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Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist Chapters 38-41

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Chapter 38

I can’t think of many people I would like to avoid more than Monks and the Bumbles on a dark and stormy night in a dreary and frightening location, but here they are and so let’s see what they are up to in this chapter. In this chapter we can enjoy how Dickens matches the weather to the mood of the people and the setting. Is there anyone who creates pathetic fallacy better than Dickens?

We begin the chapter with Bumble carrying a lantern “from which, however, no light yet shone” and Mrs Bumble following in his “heavy foot-prints.” They are in a location that “was far from being a place of doubtful character; for it had long been known as the residence of none but low ruffians.” Nothing good can be said of this place for even the huts stood on “weakened and rotted piles ... and a considerable portion of the building had already sunk down into the water.” The location has the feel of a primordial swamp, almost as if we are moving into a devolution of time.

Monks invites the Bumbles to his apartment and we read that even the formidable Mrs Bumble “withdrew her eyes, and turned them towards the ground.”

A flash of lightning occurs which greatly distresses Monk. He first covers his face and then uncovers it which reveals his face to now be “distorted, and discoloured.”

Thoughts


Dickens is creating in the character of Monks a very disagreeable character. What is it about Monks that you dislike so far? How might Dickens use his character as the novel progresses?

If we step back from the story we can observe how Dickens is layering disagreeable characters upon each other. For example, is Fagin or Sikes worse? Is Sikes worse than Monks? To date, who do you find to be the most disagreeable character?



We learn that Monks wants to know what happened the night of Oliver’s mother’s death and what communication may have occurred before her death. Monks wants to know if there was something taken from Oliver’s mother when she died. By this time, Mrs Bumble has regained her composure and demands to be compensated for any information she has. Clearly, she is the master of the Bumble home. I’d like to take Mrs Bumble along to any negotiation I have in the future. She takes on Monks and raises the amount he must pay for her information. They settle on £ 25 and so we hear the story...

Mrs Bumble and Old Sally were present when Oliver was born. Sally robbed his mother’s corpse of an item that Oliver’s mother prayed to be kept for her infant’s sake. Old Sally, on her death bed, makes this confession to Mrs Bumble. Now, the question is, where is this item? Mrs Bumble recounts that she found a scrape of dirty paper in the dead Sally’s hand, and that item was a pawnbrokers duplicate. Mrs Bumble then took the ticket and redeemed the pledge. She then shows Monks “a small kit bag” and inside was a “tiny gold locket in which were two locks of hair and a plain gold wedding ring.” The locket had the word “Agnes” engraved on the inside, but, very interestingly, “there was a blank left for the surname; and then follows the date; which is within a year before the child was born.”

Mrs Bumble asks Monks if this is what he was looking for and he answers yes. She then wants to know if any of this transaction can be used against her. The answer is no. Then, to the shock of everyone, Monks throws the little packet into the Thames.

Their business concluded our groups separate and we are left to ponder what we have just witnessed.

Thoughts


Just when we thought we might get some answers to the mystery of Oliver’s origins we are left with even more puzzles. Still, there are clues in this chapter that may help us unravel some of the mystery.

Let’s see...

A gold locket and two locks of hair. What could this suggest?

A plain gold wedding ring. What might this suggest?

Who is “Agnes?”

Why is there not a surname on the locket?

There is a date on the locket “within a year before the child [Oliver] was born.” How does this help us puzzle out the mystery?

And finally, who or what is the connection of Monks to all the above?

Deerstalkers firmly on. Let’s here your ideas.


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Chapter 39

We open Chapter 39 by learning that Sikes has slipped further down the property ladder, although it is beyond me how he could have found worse lodgings than he had in earlier chapters. This apartment “bespoke a state of extreme poverty.” To look at him, we are told, Sikes had “the cadaverous hue of illness.” Clearly, he is having no success as a housebreaker. With him is his faithful dog and seated by the lone window of the room Dickens tells us that there is “a female: so pale and reduced ... there would have been considerable difficulty in recognizing her as the same Nancy that has already figured in this tale.” Sikes’s temper is in no way improved with his state and we learn that he strikes Nancy. Nancy responds to this assault by reminding Sikes that “such a number of nights as I’ve been patient with you, nursing and caring for you , as if you had been a child.” Shortly after this speech Nancy faints. To me, Nancy is the most intricate and interesting character in the novel.

Thoughts


In the opening paragraphs of this chapter we once again get a short peek into the kindness in Nancy’s heart. She has nursed Sikes through his illness and weakness “as if [Sikes] had been a child.” Where have we seen this maternal instinct of Nancy before? What broader implications, hints, or foreshadowing might be linked to Nancy’s character through a look at this scene?

