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Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist Ch 18-22

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 18

Hello Curiosities

This week will be a week of travelling, both around the underbelly of London and into the countryside. The weather will be unpleasant so make sure you have a good pair of waterproof boots, a warm greatcoat, a sturdy hat, and perhaps a wee flask of coffee, tea, or other drink to keep you warm. Off we go ...

Chapter 18 starts off with Fagin performing the role of a father-figure and telling Oliver how to behave himself, respect his elders, and conduct himself as a grateful young lad in the future. Well, I’m not sure Fagin is any kind of a role model, but Oliver is a captive audience. Fagin goes so far as to describe the “discomforts of hanging” which make an impression on Oliver. With the picture of three people hanging in Fagin’s den I think it wise to remember that Dickens likes to plant ideas in his readers’ minds. in To conclude his visit with Oliver, Fagin locks Oliver in a room. Oliver remains locked up for a week. Now, I have not been counting the number of times Oliver has been locked up in a room so far in the novel, but I do think we are clearly meant to see the concept of incarceration as a major troupe in this novel. Physical, social, economic, emotional and familial isolation all seem to be emerging as issues and forms of incarceration. When Oliver is released from the room he is allowed to wander the house and what a filthy place it is.


Thoughts

Did you notice how the sense of decay permeates Fagin’s den? Spiders, mice, shuttered windows, distorted views from windows, and an overwhelming sense of neglect all combine to press in on Oliver’s youth and innocence. In your opinion, what is the most powerful image that has been created in this chapter?


I know less than nothing about psychological manipulation of a person’s mind but it seems to me that Fagin is a master of mind control. Did you notice how Fagin makes Oliver dependent upon and even crave for company? Also, is it me or was the act of Oliver polishing the Dodger’s boots a touch of autobiography? Dickens pasted labels on blacking bottles when his parents were in jail, and here we have Oliver polishing boots. Dickens even used the name of another child in Warren’s Blacking Factory in Oliver Twist. Do you think, as I do, that in all of Dickens’s novels he never strayed far from his own life?


We return to the mention of hanging once again in this chapter and learn that another word for hanging is “scragged.” Other slang words that appear in the chapter are “fogels and tickers” which are “pocket-handkerchiefs and watches.” I can’t resist asking if anyone wants to “invent” a slang expression or two that Oliver might also hear in the novel. My rather sad effort is “flat pie” to mean a pancake. Sadly, I don’t know if pancakes existed in Victorian times.


We meet another character in this chapter who goes by the name of Mr Chitling. I am sure this character will be involved in future chapters of the novel. Oliver now finds himself not left alone but the opposite. He is now seldom left alone, plays pickpocket games with the others, and hears tales of past robberies and thefts. We are told that Fagin, having prepared Oliver’s mind by “solitude and gloom,” now has Oliver keen for companionship and Fagin is “instilling into [Oliver’s] soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it, and change its hue for ever.” If Oliver’s only social contacts are thieves and his only environment Fagin’s den then Oliver is in for a rough time.

Poor Oliver. The future appears to be bleak.


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 19

A gloomy chapter opening to be sure. The poor weather matches the mood of Oliver and the darkness of the mists match the evil that is Fagin. All in all, a night and a place to be avoided if possible. Oliver is now firmly in the clutches of Fagin’s gang. Dickens, of course, explains the situation perfectly: “The hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal.” Well, the fat boy did say in The Pickwick Papers “I want to make your flesh creep.” These lines make my flesh creep. And, if we look closely, Dickens will return to that same phrase again soon. Will you be able to spot it?

I can’t say that Sikes’ crib is any more inviting than Fagin’s den. Dickens describes Sikes place as “a meanly furnished apartment.” Perhaps Sikes’ apartment is a bit more domestic with Nancy’s presence, but who does Sikes treat better ... Nancy or his dog?

Fagin and Sikes discuss a possible crime but the home they plan to rob seems secure and has honest and faithful servants. Apparently the only entrance to the secure home will be through a small aperture that will require a small child. Well, our Oliver is small, and Fagin believes that if Oliver will just believe he is a thief, he will be in Fagin’s power for life. And so Oliver, without his own knowledge or agreement, is factored into the break and enter and parcelled off to the custody of Sikes.

Fagin returns to his den and as he looks in on a sleeping Oliver he sees that Oliver “looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed; when a young and gentle spirit has, but an instant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of the world has not had the time to breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.” I find this quotation to be powerful in that it suggests to me that Oliver’s life is changing from one of innocence into a forced experience of criminal life. Here I find a pivotal point in the novel.

Thoughts

How do you identify passages that seem to have more depth than the surface meaning suggests? How does one’s personal history of reading contribute to the interpretation of a passage?

Would you share with us another passage from our reading so far that felt to you to be a seminal point of the novel?


message 3: by Peter (last edited Jun 30, 2018 04:38PM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 20

In a recent chapter Oliver attended to the Dodger’s boots with a good polishing. In this chapter Oliver awakes to find “a new pair of shoes, with strong thick soles” at his bedside. Fagin tells Oliver that he will be going to Sikes’ house and adds a stern warning to do the bidding of Sikes without question. Fagin leaves Oliver a book, which would appear to be an act of kindness, but the contents of the book are about the “history of the lives and trials of great criminals and the pages were soiled and thumbed with use.” Not exactly a child’s usual bedtime reading. Frightened, Oliver preys to Heaven to spare him. Soon after his prayer he hears a rustling noise and it turns out to be Nancy. She appears to have some guilt about being the agent to bring Oliver to Sikes, and, in doing so, reveals to the reader a faint streak of kindness. Nancy tells Oliver that she has prevented him from being ill-used before and will do so again. Nancy shows Oliver “livid bruises on her neck and arms.” There is little question that Sikes is a very abusive partner.

It is clear that with Oliver’s prayers just ended, and Nancy’s arrival, we are meant to see her as a protector of Oliver. While her powers may be severely limited, she is only the second person who has shown Oliver any compassion. This may become a significant point later in the novel.


Thoughts


We see in this chapter yet another mention of a book, but this time it is not one that a person like Mr. Brownlow would read. With its contents of murder, mayhem and talk of the gibbet. Why do you think Fagin would own such a book and how does Dickens use the image of the book to further our understanding of the novel?

We are told that reading this book created “bad thoughts” and was enough to make “the flesh creep.” To what extent was the lending of the book by Fagin to Oliver another method to control the mind and spirit of Oliver?

Dickens has presented the reader with Mr Brownlow and Nancy, people from vastly different backgrounds, and shown the reader their kindness. Why would Dickens choose these two characters who seem so different in so many ways? What could they represent in terms of plot, symbolism, and theme?

We are told that “Oliver could see that he had some power over [Nancy’s] better feelings, and, for an instant, thought of appealing to her compassion for his helpless state.” To what an extent do you think it possible that a person like Nancy would ultimately be capable of rescuing Oliver?


Sikes is much less kind towards Oliver. Indeed, he puts a loaded pistol to Oliver’s head and tells him that “if you speak a word when you’re out o’ doors with me, except when I speak to you, that loading will be in your head without notice.” Here, Dickens makes it very clear that Oliver’s life is under a serious threat. The chapter ends with Oliver hoping to catch a glimpse from Nancy as he is taken by Sikes on their mission. We are told that Nancy did not look at Oliver and Sikes left their crib. What do you think Nancy is thinking at this point of the novel?

Sikes’ gun is a rather ominous thing to threaten a young child with but he has no hesitation to do so. We read that Sikes was rather fond of patting the gun and using it to threaten Oliver. Perhaps it might be a good idea to make a note of Sikes’ gun. I have a premonition we have not seen or heard the last of it.


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 21

Chapter 21 begins on a “cheerless morning” and the weather frames the chapter very well. As Oliver and Sikes make their way to their destination Dickens gives the reader a fully narrated explanation and experience of their journey. I can’t help but think that the original reading audience would have an enormous advantage over our own reading of Chapter 21. The mention of the gas lights, public-houses, the sounds of “hawkers, the shouts, the oaths ... the ringing of the bells and roar of voices ...whooping, and yelling ... and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures” swirl together to create “a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses.” What an impressive sense of place Dickens creates. While we read it, the original reading public lived within the words, walked the same streets, experienced the same sensations.

This chapter also gives the reader a feel of specific places with the mention of St. Andrew’s hutch, Hyde Park corner, and towns with the mention of such places as Hampton and Lower Halliford. Sikes, with Oliver in tow, presses on through the darkness, the damp mists and the dreary fields. As they move Dickens gives the reader the time, and so we become more and more engaged in the urgency and the movement of Sikes and Oliver. We become more attuned to the fear that Oliver must have felt as he was forced to be with Sikes who is armed with a gun and has threatened to kill Oliver for any small or incidental discretion. At the end of this chapter of pure energy and unceasing movement they come upon a house that “was dark, dismantled: and to all appearance, uninhabited.”

