maybe, Cruikshank inadvertantly expressed what Dickens wrote into the Oliver character. I have always felt that Oliver is not a real child but some sort of Victorian ideal of self-denial and forbearance. From his earliest youth, he never experienced any love and warmth, never got a kind word, and yet he is polite, friendly, and "good". With never a positive role model to guide him, would he not be more likely to have become quite another kind of child? He must, indeed, be an alien.


message 50: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John (jdourg) | 1120 comments One brief comment: I find the Sowerberry appellation to be counter-intuitive to what I am used to with Dickens' naming.

Perhaps I am not reading "sower" as "sour." I was half expecting to greet an undertaker here as Mr. Vulture or something to that effect.


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