The fortunes of Sikes, Fagin, the Dodger, and Charley Bates all seem to be on the decline. What are the chances that this will make them more desperate to make a big score in their criminal behaviour?

What was your response to Sikes striking Nancy? Why do you think Dickens was so open about Sikes’s physical abuse? How differently do you think a Victorian audience would have responded to this assault than a 21st century reading audience?



Fagin, the Dodger, and Bates bring Sikes a large parcel of food that one would think he would be grateful for, but Sikes just growls and complains. Sikes is one of those people who just love to be miserable. Sikes does offer a glimpse of appreciation when he acknowledges that “if it hadn’t been for the girl, I might have died.” This is, perhaps, the only kind thought Sikes ever offers to Nancy. We learn Fagin was the means of Sikes “having such a handy girl ... about.” This line made my flesh creep as it seems Nancy is little more than chattel. At this point Fagin and Sikes begin to haggle over money. Sikes wants five pounds from Fagin but Fagin beats the amount down to three pounds four and sixpence. After the deal is made Nancy goes off with Fagin to collect the money. At Fagin’s apartment we find Toby Crackit finishing off a game of cribbage with Chitling. Needless to say, all of Crackit’s winnings were legitimate ... not! Fagin and the others have fun at Chitling’s expense, but Chitling does not get that he is the butt of their jokes and mockery and a target of their cheating ways.

For some reason, when Nancy hears Monks’s voice at Fagin’s she tears off her bonnet and shawl. She takes a “keen and searching” look at Monks. Next, Nancy creeps up a staircase in her bare feet so she can hear the conversation between Fagin and Monks. After Monks leaves Fagin notices how pale Nancy looks. After receiving the promised money from Fagin, Nancy begins a “violent run” in the opposite direction than the awaiting Sikes. After bursting into tears, she reverses her direction and heads back to be with Sikes. Sikes notes that Nancy looks strange and comments that “you look like a corpse come to life again.”

What follows is a bizarre set of circumstances. Sikes threatens to beat Nancy but, at the same time, seems to fear that she will leave him. Nancy laces Sikes’s drink with laudanum and this puts Sikes in a deep sleep. She hurriedly leaves their apartment and rushes through the streets of London until she gets to the West-End. We learn that Nancy is in search of Rose Maylie and has a message for her. There is much hesitation from the woman servants at the hotel who demonstrate their class prejudice as they look down on Nancy as being beneath them in social class. The message is finally delivered and Nancy is invited to meet with Miss Maylie. And here the chapter ends.

Thoughts

What an action-packed chapter. Let’s see if we can unpack some of the events and see what we get.

The chapter centres around Nancy. Why do you think Dickens begins the chapter with us seeing another quick flash of kindness from Nancy?

Monks makes an appearance in this chapter and holds a secret meeting with Fagin. This meeting is overheard by Nancy and she has such a violent reaction to the meeting’s conversation that she begins to run in the opposite direction from her apartment with Sikes. She then hesitates, cries, and returns to Sikes. Why do you think Fagin and Monks were talking about? Why do you think Nancy cries?

What is your speculation on the fact that Nancy first ran away from the direction to Sikes? Then stop, Then cry. And then return to Sikes?

How do you think Nancy first learned the London address of Rose Maylie? Why would Nancy be so eager to meet with Rose?

How effective do you think this chapter is in further drawing the various parts of this story closer together?

Would you like to speculate on what might happen next?

A bit of puzzlement from me. Oliver’s price at the workhouse was £5 which was haggled down to £3 and change. Do you think this is a coincidence or any link to the money and bargaining in this chapter?


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Chapter 40

I imagine by now you have guessed that my favourite character in the novel is Nancy. While she is a very early example of a female character in a Dickens novel she is, nevertheless, in my opinion anyway, one of Dickens’s most satisfying psychological creations.

The beginning of Chapter 40 offers insight into Nancy.

“The girl’s life had been squandered in the streets, and among the most noisome of the stews and dens of London, but there was something of the woman’s original nature left in her still; and when she heard a light step approaching the door opposite to that by which she had entered, and the thought of the wide contrast which the small room would in another moment contain, she felt burdened with the sense of her own shame, and shrunk as though she could scarcely bear the presence of her whom she had sought this interview.”

In an earlier commentary we touched on the concept of doing a close reading of a paragraph and I would suggest that this paragraph opens up various avenues of commentary and interpretation. If anyone is interested please take a go at this ... or any other paragraph you particularly enjoy and find meaningful.