Poor Oliver. He has been taken from one place to another, and he does not know where he is, or what the future holds for him.


Thoughts

Of all the chapters we have read to date this one was, in my opinion, the most powerful. To me, the language, the use of pathetic fallacy, the urgency and yet the mystery of their mission all combined to create an unforgettable reading experience. What was your response to reading this chapter?

As I mentioned earlier in this commentary, I wish I could have experienced reading this chapter within the time it was originally written. How much must be lost in terms of place, sensation, and the active experience of one’s sensations over time. How much of the original flavour of this chapter still exists for you?


message 5: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 22

After a seemingly endless track in horrid weather Oliver finds himself in yet another dusty, crumbling home with little furniture and less hospitality. We are in yet another criminal’s den. Have you ever wondered if Dickens had any first-hand knowledge of such places? We meet a Mr Crackit who is a foul individual and nothing like the kindly Mr Cratchit of A Christmas Carol, but that’s another story for another time. The last sentence was for Kim’s pleasure. Oliver is completely befuddled as to what is going on and we are told by Dickens that Oliver “sat with his aching head upon his hands, scarcely knowing where he was, or what was passing around him.” Indeed, when Oliver is offered something to drink and hesitates, Sikes threatens him with a gun. Oliver drinks and breaks into a violent fit of coughing. So much for spirits fortifying one for the task at hand. The thieves prepare to set off with a great many implements including objects called barkers, persuaders, crape, keys, centre-bits, darkies and a crowbar. I know what a crowbar is. The others will be found in a Victorian slang dictionary. Happy hunting.

The weather once again matches the mood of Sikes and his companions. It is “intensely dark” with fog and half-frozen moisture. Soon, Oliver comes to realize for the first time that “housebreaking and robbery, if not murder, were the objects of the expedition.” Oliver begs for his freedom. No such luck. Indeed, Oliver soon learns that he is the person who will squirm into the home due to his small stature and then unlock the door so that the others can enter the house. Their plans fall apart. The household is awake, guns are fired, Oliver is hit with a bullet and the criminals escape. Oliver faints. What a cliffhanger of an ending.


Thoughts

Another short chapter, but one with much action and mood. The conclusion of the chapter leaves us in suspense. Do you enjoy these brief but action-packed chapters or do you prefer the longer, richly detailed and stylistically more complicated chapter format of Dickens?

Oliver seems to attract pain, discomfort, upsetting situations, criminals and circumstances. Do you think Dickens is a bit “over the top” in the establishment of Oliver’s character? Also, do you find Oliver too sweet, to naive, to good to be true?


message 6: by Mary Lou (last edited Jul 01, 2018 04:41AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: "Of all the chapters we have read to date this one was, in my opinion, the most powerful. To me, the language, the use of pathetic fallacy, the urgency and yet the mystery of their mission all combined to create an unforgettable reading experience. What was your response to reading this chapter?
.."


Interesting, Peter. To me, this was a filler chapter, and I wondered as I read it if Dickens was in need of some extra words to get through his installment requirements. There was little here to move the plot along, and why would they travel so very far for a robbery? Yes - it was a place their cohort was familiar with, so they might have considered it an easy mark, but I can't help but think that someone like Sikes would have little knowledge of, or contact with a fellow thief so far away. Even if they did know one another and communicate from that distance, why would Crackit bring Sikes in and split the bounty with him? The whole thing, at least as far as the distance and travel, just didn't ring true to me. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I was, as you mentioned, a contemporary of Dickens who could imagine their progress as they traveled.

And why did Oliver never have blisters?


message 7: by Mary Lou (last edited Jul 01, 2018 04:41AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: "Fagin goes so far as to describe the “discomforts of hanging” which make an impression on Oliver. With the picture of three people hanging in Fagin’s den I think it wise to remember that Dickens likes to plant ideas in his readers’ minds. ..."

I don't remember details from my last reading so long ago, so this isn't a spoiler, but the references to hanging we've seen seem like foreshadowing to me. Here is another line that put the thought of a noose in my mind:

Nancy, scarcely looking at the boy, threw him a handkerchief to tie round his throat

I will keep an eye out for more references to hanging. It will be interesting to see if Dickens is, indeed, hinting at things yet to come. I kind of hope so, as long as it's not Oliver or Nancy!


message 8: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Consider this passage from Chapter 22:

"Fagin's, eh!" exclaimed Toby, looking at Oliver. "Wot an inwalable boy that'll make, for the old ladies' pockets in chapels! His mug is a fortun' to him."

"There- there's enough of that," interposed Sikes impatiently; and stooping over his recumbent friend, he whispered a few words in his ear: at which Mr. Crackit laughed immensely, and honoured Oliver with a long stare of astonishment.


Here we have Oliver's face coming into play again. Will his "mug" really be his fortune and, if so, how? And what do you think Sikes whispered that caused "a long stare of astonishment" from Crackit?


message 9: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Mary Lou wrote: "The whole thing, at least as far as the distance and travel, just didn't ring true to me...."

Responding to my own comment (is that odd? This is why introverts can be so content living by themselves...):

Shepperton is the last town mentioned in Sikes and Oliver's journey, and they didn't stop there, so one would assume their destination was shortly beyond. I just looked at Google maps, and today Shepperton is about 21 miles by the shortest road from London Bridge. I'm not sure if this knowledge changes any of my thoughts on the travel chapter. According to Google maps, driving that distance today would take about an hour and a half (probably more in rush hour). I just can't put myself in the 1830s and imagine the journey, or whether or not Sikes and Crackit would realistically have been partners in crime.


message 10: by Peter (last edited Jul 01, 2018 09:50AM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "Of all the chapters we have read to date this one was, in my opinion, the most powerful. To me, the language, the use of pathetic fallacy, the urgency and yet the mystery of their mis..."

Hi Mary Lou

I agree with you that this novel to date does seem to have lots of “filler.” Still, I liked the energy generated here. This is, no doubt, partly due to the fact that Oliver has spent a lot of time in locked rooms and cellars. Perhaps I’m just glad that he is moving about.

Thanks for doing a Google look at the distances. Oliver’s movement from the workhouse to London and now his adventure with Sikes certainly will keep him in shape! As to the catch on the face well done and good close reading. It seems that we are always looking at faces in this novel and I think this must lead us somewhere by the end of the novel.

As to the part where Nancy ties the handkerchief around Oliver’s neck ... yikes ... Dickens certainly is keeping all his options open.

Wishing you and all our American Curiosities a happy upcoming 4th of July from Canada where today is Canada 🇨🇦 Day.


message 11: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments . . . some rich offal for a meal.

The word "offal" does it for me. Like a rat thinking rancid cheese is a delicacy. That passage you quoted was powerful -- Fagin, the coat, the shadows, the skulking.

How about this passage:

"if I'd only got that young boy of Ned, the chimbley-sweeper's! He kept him small on purpose, and let him out by the job.

Think about that line -- kept him small on purpose . . . Now if that isn't treating a kid like an animal, and it's another chimney sweep. What's with the chimney sweeps and their treatment of kids?


message 12: by Xan (last edited Jul 01, 2018 05:16AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments I found the scene where Sikes throws out the liquor remaining in the glass after Fagin has had his fill interesting. Sikes throws it out and refills the glass for himself. Most people would do this, but would Sikes and his lot? All the scenes are scenes of filth, dirt, and slovenliness, so I think maybe not. It may be nothing, but it's not like Dickens to put something like that in the story just for filler.

Almost every description of Fagin is one of (spiritual) corruption and disease (the cooties?).


message 13: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Peter wrote: ".Wishing you and all our American Curiosities a happy upcoming 4th of July from Canada where today is Canada 🇨🇦 Day..."

Happy Canada day to you, Peter!


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Hello again Mary Lou

After your observation of Nancy putting a handkerchief around Oliver’s neck I went back for another look at Chapter 20. Earlier in the chapter when Oliver is talking to Nancy he says “Can I help you? I will if I can, I will, indeed.” This show of concern for her welfare from Oliver, a concern I would imagine Nancy has never experienced in her life before from anyone, profoundly effects Nancy. We are told that “She rocked herself to and fro; and, uttering a gurgling sound, gasped for breath.”

What a powerful scene. Oliver is seen, perhaps naively, but still in earnest, offering to help Nancy. Such an offer deeply effects Nancy and causes an emotional response. Dickens frames Nancy's response to sound like she is strangling.

This novel is so exciting to read.


message 15: by John (last edited Jul 01, 2018 12:01PM) (new)

John (jdourg) | 1119 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 18

Hello Curiosities

This week will be a week of travelling, both around the underbelly of London and into the countryside. The weather will be unpleasant so make sure you have a good pai..."


Peter,

Decay certainly appeared to be the word for his place. The sentences seemed to go on and on about dirt, dark, spiderwebs, gloom, rust, and mold.