The following paragraphs of the chapter recount the interview between Rose and Nancy. Nancy expected more of the condensation she received from the servant girls, but Rose exhibits a sweet voice and a kind manner, so much so, that it brought Nancy to tears. At one point Nancy comments “if there were more like you, there would be fewer like me.” What follows is an extended explanation from Nancy. She tells Rose something of being raised on the streets of London and then Nancy acknowledges that the alley and the gutter will be her death-bed.

Nancy warns Rose about Monks, but Rose does not know who Monks is. Nancy says that she has learned much about Monks for overhearing his conversations with Fagin. Monks wants Oliver to be a criminal and was willing to pay Fagin to make Oliver a criminal. Monks is quite pleased that the only proofs of Oliver’s identity lie at the bottom of the river and that the old hag Sally is dead. We then learn that Monks will come into money because of his actions and that he would like to bring “the boast of the father’s will.” to a conclusion. Nancy then recounts how Monks said he could “gratify his hatred by taking [Oliver’s] life without bringing his own neck into danger.”

The next revelation is a shock as we learn that Oliver is the younger brother of Monks. Take a deep breath ... Monks goes on to say that Rose and her aunt would be shocked if they knew who Oliver was. Rose offers to keep Nancy safe from Sikes and Fagin but Nancy says there is one she cannot part from even to save herself from the life she is now leading. She says she would go back to Sikes even if “I was to die by his hand at last.” Hmmm ...


Thoughts


Where does one start? Monks is much more than we ever assumed. Oliver is the younger brother of Monks. Monks wants and will pay Fagin to turn Oliver into a criminal. There is talk of a will. How do you think the pieces of the Oliver mystery all fit together?

Rose is at a loss to know what her next steps should be but Nancy says “You must have some kind gentleman about you who will hear it as a secret, and advise you what to do.” Rose and Nancy agree to meet between eleven and twelve on London Bridge on a Sunday night.

Thoughts

What are your thoughts about this extraordinary meeting? Do you find it to be too dramatic, too unbelievable?

Who might turn out to be a kind gentleman who can help Rose? Why did you make that assumption?

As a visual event, how do you think this scene would be portrayed on stage?


Rose attempts to give Nancy some money, but it is refused. Nancy says to Rose:

You would serve me best lady ... if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more grief to think of what I am tonight, than I ever did before, and it would be something not to die in the hell in which I have lived. God bless you, sweet lady, and send as much happiness on your head as I have brought shame on mine!”

Talk of wills, talk of mysterious brothers, talk of death and resignation to one’s position in life. This has been a major chapter of character development, foreshadowing, suspense, and surprise.

Thoughts

Assess the importance of this chapter to the novel up to this point.

To what extent do you find this chapter believable? Did you find this chapter too melodramatic and exaggerated?

What chance at life does Nancy realistically have? Do you think Nancy will meet with Rose again?

One subplot to this chapter was the implied comparison between the relationships of Rose and Harry to that of Nancy and Sikes. Compare and contrast these two couples in terms of their devotion, faithfulness, concern and sincere love to one another. Is either relationship doomed to fail or be likely to succeed? What are your reasons for your thoughts?


message 4: by Peter (last edited Jul 30, 2018 07:16AM) (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Chapter 41

As can be expected, Rose’s unexpected meeting with Nancy had a profound impact on both young ladies. Who can Rose share her experience with and ultimately what could be done? Rose rejects Mr Losberne, Mrs Maylie and Harry, although she did wrestle with her conscience over asking Harry for help. This shows us that Rose knows of Harry’s goodness and trustworthy nature but is not quite ready to seek him just yet.

Next, Oliver comes into her room in a state of high agitation and reports that he has seen Mr Brownlow in the streets and has noted his address. Rose seizes upon this good fortune and within minutes she and Oliver are in a hackney-coach on their way to see Mr Brownlow. At Brownlow’s house she mentions Oliver and Mr Grimwig returns to his threats to eat his head. I think both Brownlow and Rose would prefer it if he simply held his tongue. Rose proceeds to tell Brownlow all that had befallen Oliver since he last left Brownlow’s house. Brownlow rushes down the stairs to greet Oliver and Grimwig bursts about the room and then declares to Rose “You’re a sweet girl. I like you.” Whether Grimwig is capable of eating his head or not we may never know; however, it is obvious now that his heart is in the right place. Mrs Bedwin is summoned and the joyous reunion is complete. Mr Brownlow agrees to tell Mr Losberne the news and let Mrs Maylie in on the news as well. Now we have the union of the good people in Oliver’s life.

Thoughts


We are now at the point of the novel where Dickens must begin to resolve his plot to a satisfactory ending. Given this is an early Dickens, we will experience Good triumphing over Evil and each character receiving their just rewards or punishments. For now, however, we have the Brownlow/Maylie agents of good united.

What role might each of “good” characters perform in the resolution of the plot?

Can you cast your mind back into the earlier parts of the novel and see any deeper and unexpected connections among the various “good” characters?

Brownlow comments that “It is quite clear that we shall have extreme difficulty in getting to the bottom of this mystery, unless we can bring this man, Monks, upon his knees.” Can you help Mr Brownlow by providing a couple of hints that you are aware of as a reader that he is not aware of as a character in the novel in order to trap Monks?

Brownlow suggests to the group that Nancy might be of help in pointing Monks out, but since they must wait five days before the possible rendezvous, the group must remain quiet and keep all the matters secret from Oliver.


Thoughts

Do you agree that the group must keep all the information from Oliver? What could Oliver offer to the group that would help them in their quest?


The group decides to increase their forces by inviting Grimwig and Harry to join them. Brownlow hints that there was a reason he left the country but will only tell his reasons when he is ready. More mystery or another Oliver revelation to come? We shall see. As the chapter draws to a close the council of the good characters adjourns for dinner, and I think back to all the good dinners we shared with Mr. Pickwick. I can’t help but think that Sam Weller and his father would have been good agents in the solving of this mystery.

Thoughts

As this chapter ends to what extent are you feeling that we are finally seeing that good will triumph over evil? What has lead you to this feeling?


message 5: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments These chapters were exciting. My favorite in the book so far.

I say Monks is the worst villain. He is scary in the otherworldly sense, like a demon character who lurks in the shadows. He seems very hateful and talks about death, violence, hell, and demons a lot. I wonder how Monks got so screwed up and Oliver got so good? They have nothing in common for being brothers.


message 6: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Looks like Oliver's mom had plans to marry, but for some reason couldn't. She reminds me of Rose, with the "forbidden" love and the possibility of marriage left up in the air.

I'm excited that the mother's name is Agnes. As I learned earlier, Nancy is a name derived from Agnes. I believe that the young women Oliver meets are versions of his mom going through a redemption process. Nancy was the first one and the most soiled. Then, Rose was cleaner, but still has a "stain" on her name that prevents her from marrying.

Further purification might lead to a marriage between Rose and Harry that redeems Oliver's parents from their fall from grace. I hope it is so!


message 7: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 38

I can’t think of many people I would like to avoid more than Monks and the Bumbles on a dark and stormy night in a dreary and frightening location, but here they are and so let’s see wh..."


The weather plays the role of music in an old movie: very dramatic and sinister when the bad buy enters stage right, while flowery and sunshiny when the heroine is on screen.

Obviously the only reason Mrs. Bumble concedes to her husband's wishes is the chance of profit. But let’s be real here. Mrs. Bumble may be tough in her world, but in the one Monks slithers around in she's candy for the taking. Does she think throwing a flowerpot will save her? Meanwhile, Bumble very well knows the trouble they are in yet enters the lion's den anyway. The two together are a dangerous duo, including to themselves.

When one side of Monks face changes because of the lightning (so he says), I, for some reason, thought of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though it wasn't published for another half century, and The Portrait of Dorian Gray (published about the same time as Heckle and Jekyll), and that the paint might be pealing a little on the portrait.

I still don't know what Monks' occupation is in the underworld? Is he a thief? A Fence? A loanshark? Does anyone know?


message 8: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Remember, though a Rose is beautiful and represents love and hope, it also has thorns. As to Agnes, Saint Agnes was a martyred virgin. Assuming Agnes is OT's mother, she could certainly play the martyr role. The virgin role would have to be symbolic. Agnes also means lamb.


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "Looks like Oliver's mom had plans to marry, but for some reason couldn't. She reminds me of Rose, with the "forbidden" love and the possibility of marriage left up in the air.

I'm excited that the..."


Alissa

I really enjoyed your comments and insight concerning the redemption process. That gives me lots to consider and think about. Very perceptive. The connection of the names heightens the insight even more.

And the theory of the purification. Now, this is a concept we need to follow closely.


message 10: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 38

I can’t think of many people I would like to avoid more than Monks and the Bumbles on a dark and stormy night in a dreary and frightening location, but here they are and s..."