I was reminded of Miss Havisham's and kept thinking of one word: tutelage.


message 16: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Peter,

Good catch about Nancy making choking sounds. I did not notice it at first. I agree, she was probably shocked and moved by Oliver's kindness. Ever since she stood up for him, they seem have formed an unspoken bond.

Peter wrote: "To what an extent do you think it possible that a person like Nancy would ultimately be capable of rescuing Oliver?"

Unfortunately, she was helpless in this case. She mentioned that Sikes put spies around the building, so they couldn't escape. But, she also says, "If ever you are to get loose from here, this is not the time," so Dickens is leaving a window open for another time.

I looked up the meaning of the name, Nancy, and it's related to Saint Agnes. Agnes was a virgin girl forced into a brothel at age 12 and eventually killed for resisting, being Christian, and wanting to stay chaste. She sounds like Nancy. I don't think Dickens does anything by chance.


message 17: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I found the scene where Sikes throws out the liquor remaining in the glass after Fagin has had his fill interesting. Sikes throws it out and refills the glass for himself..."

I thought that strange too. Sikes is always disgusted by Fagin, which is weird because they're both criminals. Sikes is probably the worse one, because he's so violent.

Fagin's role is corrupter of the youth. He was creepy in these chapters, with the mind control and slithering like a reptile. And of course, his "my dears." He definitely has cooties.


message 18: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Concerning Oliver, Nancy, Nancy's behavior towards Oliver, and Oliver's face -- kind of sounds like one of the chapter titles -- Phrenology is probably at the height of popularity at this time. References to Oliver's face may suggest a face that can commit no evil.

Nancy looks at his face but cannot hold the gaze and turns away. An allusion to her seeing the face of an angel or Christ-like figure? Is Nancy playing Mary Magdalene in some way here?


message 19: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6383 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Concerning Oliver, Nancy, Nancy's behavior towards Oliver, and Oliver's face -- kind of sounds like one of the chapter titles -- Phrenology is probably at the height of popularity at this time. Ref..."

Charles Dickens' belief in phrenology

In 1847 Charles Dickens refused to admit one woman as an inmate to his reformatory at Urania Cottage on the grounds of her phrenology, stating that: “she had a singularly bad head, and looked discouragingly secret and moody.”

This is a curious example of the Victorian idea of being able to tell a person’s deviancy or immorality by their physical appearance, which was particularly harmful towards woman and especially so when the question of sexual morality was concerned.


What Edgar Allan Poe said of Dickens and phrenology:

Mr. Dickens’ head must puzzle the phrenologists. The organs of ideality are small; and the conclusion of the “Curiosity Shop” is more truly ideal (in both phrenological senses) than any composition of equal length in the English language.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6383 comments Mod
Peter wrote: " The thieves prepare to set off with a great many implements including objects called barkers, persuaders, crape, keys, centre-bits, darkies and a crowbar. I know what a crowbar is. The others will be found in a Victorian slang dictionary. Happy hunting."

http://www.victorianlondon.org/crime/...


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6383 comments Mod


Master Bates explains a professional technicality

Chapter 18

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

"Look here!" said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and halfpence. "Here's a jolly life! What's the odds where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious flat!"

"It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?" inquired Charley Bates. " He'll come to be scragged, won't he?"

"I don't know what that means," replied Oliver.

"Something in this way, old feller," said Charley. As he said it, Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one and the same thing.

"That's what it means," said Charley. "Look how he stares, Jack!"


Commentary:

The stoutly barred door in the Cruikshank plate reminds us of Fagin's previous isolation strategy, keeping Oliver away from the other boys in this sparsely furnished cell, and foreshadows Fagin's own destination at Newgate. Dickens seems to have been aware of the fact that "scragging" or "hanging" actually had little deterrent value for young career criminals such as the Artful Dodger. Using the logic of solitary confinement followed by socialization, Fagin attempts to persuade Oliver to join the gang of his own free will. Ironically, Charley's performance does seem to possess deterrent value for Oliver, despite Charley's and the Dodger's subsequent "glowing description of the numerous pleasures incidental to the life they led". Determined to have his way, however, Fagin engages in "the game" every day with the boys, and regales Oliver with "droll and curious" stories about the robberies that he himself committed in youth. Part of his program of indoctrination is keeping Oliver constantly in the company of his chief acolytes.

Although "The Dodger" (otherwise, Jack Dawkins) and his extroverted companion, the exuberant ham-actor Charley Bates, know full well the inevitable consequences of their continuing to ply the "trade" of pickpocketing, they console themselves with the dictum that, if they don't pick rich men's pockets, somebody else certainly will. In the other editions of the novel, the illustrators depict the Dodger and Charley as miniature adults, supremely self-confident and, in the wood-engravings of James Mahoney and the lithographs of Harry Furniss, dressed in adult clothing more than a little too large for them. While Dickens would have us take Sikes and Fagin seriously, as depraved criminals, he seems to regard the pair of street-wise Cockney pickpockets as vehicles for comic relief — certainly, Cruikshank's rendition of them in this scene is highly entertaining. They smoke, drink, swagger, and speak thieves' cant like regular adult criminals, but nevertheless engage the reader with their verbal wit and camaraderie, and thereby excuse themselves from the fate that awaits Bill Sikes and Fagin. John Forster in his The Life of Charles Dickens defended the presence of such criminal scenes in the story as performing a service to society, citing other "Newgate" or underworld crime stories, including Alain-René Lesage's Gil Blas, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, and Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wild — to which he might have added William Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard. We can rub shoulders with vice and crime in a literary text, argues Forster, "but our morals stand none the looser for any of them" (Vol. 1, p. 96). Although nowhere in the novel does Dickens justify or make vice attractive, he seldom exploits it for the sake of generating suspense, as Ainsworth does; Forster maintains that Dickens's intention is always moral:

Crime is not more intensely odious, all though, than it is also most unhappy. Not merely when its exposure comes, when latent recesses are laid bare, and the agonies of remorse are witnessed; not in the great scenes only, but in lighter and apparently careless passages; this is emphatically so.

Although Great Britain ceased to use capital punishment as a deterrent to crime in 1965, the last public hanging occurred much earlier, in 1868. Despite the great depression of the Hungry Forties, far fewer people were hanged in the 19th century than the 18th: whereas some six thousand swung at the end of a rope from 1735 to 1799, only 3,365 were hanged publically in the period of 1800-1899, despite the fact that transportation was repealed in 1868, although it had become uncommon several years earlier. The Capital Punishment Amendment Act of 1868 abolished public hanging, which Dickens held incited brutality and excited sadistic impulses in the populace; he found such exhibitions sickening, and inveighed against the practice. Hanging itself was not abolished; it merely took place behind the walls of county prisons — with his telescope Thomas Hardy as a boy witnessed such a hanging at Dorchester Gaol.

Ironically, during the period in which Dickens's Newgate Novel is set, criminals were hanged for offences other than murder: in 1820, moreover, nobody was hanged for homicide, but 29 were hanged at Newgate for such lesser crimes as uttering forged notes (twelve instances) and for theft (twelve for robbery or burglary, and five for highway robbery). Charley Bates was quite right, then, about the fate that would probably attend his following the "trade." Ironically, were he to be tried and found guilty of anything other than theft, rape, murder, arson, or forgery, he would most certainly be transported and not hanged until well into the century. Typically in the eighteenth century, crimes against property merited hanging: there were roughly two hundred such crimes, that number only being reduced to just over one hundred in 1823 by the Tory administration of Sir Robert Peel. If the period of the main action of the novel is "Post-Reform Bill," so to speak, Charley's chances of escaping the noose would increase, as, seven years after Peel's initiative, the Liberal administration of Lord John Russell abolished the death sentence for horse stealing and housebreaking. One must assume that, if the story occurs in the early 1830s, Bill Sikes would have hanged as a murderer rather than a mere burglar, but Fagin's hanging for his crimes against property, although on a massive scale, would be less likely.

On 23 February 1846, Charles Dickens published a lengthy editorial for The Daily News against capital punishment, his chief argument being that failures in the judicial system occasionally resulted in the execution of a person innocent of the crime with which he had been charged.





message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6383 comments Mod


The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates

Chapter 18

Sol Eytinge, Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him); and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver to assist him in his toilet, straightway.

Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have some faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate those about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any objection in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed his readiness; and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat upon the table so that he could take his foot in his laps, he applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as "japanning his trotter-cases." The phrase, rendered into plain English, signifieth, cleaning his boots.


Commentary:

Although Fagin directs a string of street gypsies, the only two who stand out are the quick-witted pickpocket Jack Dawkins (otherwise, "The Artful Dodger," a sobriquet doubtless conferred by Fagin himself) and Charley Bates, far more benign and facetious figures than Fagin's chief criminal associate, the burglar Bill Sikes.