Hi Xan

I certainly agree that the weather does play an important role in establishing character and setting. A movie with only a soundtrack of voices seems barren to me. Dickens knows his way around verbal description of a scene using the weather as good as anyone.

Ah, the Bumbles. Quite the pair and like many of Dickens’s characters the surname is a perfect fit.

As to Monks, I’m not sure exactly what kind of a crook he would be described as. It seems he is involved in much that is illegal. He is a rather creepy character with his dress, adversion to sound and weather and his fits. All of him is discomforting.


message 11: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Remember, though a Rose is beautiful and represents love and hope, it also has thorns. As to Agnes, Saint Agnes was a martyred virgin. Assuming Agnes is OT's mother, she could certainly play the ma..."

Xan

I liked your insights on Agnes. I think the parts of our plot’s puzzle are slowly unfolding themselves. Names are importantant and both you and Alissa are really helping us see beyond the plot of the novel with your insights. I am busy adding annotations to my copy of OT.

Thanks to you both.


message 12: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Why do you think Dickens was so open about Sikes’s physical abuse? How differently do you think a Victorian audience would have responded to this assault than a 21st century reading audience?..."

I can't fathom what a Victorian audience would have thought. I think back to old TV shows from the 50s and 60s and right off the top of my head, can think of several shows that made light of men knocking their wives around. Even if it wasn't a joke, it seemed like something that just happened, and was gossipped about, but not something that people called in the police for. I'm sure Victorians wouldn't have been as outraged as we are today. Of course, today we're outraged by everything.


message 13: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Alissa wrote: "I'm excited that the mother's name is Agnes. As I learned earlier, Nancy is a name derived from Agnes...."

I love the connections you and Xan are making with the names Agnes, Nancy, and Rose. They go much deeper than the more obvious aptronyms like Bumble.


message 14: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Yes, but will we ever get to say Bumble the Beadle again? It sounds very much like an insect, which is what Beadle is.


message 15: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments I felt bad for Nancy in these chapters. When she started running, stopped to cry, and ran back in the opposite direction, I thought she was "divided inside," like she mentioned earlier. After reading the next chapter, however, I thought she was scared, because Fagin and Sikes keep a close watch on her, even to the point of monitoring her body language. Maybe she felt that she better give Sikes his money first, then drug him to sleep, so he doesn't start wondering where she is.

When Sikes slapped Nancy, I felt bad for her and put off by Sikes. Especially since she took care of him. She's so vulnerable and dejected now, nothing like her old, fiery self.

I think Dickens was establishing Nancy's fear-based, degraded condition for the next scene when she went to meet with Rose. Dickens made it so there is no question in the reader's mind that Sikes is not just a criminal, but a bad boyfriend too, and Nancy made a huge mistake to refuse Rose's help.

I'm with Mary Lou that Victorians probably frowned on wife-beating, but wouldn't be as outraged as we are today.


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Alissa wrote: "These chapters were exciting. My favorite in the book so far.

I say Monks is the worst villain. He is scary in the otherworldly sense, like a demon character who lurks in the shadows. He seems ver..."


Alissa, I don't know what to make of Monks and Oliver being brothers either. It messes with all my theories about how people seem to be noble or corrupt by birth-heritage in this book.

Then again, I'm not sure how much my theories are coming from the book itself and how much from the Cruikshank illustrations, which make the poor characters look so different from the rich ones, with the exception of Oliver.


message 17: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments I agree Nancy's possibly the most interesting character in the book. But in this section I felt some of her speeches were less Nancy talking about Nancy and more Dickens talking about Nancy--especially toward the end of Chapter 40: "When such as me, who have no certain roof but the coffin-lid, and no friend in sickness and death but the hospital nurse, set our rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that parents, home, and friends filled once, or that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us?" This doesn't strike me as a person talking about her own life. It's too abstracted: it's about a class type, not an individual person.


message 18: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Okay, maybe no one shares my obsession with this, but did you notice when Dodger includes sugar with Sikes's goodies, he points out (crudely) that it's cruelty-free sugar? Not that I believe him.


message 19: by Xan (last edited Jul 31, 2018 06:48AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 39

We open Chapter 39 by learning that Sikes has slipped further down the property ladder, although it is beyond me how he could have found worse lodgings than he had in earlier chapters. ..."


Yes Sikes should find other work. He's really only good at harassing and abusing others.

A Thought:

I believe Nancy hiding her bonnet below the table as soon as she hears Monks voice is a hint that she was the shadow Monks saw the last time he visited Fagin's resplendent abode. (Didn't Monks see a bonnet and cloak in the shadow?) Nancy's been listening in for a while, which leads me to believe that Nancy has been a busy girl offstage. Not sure how much I like that as a reader.