Dressed on cast-off adult clothing, Charley and the Dodger look like a bit like the anonymous street waif depicted in John Leech's 1843 political cartoon Substance and Shadow from Punch Magazine. However, the Eytinge rogues are better dressed and less ill-kempt, although the American illustrator captures their grittier natures as he depicts them as street toughs in miniature, smoking, drinking (note the pot of porter on the table, left), and posturing. Purely to distinguish one from the other, Eytinge has Charley (right) laughing, and the Dodger (left, top hat tilted rakishly askew) scowling. The decaying plaster in the background suggests that the boys are in Fagin's garret.


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"The Dodger's Toilet"

Chapter 18

Harry Furniss

Library Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

"Look here!" said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and halfpence. "Here's a jolly life! What's the odds where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious flat!"

"It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?" inquired Charley Bates. " He'll come to be scragged, won't he?"

"I don't know what that means," replied Oliver.

"Something in this way, old feller," said Charley. As he said it, Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one and the same thing.

"That's what it means," said Charley. "Look how he stares, Jack!"


Commentary:

Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank responded to Dickens's November 1837 suggestion for an illustration with Master Bates Explains a Professional Technicality, dealing with Oliver's being re-indoctrinated into Fagin's criminal ethos through the companionship of the hardened thieves Charles Bates and Jack Dawkins.


There is no comparable scene of youthful horseplay in the 1871 Household Edition volume because realist James Mahoney takes this opportunity to prepare the reader for Fagin's lending Oliver to housebreaker Bill Sikes to assist in the ill-fated robbery at Chertsey in The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor, in Chapter 19, "In Which a Notable Plan is Discussed and Determined On."

Furniss has modelled his illustration of Oliver's reprogramming, then, directly on the Cruikshank original. Despite his being the resident clown of the gang, Charley Bates lives very much in the shadow of his more famous friend, The Artful Dodger, whose wit and personality are markedly more brazen. The November 1837 letter in which Dickens arranges to meet his illustrator to "settle the Illustration" sheds little light on why the author and artist settled upon this "gallows humour" scene with "Master Bates." However, one may speculate that, having given Jack Dawkins and Fagin centre stage in both Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman and Oliver amazed at the Dodger's mode of going to work (June and July 1837), author and illustrator wanted to showcase the waggish Charley Bates. Certainly, he has not continued to enjoy the literary celebrity in which his partner-in-crime has basked (thanks in part to Lionel Bart's 1969 musical adapted for the cinema, Oliver!. As the plot thickens and the gang plans to use Oliver as its vehicle for breaking into the manor house at Chertsey, Surrey, the scene provides welcome and necessary comic relief.

Thus, when Charley mimics being hanged by the neck until dead, the usual sentence for even the most trivial of crimes against property prior to the reforms of the 1830s, he is not merely laughing in the face of death, but ridiculing a heartless system. In his horseplay he becomes Dickens's spokesperson for reform. The tom foolery, of course, is Dickens's strategy for creating an ambivalent response in his middle-class readers, who, despite their deploring crimes against property, cannot help but laugh at Charley's antics, in both text and illustration. To fully enjoy Charley's act as the class clown we must become members of the class.

Although Harry Furniss at the turn of the century may not have been acutely aware of the draconian laws which menace Charley and the Dodger on their every expedition, and was not then able to peruse the Dickens-Cruikshank correspondence regarding the choice of this subject, he was certainly able to weigh and assess the strengths and demerits of Cruikshank's original steel engraving. In consequence, the present illustration represents both Furniss's homage to the earlier illustrator and a critical re-thinking. In the original, behind Charley, simulating the noose, is a very stout wooden door which represents enforced isolation. Welcoming any company whatsoever, Oliver gladly becomes the Dodger's bootblack, in thieves' cant, "japanning his trotter-cases". In Furniss's impressionistic revision, the stout door of Oliver's cell all but disappears as the illustrator presents the young thieves not as Fagin's agents but as boozy puppets, and Oliver, now to the side (rather than sandwiched in between them, as in Cruikshank's plate), as the only undistorted human form in the scene. The juxtaposition makes Oliver the normative observer and Charley the entertainer. Under the influence of the large tankards of London ale, the pickpockets jeer at capital punishment, even though Charley's parodying of hanging is not likely to induce Oliver to become an active member of the gang — even though, in fact, that is exactly what he is about to become. So effective is Charley as a comedian that in Furniss's illustration Oliver appears to be highly entertained, whereas in the Cruikshank original he looks somewhat alarmed at the grim fate that awaits these youthful criminals.


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"The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor"

Chapter 19

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1871

Text Illustrated:

Beguiling the time with these pleasant reflections [after visiting Bill Sikes], Mr. Fagin wended his way, through mud and mire, to his gloomy abode: where the Dodger was sitting up, impatiently awaiting his return.

"Is Oliver a-bed? I want to speak to him," was his first remark as they descended the stairs.

"Hours ago," replied the Dodger, throwing open a door. "Here he is!"

The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor; so pale with anxiety, and sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed; when a young and gentle spirit has, but an instant, fled to Heaven, and the gross air of the world has not had time to breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed.

"Not now," said the Jew, turning softly away. "To-morrow. To-morrow."


Commentary:

The scene of Mahoney's eleventh wood-engraving is Oliver's room where he has been a solitary prisoner in Fagin's hideout since his abduction by Nancy and Bill Sikes. Whereas George Cruikshank, in collaboration with Dickens himself, focuses on dynamic group scenes that depict the return of Oliver to the gang's hideout and his reassimilation into the criminal subculture, Oliver's reception by Fagin and the Boys in Chapter 16 and Master Bates explains a professional technicality in Chapter 18, James Mahoney in the Household Edition, having reminded the reader of the benevolent characters who are trying to locate Oliver after his mysterious disappearance in Chapter 15 in "A beadle! A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head", now reifies Oliver's danger of becoming part of the criminal underworld of Fagin and Sikes. The present illustration anticipates not merely the closing of Chapter 19, some seven pages later, but also Fagin's preparing Oliver for the role he will play in the robbery by cautioning the boy about Sikes's violent nature if he is crossed:

"Take heed, Oliver! take heed!" said the old man, shaking his right hand before him in a warning manner. "He's a rough man, and thinks nothing of blood when his own is up. Whatever falls out, say nothing; and do what he bids you. Mind!" [Chapter 20, "Wherein Oliver is Delivered over to Mr. William Sikes,"]

Although four years earlier Sol Eytinge had presented a portrait of the old friends who are trying to effect Oliver's reclamation in his dual character study entitled Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig, realising them as they appear while Oliver is on his errand to return the books, Mahoney presents the pair as serious Pickwicks, interrogating the venial beadle, Mr. Bumble, before realizing this scene at the close of Chapter 19. In contrast to James Mahoney, some forty years later Harry Furniss for Chapters 19 and 20 in the Charles Dickens Library Edition underscores Sikes's determined and brutal nature in a grim character study, Bill Sikes, and in a realization of the scene in which the burglar commands Oliver's obedience in the forthcoming expedition to Chertsey, Oliver in the Grip of Sikes, in which in Chapter 20 the burglar holds a cocked pistol to the boy's head, and Nancy articulates the threat should Oliver even speak when in company with Sikes he is approaching or leaving the object of the raid.


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Oliver in the Grip of Sikes

Chapter 20

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Come here, young 'un; and let me read you a lectur', which is as well got over at once."

Thus addressing his new pupil, Mr. Sikes pulled off Oliver’s cap and threw it into a corner; and then, taking him by the shoulder, sat himself down by the table, and stood the boy in front of him.

"Now, first: do you know wot this is?" inquired Sikes, taking up a pocket-pistol which lay on the table.

Oliver replied in the affirmative.

"Well, then, look here," continued Sikes. "This is powder; that 'ere's a bullet; and this is a little bit of a old hat for waddin'."

Oliver murmured his comprehension of the different bodies referred to; and Mr. Sikes proceeded to load the pistol, with great nicety and deliberation.

"Now it’s loaded," said Mr. Sikes, when he had finished.

"Yes, I see it is, sir," replied Oliver.

"Well," said the robber, grasping Oliver's wrist, and putting the barrel so close to his temple that they touched; at which moment the boy could not repress a start; "if you speak a word when you're out o'doors with me, except when I speak to you, that loading will be in your head without notice. So, if you do make up your mind to speak without leave, say your prayers first."

Having bestowed a scowl upon the object of this warning, to increase its effect, Mr. Sikes continued.

"As near as I know, there isn’t anybody as would be asking very partickler arter you, if you was disposed of; so I needn't take this devil-and-all of trouble to explain matters to you, if it warn't for your own good. D'ye hear me?"

"The short and the long of what you mean," said Nancy: speaking very emphatically, and slightly frowning at Oliver as if to bespeak his serious attention to her words: "is, that if you’re crossed by him in this job you have on hand, you'll prevent his ever telling tales afterwards, by shooting him through the head, and will take your chance of swinging for it, as you do for a great many other things in the way of business, every month of your life."

"That’s it!" observed Mr. Sikes, approvingly; "women can always put things in fewest words. — Except when it's blowing up; and then they lengthens it out. And now that he's thoroughly up to it, let’s have some supper, and get a snooze before starting."


Commentary:


Whereas George Cruikshank, in collaboration with Dickens himself, elected to realize the scene in which Nancy and Bill Sikes abduct Oliver on his way to Mr. Brownlow's book-seller with a package of books, Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends for Bentley's Misacellany, James Mahoney instead introduces the villainous couple prior to their recapturing the boy at Clerkenwell, underscoring the fact that the couple are acting as Fagin's agents in "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?" (Chapter 15). Then, the Household Edition James Mahoney depicts Oliver and Sikes on the way to the advanced post for the robbery in Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch (Chapter 21, "The Expedition"). Oliver in this instance is clearly Sikes's pawn, but Furniss offers the scene of Sikes's threatening Oliver to exonerate the boy of any taint of criminality as he is acting strictly under duress.

Although in the 1867 Diamond Edition Sol Eytinge presents a thoroughly disreputable, ill-kempt, and disconsolate couple in his dual character study entitled Bill Sikes and Nancy, realising them as they appear after the botched robbery, in Chapter 39, Felix Octavius Carr Darley in his 1888 Character Sketches from Dickens, revises in a much more realistic manner the original Cruikshank interpretation of the abduction scene in Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist.


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Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch

Chapter 21

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

The night was very dark. A damp mist rose from the river, and the marshy ground about; and spread itself over the dreary fields. It was piercing cold, too; all was gloomy and black. Not a word was spoken; for the driver had grown sleepy; and Sikes was in no mood to lead him into conversation. Oliver sat huddled together, in a corner of the cart; bewildered with alarm and apprehension; and figuring strange objects in the gaunt trees, whose branches waved grimly to and fro, as if in some fantastic joy at the desolation of the scene.

As they passed Sunbury Church, the clock struck seven. There was a light in the ferry-house window opposite: which streamed across the road, and threw into more sombre shadow a dark yew-tree with graves beneath it. There was a dull sound of falling water not far off; and the leaves of the old tree stirred gently in the night wind. It seemed like quiet music for the repose of the dead.

Sunbury was passed through, and they came again into the lonely road. Two or three miles more, and the cart stopped. Sikes alighted, took Oliver by the hand, and they once again walked on.

They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had expected; but still kept walking on, in mud and darkness, through gloomy lanes and over cold open wastes, until they came within sight of the lights of a town at no great distance. On looking intently forward, Oliver saw that the water was just below them, and that they were coming to the foot of a bridge.

Sikes kept straight on, until they were close upon the bridge; then turned suddenly down a bank upon the left.

He was about to throw himself on the ground, and make one struggle for his young life, when he saw that they stood before a solitary house: all ruinous and decayed. There was a window on each side of the dilapidated entrance; and one story above; but no light was visible. The house was dark, dismantled: and the all appearance, uninhabited.

Sikes, with Oliver’s hand still in his, softly approached the low porch, and raised the latch. The door yielded to the pressure, and they passed in together.



Commentary:

Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch — James Mahoney's twelfth illustration, intended to prepare readers of the Household Edition for Oliver's role in Bill Sikes and Toby Crackit's abortive robbery of the Maylie mansion at Chertsey in Surrey. In the original narrative-pictorial sequence by caricaturist George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany, the serial reader encountered a realization of Oliver's being discovered by the servants shortly after climbing in through a diminutive window in the January 1838 illustration The Burglary at the Maylies' home in Chertsey. In the two Mahoney complementary scenes, however, as the illustrator attempts to intensify the suspense, we are still witnessing events leading up to the attempted robbery. In the Mahoney illustration, the burly figure of the Sikes (in his signature slightly battered white top-hat, centre) and his reluctant charge, Oliver in a cape, are approaching the back porch of a dilapidated house south of London, outside Shepperton, where the housebreaker is about to rendezvous with his confederates, Fagin's man, Barney, and Toby Crackit, who has already investigated the security of the house they intend to rob. Sikes's massive bulk and huge hand contrast the delicate frame and tiny hand of the boy, dramatizing the threat of reprisal under which Oliver is acting.

Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist, George Cruikshank depicts the housebreaker Bill S ikes as the sordid, lower-class villain out of contemporary melodrama, the figure whom Felix Octavius Carr Darley in his 1888 series of Character Sketches from Dickens depicts seems to have been influenced by Mahoney's more realistic treatment, which in turn has influenced Harry Furniss's interpretation of the brutal housebreaker, who, after all, must possess a certain allure for his companion in crime, Nancy. He cannot logically be a mere Hogarthian ruffian, as in Cruikshank, or an evolutionary throwback, as in Eytinge.

In the monthly wrapper containing eleven scenes from the novel for the 1846 serialization, Cruikshank (rather than Dickens's usual illustrator of the 1840s, Hablot Knight Browne) includes in the design's upper left-hand corner Sikes at the window on the outside of the house, gesticulating as if telling Oliver how to open the door for Sikes himself, Nancy, and Toby Crackit once Oliver has descended to the floor; by its prominence in the wrapper, Cruikshank is implying that the incident is significant in Oliver's "progress." In the Household Edition, however, Mahoney focuses on two scenes immediately preceding the botched robbery, perhaps aware that his readers would inevitably compare his treatment of The Burglary to Cruikshank's The Burglary. Such a consideration, however, did not prevent fin de siecle illustrator Harry Furniss from attempting a much more dynamic composition in which the focus is the four servants who burst into the storeroom as Oliver is about to pass out. Seeing the picture before reading the accompanying text, one might expect the worst, but by the end of the closing curtain Sikes has at least abstracted Oliver from the immediate danger posed by the armed servants — who become four in number in the Furniss illustration. Mahoney, on the other hand, having set the scene with two introductory illustrations — the complement to the Shepperton scene being "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!"), leaves the narration of the most exciting part of the episode, Oliver's confronting the armed servants, entirely up to Dickens.


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"The horse, whose health had been drunk"

Chapter 21

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

After the exchange of a few more compliments, they bade the company good-night, and went out; the girl gathering up the pots and glasses as they did so, and lounging out to the door, with her hands full, to see the party start.

The horse, whose health had been drunk in his absence, was standing outside: ready harnessed to the cart. Oliver and Sikes got in without any further ceremony; and the man to whom he belonged, having lingered for a minute or two 'to bear him up,' and to defy the hostler and the world to produce his equal, mounted also. Then, the hostler was told to give the horse his head; and, his head being given him, he made a very unpleasant use of it: tossing it into the air with great disdain, and running into the parlour windows over the way; after performing those feats, and supporting himself for a short time on his hind-legs, he started off at great speed, and rattled out of the town right gallantly.

The night was very dark. A damp mist rose from the river, and the marshy ground about; and spread itself over the dreary fields. It was piercing cold, too; all was gloomy and black. Not a word was spoken; for the driver had grown sleepy; and Sikes was in no mood to lead him into conversation. Oliver sat huddled together, in a corner of the cart; bewildered with alarm and apprehension; and figuring strange objects in the gaunt trees, whose branches waved grimly to and fro, as if in some fantastic joy at the desolation of the scene.

As they passed Sunbury Church, the clock struck seven. There was a light in the ferry-house window opposite: which streamed across the road, and threw into more sombre shadow a dark yew-tree with graves beneath it. There was a dull sound of falling water not far off; and the leaves of the old tree stirred gently in the night wind. It seemed like quiet music for the repose of the dead.

Sunbury was passed through, and they came again into the lonely road. Two or three miles more, and the cart stopped. Sikes alighted, took Oliver by the hand, and they once again walked on.

They turned into no house at Shepperton, as the weary boy had expected; but still kept walking on, in mud and darkness, through gloomy lanes and over cold open wastes, until they came within sight of the lights of a town at no great distance. On looking intently forward, Oliver saw that the water was just below them, and that they were coming to the foot of a bridge.

Sikes kept straight on, until they were close upon the bridge; then turned suddenly down a bank upon the left.

'The water!' thought Oliver, turning sick with fear. 'He has brought me to this lonely place to murder me!'


Commentary:

These illustrations come from the Robson & Kerslake edition published at 23 Coventry Street, Haymarket, London, in 1886. The twenty-one illustrations are keyed to the pagination in the 1838 three-volume edition. These illustrations constitute one of 50 coloured sets issued.


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The Burglary

Chapter 22

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

They listened intently.

"Nothing," said Sikes, releasing his hold of Oliver. "Now!"

In the short time he had had to collect his senses, the boy had firmly resolved that, whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one effort to dart upstairs from the hall, and alarm the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at once, but stealthily.

"Come back!" suddenly cried Sikes aloud. "Back! back!"