I'll read chapter 40 tomorrow.


message 20: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Okay, maybe no one shares my obsession with this, but did you notice when Dodger includes sugar with Sikes's goodies, he points out (crudely) that it's cruelty-free sugar? Not that I believe him."

Hi Julie

I’m like you with any and all sugar references. It is interesting how such seemingly small or meaningless comments in our time could and perhaps do take on a vastly different meaning and context in the time period they were written in and a readership they were meant for in the first place.


message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5976 comments Mod


The Evidence Destroyed

Chapter 38

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and pulling an iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused that gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great precipitation.

"Look down," said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. "Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when you were seated over it, if that had been my game."

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same. The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its headlong course.

"If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to-morrow morning?" said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well.

"Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides," replied Bumble, recoiling at the thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone.[Chapter 38, "Containing an Account of what Passed between Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, and Mr. Monks, at their Nocturnal Interview,"]


Commentary:

Just as readers in the autumn of 1838 reached a crisis in the plot associated with obscure (and obscured) origins of Oliver — Monks's successfully locating and destroying evidence left by his mother, Agnes, at the workhouse — the rocky relationship between the up-and-coming writer and the veteran illustrator was reaching some sort of crisis, too:

Before the author left London [for a tour of Wales and the Midlands], he consulted with Cruikshank on the final chapters and suggested the last six topics [which is to say, plates 19 through 24, "The Jew and Morris. . ." to "Rose Maylie and Oliver"]. With Dickens gone, the artist executed the remaining plates [including "The Evidence Destroyed"] with varying degrees of indifference top the author's wishes. It made sense aesthetically to draw the lantern held by Monks in the process of destroying the evidence of Oliver's identity over rather than lowered into the well as described. . . . [Cohen, 21]

Thus, although the scene, likely nominated by the young author himself, does not correspond to the point about Monks's "lowering the lantern into the gulf", Cruikshank's solution to illuminate the scene in chiaroscuro by placing the lantern in the centre of the composition, dividing the sour-faced wife and apprehensive husband from the well-dressed but enigmatic Monks, strikes us as sensible; otherwise, with the lantern below floor level, the room would be in total darkness! However, Cruikshank's solution may not have been ratified by the absent Dickens, and so raises once again the issue of how far authorial authority has sanctioned the illustration. Dickens's description of the churning water at the bottom of the shaft is neither contradicted nor reinforced by the engraving, which Cruikshank has imbued with an appropriate and pervasive sense of mystery and even fatality.

The August 1838 illustration surely is the basis for the later interpretations of Mahoney and Furniss. While Eytinge's Monks lurks outside a lighted window, on a darkened stair — an interpretation that accords well with his clandestine and surreptitious nature, James Mahoney in the Household Edition volume's frontispiece has lowered and enlarged the lantern somewhat, thereby darkening the scene. Quite logically, Mahoney has depicted the aristocratic villain without his customary head-covering, which could quite easily be blown off his head and into the gulf (indeed, the illustrator has placed the hat on a table, right); a more realistic portrayal, perhaps, Mahoney's lacks the emotional intensity presented on the faces of Monks's co-conspirators in the Cruikshank original. Furniss's rendering of the scene heightens its drama by the sharpened contrast of the black-and-white shading, the terror on the faces of the Bumbles, and the emphatic gesture of Monks, whose facial expression the viewer cannot apprehend. That Furniss gave the figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story suggests that the later artist felt this was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text.




message 22: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5976 comments Mod


Monks

Chapter 38

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Come in!" he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the ground. "Don't keep me here!"

The woman, who had hesitated at first, walked boldly in, without any other invitation. Mr. Bumble, who was ashamed or afraid to lag behind, followed: obviously very ill at ease and with scarcely any of that remarkable dignity which was usually his chief characteristic.

"What the devil made you stand lingering there, in the wet?" said Monks, turning round, and addressing Bumble, after he had bolted the door behind them. "We — we were only cooling ourselves," stammered Bumble, looking apprehensively about him.

"Cooling yourselves!" retorted Monks. "Not all the rain that ever fell, or ever will fall, will put as much of hell's fire out, as a man can carry about with him. You won't cool yourselves so easily; don't think it!"

With this agreeable speech, Monks turned short upon the matron, and bent his gaze upon her, till even she, who was not easily cowed, was fain to withdraw her eyes, and turn them towards the ground.

"This is the woman, is it?" demanded Monks.

"Hem! That is the woman," replied Mr. Bumble, mindful of his wife's caution.

"You think women never can keep secrets, I suppose?" said the matron, interposing, and returning, as she spoke, the searching look of Monks.

"I know they will always keep one till it's found out," said Monks.

"And what may that be?" asked the matron.

"The loss of their own good name," replied Monks. "So, by the same rule, if a woman's a party to a secret that might hang or transport her, I'm not afraid of her telling it to anybody; not I! Do you understand, mistress?"

"No," rejoined the matron, slightly colouring as she spoke.

"Of course you don't!" said Monks. "How should you?"

Bestowing something half-way between a smile and a frown upon his two companions, and again beckoning them to follow him, the man hastened across the apartment, which was of considerable extent, but low in the roof. He was preparing to ascend a steep staircase, or rather ladder, leading to another floor of warehouses above: when a bright flash of lightning streamed down the aperture, and a peal of thunder followed, which shook the crazy building to its centre.

"Hear it!" he cried, shrinking back. "Hear it! Rolling and crashing on as if it echoed through a thousand caverns where the devils were hiding from it. I hate the sound!" He remained silent for a few moments; and then, removing his hands suddenly from his face, showed, to the unspeakable discomposure of Mr. Bumble, that it was much distorted, and discoloured.

"These fits come over me, now and then," said Monks, observing his alarm; "and thunder sometimes brings them on. Don't mind me now; it's all over for this once."

Thus speaking, he led the way up the ladder; and hastily closing the window-shutter of the room into which it led, lowered a lantern which hung at the end of a rope and pulley passed through one of the heavy beams in the ceiling: and which cast a dim tight upon an old table and three chairs that were placed beneath it.


Commentary:

The picture derives considerable meaning from its context, the chapter in which Monks destroys evidence that he has just acquired from the Bumbles. The arrival of the shadowy figure of "Monks," the alias of Edward Leeford, transforms the narrative from a Newgate Novel and a possible bildungsroman into a mystery. Now the narrative begins to reveal Fagin's true motives in training the boy to become a thief, for Oliver will either vanish from middle-class eyes into the murky criminal underworld of London, or be incarcerated, or transported — or executed as a felon. This shadowy figure of evil is the subject of Sol Eytinge, Junior's character study Monks in the 1867 Diamond Edition of the novel. As is consistent with the accompanying text, Eytinge shows the "steep staircase" (about which Dickens corrects himself in order to specify instead a "ladder") and shattered window of the abandoned factory (the industrial age equivalent of the ruinous mediaeval castle of Gothic fiction and melodrama), but not the pathetic fallacy of thunder and lightning against which the scene plays out, or Monks's lantern, the heavy beams, the pulley, the chairs, or — significantly — the chute down to the river.

Whereas most Eytinge studies in this edition are of a pair of associated characters, such as Bill Sikes and Nancy, here the American illustrator, well aware chapters earlier than was George Cruikshank of Monks's importance to the plot, shows the egocentric, malevolent villain by himself, alienated, and brooding, the moody child of privilege who considers nobody's welfare but his own. As Juliet John stipulates, Monks puts his own wounded feelings, exacerbated by a jealous and vindictive mother, "before law, family, or community" . The cape in which the various illustrators clothe him is the outward and visible sign of his attempt to act in secret, so that he works with his underworld associates under an assumed identity and under cover of darkness. His manner and speech, however, betray his true background. His association with Fagin in Cruikshank's June 1838 illustration Monks and the Jew shows that he is prepared to violate the barriers of class and propriety in order to advance his fortunes. Eytinge, like Cruikshank, depicts Monk as a tall man wrapped in a cloak, his height consistently exaggerated by his hat.

The August 1838 Cruikshank illustration The Evidence Destroyed is surely the basis for the later interpretations of Mahoney and Furniss, although Sol Eytinge has deviated with respect to setting from Cruikshank's precedent. While Eytinge's Monks lurks inside a building near a shattered window illuminated by lightning, on a darkened interior stair — an interpretation that accords well with the Gothic figure's clandestine and surreptitious nature, James Mahoney in the Household Edition volume's frontispiece has lowered and enlarged the lantern somewhat, thereby darkening the scene which in Eytinge's plate receives only the fitful illumination of the lightning storm without. Such Gothic associations are highly appropriate for a character whose name associates him with the anguished protagonist of Matthew G. Lewis 1795 Gothic potboiler The Monk.