Scared by the sudden breaking of the dead stillness of the place, and by a loud cry which followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall, and knew not whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated — a light appeared — a vision of two terrified half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes — a flash — a loud noise – a smoke — a crash somewhere, but where he knew not, — and he staggered back.

Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and had him by the collar before the smoke had cleared away. He fired his own pistol after the men, who were already retreating; and dragged the boy up.

"Clasp your arm tighter," said Sikes, as he drew him through the window. "Give me a shawl here. They've hit him. Quick! How the boy bleeds!"

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of fire-arms, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And then, the noises grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept over the boy's heart; and he saw or heard no more. [Chapter 22, "The Burglary," ]


Commentary:

In the chapter 22 illustration which depicts Oliver's being surprised and shot at as soon as he has entered the Chertsey house that Sikes is attempting to rob, George Cruikshank minimizes the previously intimidating bulk of the notorious housebreaker by confining him to a mere facial likeness in the frame window five-and-a-half feet off the ground outside — in a framed portrait, so to speak — as Sikes watches the unfolding scene with interest and relative impotence as he seems powerless to intervene to save Oliver or assault the servants who are discharging firearms. Effectively rendered, Cruikshank's ruffian is unshaven, unkempt, and full-faced — but the small window through which he peers would prevent him from firing his own weapon on the two servants, let alone haul Oliver out if harm's way by the collar in the text on the page facing the steel-engraving, which intensifies the suspense at the end of the monthly part, as the author reports the protagonist's sensations of being hauled up through the window, dragged across the ground, and left to die in a ditch. The same improbability associated with the window is apparent in Harry Furniss's rendition of the same dramatic moment.





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Toby Crackit

Chapter 22

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

Muttering a curse upon his tardiness, Sikes pushed Oliver before him; and they entered a low dark room with a smoky fire, two or three broken chairs, a table, and a very old couch: on which, with his legs much higher than his head, a man was reposing at full length, smoking a long clay pipe. He was dressed in a smartly-cut snuff-coloured coat, with large brass buttons; an orange neckerchief; a coarse, staring, shawl-pattern waistcoat; and drab breeches. Mr. Crackit (for he it was) had no very great quantity of hair, either upon his head or face; but what he had, was of a reddish dye, and tortured into long corkscrew curls, through which he occasionally thrust some very dirty fingers, ornamented with large common rings. He was a trifle above the middle size, and apparently rather weak in the legs; but this circumstance by no means detracted from his own admiration of his top-boots, which he contemplated, in their elevated situation, with lively satisfaction.

"Bill, my boy!" said this figure, turning his head towards the door, "I'm glad to see you. I was almost afraid you’d given it up: in which case I should have made a personal wentur. Hallo!"

Uttering this exclamation in a tone of great surprise, as his eyes rested on Oliver, Mr. Toby Crackit brought himself into a sitting posture, and demanded who that was.


Commentary:

The Hogarthian underworld figures of the dashing young burglar Toby Crackit and his laudanum-addicted servant boy, Barney (characters straight out of the cast of lowlifes in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera) rarely appear in the illustrations of the novel. Bent upon the task of introducing the characters of the story in telling poses, Sol Eytinge does not address one of the principal incidents in the story, Sikes's attempted burglary of the Maylies' home in Chertsey, but instead shows a minor, Newgate character in an habitual pose. The original illustrator, doubtless acting under Dickens's directions, shows Oliver surprised by the servants (a scene copied but rendered more dramatic by Harry Furniss), whereas James Mahoney in the 1871 volume for the Household Edition has elected to build up the suspense by depicting two scenes leading up to the burglary, although once again he does not attempt to compete with George Cruikshank by attempting to update and render the scene in the great house more realistically. In Mahoney's second picture associated with the ill-fated burglary, Toby (indistinctly seen) serves as Sikes's stepping stone to the window through which Sikes has just admitted Oliver to the house. Not overly bright, the housebreaker nevertheless has the reputation of being able to seduce housemaids into assisting the gang with their breakins. In fact, he may well have derived his background information about the layout of the house by chatting with servants and tradesmen over the previous fortnight. However, despite his "sham whiskers, and a canary waistcoat" (ch. 19), Crackit has apparently encountered some resistance from even the women servants. However, Toby Crackit has gleaned enough about the floorplan of the house at Chertsey to enable Sikes to proceed with the robbery — but the pair need a boy of Oliver's size to squeeze through a pantry window. However, at the first sign of trouble from the male servants when he accompanies Sikes and Oliver to Chertsey, Crackit cuts and runs, revealing himself not so much as dashing — a slovenly Regency buck in Eytinge's drawing — as cowardly posturer.

Introduced as a peripheral member of the gang in Chapter 19, "Flash Toby Crackit," an expert lock-picker and flashy dresser, has a safe-house on Jacob's Island. Eytinge captures Crackit's attitude well, although he shows neither the lock-picker's dirty fingers nor his multitude of rings.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Wow, that was a novella in its own right. A lot of work Kim. Appreciate it.

Cruikshank has no idea how to draw the Dodger. (Yeah, I know. The guy who can't draw stickmen is critiquing Cruikshank.)

I wonder if that face is phrenology in action?


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"The Attempted Burglary"

Chapter 22

Felix O. C. Darley

1865 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

Although Mr. Crackit spoke in a scarcely audible whisper, and laughed without noise, Sikes imperiously commanded him to be silent, and to get to work. Toby complied, by first producing his lantern, and placing it on the ground; then by planting himself firmly with his head against the wall beneath the window, and his hands upon his knees, so as to make a step of his back. This was no sooner done, than Sikes, mounting upon him, put O ?l? iver gently through the window with his feet first; and, without leaving hold of his collar, planted him safely on the floor inside.

"Take this lantern," said Sikes, looking into the room. "You see the stairs afore you?"

Oliver, more dead than alive, gasped out, "Yes." Sikes, pointing to the street-door with the pistol-barrel, briefly advised him to take notice that he was within shot all the way; and that if he faltered, he would fall dead that instant.

"It's done in a minute," said Sikes, in the same low whisper. "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!"

"What's that?" whispered the other man.

They listened intently.


Commentary:

Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in Bentley's Miscellany, George Cruikshank elected — undoubtedly with Dickens's oversight — to make the celebrated workhouse scene Oliver's Asking for More (Part 1, February 1837) the frontispiece for the 1846 Chapman and Hall re-release of the novel in volume form, Darley ignores the workhouse segment of the story entirely in his 1865 frontispieces. In the first he focuses on Oliver's relationship with Fagin; in the second, he depicts the protagonist with the burglar, Bill Sikes, whom Darley depicts as the sordid, lower-class villain out of contemporary melodrama in his 1888 series of Character Sketches from Dickens. His Sikes is much more of an individual (despite his characteristic long face and white top hat derived directly from Cruikshank, but with the relentless realism of James Mahoney in his 1871 volume for the Household Edition) than a type. Here, however, Sikes is barely discernible, and the focus of the illustration once again is Oliver.

Since the second volume of Oliver Twist begins with Chapter 29, "Has an Introductory Account of the Inmates of the House, to which Oliver resorted," the incident depicted in the frontispiece lies immediately behind us in the narrative, so that the Household Edition reader of 1865 would have responded to the Darley frontispiece analeptically, perhaps even re-reading the account of events leading up to the break-in at the end of the first volume to match the determined look on the face of Sikes and the pathetic look on the face of Oliver "stupified by the unwonted exercise, and the drink which had been forced upon him. . . ." According to to text, the glare of Sikes's partially open dark lantern falls intensely on Oliver's face, as in the Darley illustration, although Sikes has yet to hoist Oliver up by his collar "with his feet first."

Harry Furniss provides a much more dynamic composition in which the focus is the four servants who burst into the storeroom as Oliver is about to pass out. Attempting a dark plate in the manner of Hablot Knight Browne, Darley and Mahoney do not permit the reader to see much of the action, just the outlines of the characters as they depict the low-key scene immediately preceding the melodramatic confrontation of robbers and armed servants in the storeroom. In particular, Darley highlights blond-haired Oliver in the darkness to underscore the reluctance of his participation in the burglary.

At the time that he executed the burglary illustration, Cruikshank probably had little sense that the botched robbery would, in fact, mark a turning point in the trajectory of the plot. What is more, George Cruikshank would not have been alone in the new directions the plot would take, for the novelist himself in mid-March 1838 admitted to theatrical adapter and director Frederick Yates that he himself did not know what would happen to the characters:

I am quite satisfied that nobody can have heard what I mean to do with the different characters in the end, inasmuch as at present I don't quite know, myself

Conversely, the novel having been long circulated in America through legitimate and pirated editions, as well as upon the popular stage, Darley knew very well that the Chertsey burglary is a turning-point in the plot, and therefore reflected this knowledge in his choice of topic for the second frontispiece for the volume containing the second half of the twenty-four installment, 53-chapter story, the robbery occurring in what was Part 10, the January 1838 installment (Chapter 22).


message 32: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6383 comments Mod


"Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!"

Chapter 22

John Mahoney

Household Edition 1871

Text Illustrated:

Although Mr. Crackit spoke in a scarcely audible whisper, and laughed without noise, Sikes imperiously commanded him to be silent, and to get to work. Toby complied, by first producing his lantern, and placing it on the ground; then by planting himself firmly with his head against the wall beneath the window, and his hands upon his knees, so as to make a step of his back. This was no sooner done, than Sikes, mounting upon him, put Oiver gently through the window with his feet first; and, without leaving hold of his collar, planted him safely on the floor inside.

"Take this lantern," said Sikes, looking into the room. "You see the stairs afore you?"

Oliver, more dead than alive, gasped out, "Yes." Sikes, pointing to the street-door with the pistol-barrel, briefly advised him to take notice that he was within shot all the way; and that if he faltered, he would fall dead that instant.

"It's done in a minute," said Sikes, in the same low whisper. "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!"

"What's that?" whispered the other man.

They listened intently.


Commentary:

"Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!" — James Mahoney's thirteenth illustration, intended to prepare readers of the Household Edition for Oliver's role in Bill Sikes' ill-fated robbery of the Maylie mansion at Chertsey in Surrey. Ironically, Oliver replaces a chimney-sweep's boy reapprehended by the nineteenth-century equivalent of Child Services. In the original narrative-pictorial serial sequence by George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany, the serial reader encountered a realization of Oliver's being discovered by the servants shortly after climbing in through a diminutive window in the January 1838 illustration The Burglary at the Maylies' home in Chertsey. In the two Mahoney scenes, however, as the illustrator attempts to intensify the suspense, we are still witnessing events leading up to the attempted robbery.

In this Mahoney illustration, the burly figure of the Sikes (stepping on the back of his confederate, Toby Crackit, centre) leans into the storeroom window, pointing a loaded pistol at his reluctant charge, Oliver, whom he has already dropped into the house through the little lattice window, about five and a half feet from the ground. The reader (perhaps recalling the original Cruikshank illustration, either from the serial or the 1846 revised edition) must visualize Oliver's reaction to Sikes's threat and the directions of Toby Crackit, for he is already looking for the passageway leading to the door which he is to open for the burglars. Shortly will follow the textual version of the scene rendered famous by Cruikshank in which the Maylies' servants surprise the boy.


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6383 comments Mod


"The Burglary"

Chapter 22

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustration:

In the short time he had had to collect his senses, the boy had firmly resolved that, whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one effort to dart upstairs from the hall, and alarm the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at once, but stealthily.

"Come back!" suddenly cried Sikes aloud. "Back! back!"

Scared by the sudden breaking of the dead stillness of the place, and by a loud cry which followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall, and knew not whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated — a light appeared — a vision of two terrified half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes — a flash — a loud noise — a smoke — a crash somewhere, but where he knew not, — and he staggered back.

Sikes had disappeared for an instant; but he was up again, and had him by the collar before the smoke had cleared away. He fired his own pistol after the men, who were already retreating; and dragged the boy up.

"Clasp your arm tighter," said Sikes, as he drew him through the window. "Give me a shawl here. They've hit him. Quick! How the boy bleeds!"

Then came the loud ringing of a bell, mingled with the noise of fire-arms, and the shouts of men, and the sensation of being carried over uneven ground at a rapid pace. And then, the noises grew confused in the distance; and a cold deadly feeling crept over the boy's heart; and he saw or heard no more.


Commentary:

With a greater number of plates to provide for the novel and a knowledge of the trajectory of the plot, both James Mahoney for the Household Edition and Harry Furniss for The Charles Dickens Library Edition emphasized the criminal career of the housebreaker, brought brilliantly to twentieth-century cinema by Robert Newton, Oliver Reed, and a host of other actors — whereas Cruikshank has just four representations of Sikes in twenty-four illustrations, Mahoney has six out of twenty-nine, and Furniss nine thirty three. By the time that Cruikshank executed the monthly wrapper for the 1846 re-serialisation, he appreciated Sikes's importance, showing him in three of the the monthly wrapper's eleven vignettes; likewise, in Furniss's Characters in the Story, Sikes and his dog appear prominently in the middle of the right-hand frame, Sikes being the largest by far of the forty-four figures (the lifeless Nancy is also in a prominent position, the centre of the bottom frame).


The rooms look entirely different in the 1838 and 1910 illustrations. Dickens himself is equivocal about the nature of the backroom into which Sikes lowers the terrified boy: "at the back of the house: which belonged to a scullery, or a small brewing-place, at the end of the passage". An illustrator, of course, cannot embrace ambiguity. Cruikshank must have decided it would be a "brewing-place," and accordingly inserted a wooden vat and long-handled implement on the wall, leaving the space uncluttered. The only chaos in his picture is the frightened servants, the discharge of a pistol, the smoke of the gunpowder, and the wounded boy, crying out. In contrast, transforming the room into a cluttered scullery, Furniss re-arranges the layout of the room and alters the juxtaposition of the figures (now six in number) in such a way that Oliver is no longer the obvious focus of the illustration. In the somewhat theatrical original in Bentley's, Cruikshank has the two frightened servants to the left, just entering through the open doorway; Oliver, holding his arm (centre); a large brewing-tub, lower right, and Sikes's troll-like face, upper right. Although he minimizes the clouds of gunpowder, Furniss provides considerably more clutter in the scullery, places the comic servants upper centre (one with a sword, a second with a pistol, a third with a raised lantern), and relegates an obviously wounded Oliver to the lower left and an angry Sikes to the upper left, leaving the centre of the composition vacant, so that the reader-viewer in anticipation must be read the plate proleptically; only five pages later will the reader find its textual equivalent and learn Oliver's fate.


message 34: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Peter wrote: " The thieves prepare to set off with a great many implements including objects called barkers, persuaders, crape, keys, centre-bits, darkies and a crowbar. I know what a crowbar is. T..."

I have read Lee Jackson’s Dirty Old London and highly recommend it.


message 35: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Kim: as Xan has already noted, your postings are a complete novel and commentary in themselves. Thank you.

We are having a good discussion on hanging in our commentaries this week and many of the illustrations bring the idea into a visual form. It is eerie to think that Bates and the Dodger look upon hanging in a humourous way, especially since they were excellent candidates for the noose themselves because of their criminal lives. Perhaps laughing in the face of the devil is a good way to manage one’s fears.

Poor Nancy. We have worked out her age and discovered she is still in her teens. The Furniss illustration makes her look more in the category of one of the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Again, with these illustrations we see how they frame and enhance our reading experience and definitely help form our impressions of the characters in the novel.


message 36: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 22

After a seemingly endless track in horrid weather Oliver finds himself in yet another dusty, crumbling home with little furniture and less hospitality. We are in yet another criminal’s ..."


I'm confused at the end of this chapter. Does Sikes go into the house to pull Oliver out? If so, why do they need Oliver? Has Oliver been shot? Where did all the guns come from? Frankly, the whole idea of this robbery -- walking past a room of people sleeping with door wide open to let thieves in -- is braindead thinking. If this is how Sikes goes about his craft, I have to wonder why his neck hasn't already made an intimate and lasting connection with the noose end of a rope?

To answer one of your questions, Peter, I prefer the longer chapters because I enjoy the omniscient narrator's wit, and he needs time and pages to strut his stuff.


message 37: by Peter (last edited Jul 04, 2018 08:17AM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Hi Xan

We are told that Oliver was the only person who could fit through the small opening in the house so somehow we must presume Oliver got himself out. Yes, he was wounded. Now, as to why they needed him ... let’s say for now that he was part of the “gang”, albeit reluctantly. The Maylie home was in the countryside and it would not be unusual for such households to have a fowling piece or two.

As for “braindead thinking” it is fair to say that Fagin, the Dodger, Bates, Sikes, Nancy, Crackit et al. are petty thieves at best. Success seems to have evaded them if we consider their living accommodations.

You are right to ask the questions. Dickens at times is a puzzle. Often I miss the most important parts of a chapter and have no idea I did so until later in the novel.


message 38: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Thank you, Peter. I can see how Fagin stays out of jail -- he never actually goes near the crime while it is being committed. Plus he has his hole in the floor. As to the rest of them, phewy!!! -- the gang that couldn't think straight.

On an aside: I see that Crackit (or was it Barney?) mentions Oliver's face and how well he might do stealing from women because of it.


message 39: by Peter (last edited Jul 04, 2018 09:24AM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Thank you, Peter. I can see how Fagin stays out of jail -- he never actually goes near the crime while it is being committed. Plus he has his hole in the floor. As to the rest of them, phewy!!! -- ..."

Hi Xan

We are told that Oliver has a beautiful face. No doubt his face is meant to contrast with the far more worldly faces of those such as Sikes, Fagin, Dodger, Bates, Monks and even Nancy. I think Cruikshank and the later illustrators do a very good job creating the faces of the various characters. Certainly when I look at how Nancy’s face is portrayed it is hard to believe she is still a teenager.

And yes, there seems to be an inordinate amount of focus on Oliver’s face throughout the novel to date. No spoilers, but keep an eye on his face.


message 40: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Peter wrote: "Oliver seems to attract pain, discomfort, upsetting situations, criminals and circumstances. Do you think Dickens is a bit “over the top” in the establishment of Oliver’s character? Also, do you find Oliver too sweet, to naive, to good to be true?"

Yes, I definitely felt Oliver was too good for credulity, especially when he said he'd rather die than steal. However, I think Oliver is supposed to be a Christ figure. This would explain the blame, the beatings, and Oliver's "sacrifice" getting shot.

The robbery reminded me of the "thief in the night" parable from the Bible--Christ will come like a thief in a dark house when everyone is asleep. If this is what Dickens meant, the break-in was indeed a huge turning point in the plot, and "judgment" is coming soon for all the bad guys in the story.


message 41: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1341 comments Peter wrote: "The thieves prepare to set off with a great many implements including objects called barkers, persuaders, crape, keys, centre-bits, darkies and a crowbar. I know what a crowbar is. The others will be found in a Victorian slang dictionary."

I enjoy the slang, but I may enjoy even more the workarounds for rough language Dickens slips in sometimes. In Chapter 19, Nancy says it is "a cold night, and no mistake. Miss Nancy prefixed to the word 'cold' another adjective, derived from the name of an unpleasant instrument of death, which, as the word is seldom mentioned to ears polite in any other form than as a substantive, I have omitted in this chronicle."

I'll put the gloss about this adjective (from the Horne footnotes in my Penguin) in spoiler text in case anyone wants to try to work it out first, which I could not do myself. (view spoiler)

I was able to sort out an earlier circumlocution from Sikes in Chapter 16: "'What do you mean by this?' said Sikes, backing the inquiry with a very common imprecation concerning the most beautiful of human features, which, if it were heard above, only once out of every fifty thousand times it is uttered below, would render blindness as common as measles.'" I am not sure why Dickens does this, except that it's funny, because in Chapter 19 he has Sikes straight-up say (view spoiler), so the workaround wouldn't seem to be about censorship.


message 42: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Alissa wrote: "The robbery reminded me of the "thief in the night" parable from the Bible..."

Love this theory, Alissa!


message 43: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Well, it certainly looks like someone tipped off the denizens of this house of the Coming of the Thief in the Night.

While I do see the innocence of an angel in Oliver, he's no Little Dorrit when it comes to Christ-like saviors. Now, Little Dorrit gets 'er done. Amy is so good at being in charge and saving people that she can fool you into thinking you're the one doing it; meanwhile, poor Oliver just gets dragged around and around and can't even help himself.


message 44: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1341 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "poor Oliver just gets dragged around and around and can't even help himself. "

True. Fortunately it seems his face is his fortune.

Or at least so we can hope, for his sake!


message 45: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4852 comments Mod
A lot has been said about Oliver's face, and when we consider that there was a portrait in Mr. Bownlow's house and that this portrait was taken off because it was observed to have an unsettling effect on the reconvalescent Oliver, we may be sure that Oliver's face will still be of some importance.

Toby Crackit's remarks on the usefulness of Oliver's face for criminal actions might serve two functions: On the one hand, it shows the will of those villains to turn everything, be it ever so beautiful and good, into an instrument of their vile plans. Peter remarked that Fagin displays very deep knowledge of how to manipulate children, drawing them into a life of crime and baseness. Just consider how they try to break Oliver's will and confidence by isolating him and then, when he is desperate for company, showing some leniency towards him and allowing him to leave his room, but not the apartment. The narrator even remarks himself that by that time Oliver hungers so much for human company that even that of the Dodger and Bates is welcome to him.

Another reason for mentioning Oliver's "good" face and the use it can be put to probably lies in establishing a motive why Fagin should go through all that trouble of keeping and "training" an apparently extremely restive boy like Oliver, i.e. one who shows no inclination to join the gang and who remains firm with regard to his honesty. Now, if Oliver proves too much of a strain on Fagin's patience, one could easily imagine Bill Sikes putting an end to Oliver's life. He would not think twice about it. But then the story would end, and so the narrator must find a plausible reason for Fagin's sticking to the task of manipulating and re-defining Oliver, and that is the fact that eventually, his good and honest face will be a source of income to Fagin.

I am not going to put any spoiler in here, but let me just add that the narrator is going to provide another, a stronger reason soon.


message 46: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4852 comments Mod
I also liked the detail of Sikes's spilling out the remnants of the glass Fagin has used before filling it for himself. It may seem like a waste of alcohol, but I think it expresses the utter disgust that Bill Sikes feels for Fagin. Fagin is, indeed, a "reptile" as the narrator puts it, a corruptor of youth, scheming and underhanded, and probably somebody like Sikes considers himself a better man than that.

It's an idle question to decide which one of the two is the greater villain, for both of them are utter scum but still in my books, Fagin is even more evil than Sikes because he has made it his business to train children for crime and to live on their work. Sikes is a brute, reckless and without a conscience but at least he takes risks himself and does not hide behind others.


message 47: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4852 comments Mod
I also considered Chapter 21 as some kind of filler, like Mary Lou did, but more often than not, I like Dickens's fillers. However, I also took the expedition down into the countryside as a symbolical journey of Oliver's, a journey into crime, and was prompted to it by the general atmosphere of hopelessness and desolateness that hangs over the descriptions. Interestingly, we also have a passage like this:

"It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; the whistling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of voices, that issued from every public-house; the crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and discordant dim that resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses."


Again, we have the motif of cattle and sheep, waiting helplessly for somebody who is going to buy them, standing in their pens or being tied to their posts all the while. The texts even mentions "butchers" and "drovers", and it is probably not a long shot to imagine Fagin in the role of both of these: A drover in that he trains children for crime, and a butcher in that he readily hands them over to the gallows when he cannot get any more out of them, in order to save his own skin.

And yes, the fact that Sikes would travel all that way, or that Toby Crackit would let him and Fagin in on this burglary project, also seemed unlikely to me. But there are still more unlikely things to come.


message 48: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4852 comments Mod
Why did the burglars not leave Oliver in the house but took the risk to retrieve him?

Probably not for a nobler reason but that they could not be sure the boy was dead, and that therefore he could have "peached" on them.

Where do all the weapons come from?

I don't know for sure but maybe in the old days, wealthy people kept arms at home, not only for hunting but also with a view to defending their property. There was no real police force as yet, and in the countryside, there was only a constable exercising the duty of watching over peace and lawfulness. The constable was usually not a very well-trained person, and therefore, people might have had weapons to defend themselves and their houses in cases of need.


message 49: by Xan (last edited Jul 06, 2018 02:51AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Thanks, Tristram.

Isolated is the correct word, I think. Oliver is not just imprisoned; he is isolated. My scattered thoughts on isolation versus imprisonment are as follows: An inmate is jailed but not isolated from his local community. Isolation, because it is a stricter, more devastating and brutal form of punishment, is used only as a last resort. But it is used as a first resort on Oliver.

All Oliver's life he has been isolated by those in control when they wished to punish him. At the child's home he is isolated. At the workhouse he is isolated. At Fagin's he is isolated. Even at Brownlow's he is isolated in bed while sick, although he does have attendants. And these isolations are never for a few hours but always for one or more weeks at a time.

Even the hiding of the portrait, I think, is a denial, and possibly an attempt to isolate him from some truth. I never bought into the reason for hiding the portrait -- that it upset Oliver. Why would they deny him access to the portrait when it captivates his interest so? Or is it possible, as I think it is, that the portrait has been taken down because the similarities between Oliver and the woman in the portrait are upsetting Brownlow? Perhaps this is something he does not at the moment wish to consider. After all, he does reference an unhappy past that includes betrayals.

So what do all my wandering thoughts mean? Probably nothing. If they have meaning, it has escaped me. Perhaps it is nothing more than Dickens wishing to make a distinction between isolation and imprisonment. Or perhaps it is just me doing so.


message 50: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2520 comments Tristram wrote: " The texts even mentions "butchers" and "drovers", and it is probably not a long shot to imagine Fagin in the role of both of these: A drover in that he trains children for crime, and a butcher in that he readily hands them over to the gallows when he cannot get any more out of them, in order to save his own skin...."

This members of this group never fails to astound me with their observations and the connections they make. First, Alissa's observations about the parable of the thief in the night, and now Tristram's connection of the drovers and butchers with Fagin and Sikes. I don't have the slightest idea if Dickens himself consciously made these connections or if it's merely a coincidence, but I'm impressed with what you all see that I never fail to miss completely. I love this group! :-)


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