Harry Furniss's much later rendering of the same scene heightens its drama by the artist's sharpened contrast of the black-and-white shading, the terror on the faces of the Bumbles, and the emphatic gesture of Monks, whose facial expression the viewer cannot discern. That Furniss gave the black-cloaked figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story suggests that the later artist felt this was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text.

With his moody, angry disposition, his inky cloak, his fits of epilepsy, and his inexplicable antipathy to Oliver, Monks is a fearful force combining features of antagonists from the early nineteenth-century monster and the demonic melodramas. His assumed name — that is, the pseudonym that he has chosen for himself, is the signifier of his being a social isolate, like the monk Ambrosio in Lewis's novel. The stage effects associated with the Gothic villain, lightning and trapdoors, make Monks a "sensational" character in the sense of "the violent emotional excitement of the literary fashion known as 'the romantic and the terrible'". In his first appearance in the November 1838 Almar adaptation, in Act One, Scene One, Monks is overhearing conversations, cursing, and speaking in quasi-romantic verse; in other words, as compared with the naturalistic, street-flavoured speech of Fagin and Sikes, Monks speaks in the drawing-room language of an aristocratic villain in a contemporary melodrama:

The Gothic villain is invariably defined by expressive emotional excess; what distinguishes this excess from that of the 'good' characters in this excessive genre is that it does not respect social rules and boundaries. The Gothic villain puts personal feeling before law, family, or community and thus violates communal ethos. His disregard of the social world creates the impression of transcendence often associated with the 'real melodramatic' villain. Violent feeling is the hallmark of the Gothic villain and the intensity with which his feelings are expressed can create the impression that the villain is not human but super-human.

In his intelligence and cunning (as evidenced in his ability to appear and disappear at will in the murky world of Whitechapel governed by Fagin and Sikes) Monks seems to possess supernatural powers, and is governed not by a plausible love of money (which motivates Sikes, Crackit, and Fagin), but by a violent emotion which incapacitates him when he gives it free rein. Because Monks has his origins in theatre and the Gothic novels of Anne Radcliffe and Matthew G. "Monk" Lewis (from whence perhaps Dickens has derived his criminal alias) rather than realistic fiction, his passionate excesses are jarring in the novel, but acceptable in the nineteenth-century melodramatic adaptations of the novel. Monks' passion-freighted speeches towards the end of the novel are unconvincing because, as Juliet John points out:

they have no connection with the poetics of the novel or with any knowledge we have of a character who has remained stagily enigmatic throughout. These failures can be read as perfect instances of the novelist practising what he preaches — of taking literally the idea of the novel as theatre by making characters do the work that more fittingly belongs to the narrator. Alternatively, they can be seen as examples of characters attempting a kind of self-analysis which is ill at ease with the melodramatic mode of Dickens's early novels.

Working on his illustrations for Oliver Twist in 1866-67, Sol Eytinge had considerable advantages over George Cruikshank in having read the entire novel in advance in volume form, and moreover in having (in all probability) seen one or more stage adaptations in Boston and New York (notably that Almar adaptation at New York City's Wintergarden Theatre in February 1860 in which Monks would have been present from the opening scene) that would have clarified for him both the melodramatic traditions embodied in the enigmatic figure of "Monks" and this character's importance in the novel's plot. He remains in the illustrations true to his Radcliffian origins, "foreign in flavour and atmosphere" as we see here in Eytinge's portrait of a diabolical, enigmatic figure who instantly arouses fear in the beholder.


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The Evidence Destroyed

Chapter 38

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and pulling an iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused that gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great precipitation.

"Look down," said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. "Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when you were seated over it, if that had been my game."

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same. The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its headlong course.

"If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to-morrow morning?" said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well.

"Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides," replied Bumble, recoiling at the thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone.


Commentary:

The August 1838 steel-engraving which veteran illustrator George Cruikshank provided for the monthly serial in Bentley's Miscellany is probably the basis for the later interpretations of Mahoney (1871) and Furniss (1910). In the 1867 Diamond Edition, Sol Eytinge, Junior, isolates the villainous Monks, who in the relevant wood-engraving lurks melodramatically outside a shattered window illuminated by lightning, on a darkened stair — an interpretation that accords well with his clandestine and surreptitious nature (although, in fact, Dickens mentions a ladder, not a stair). In contrast, adding the Bumbles, James Mahoney in the Household Edition volume's frontispiece has lowered and enlarged the lantern somewhat, thereby darkening the scene. Quite logically, Mahoney has depicted the depraved aristocratic villain without his customary head-covering, which could quite easily be blown off his head and into the gulf (indeed, the 1870s illustrator has placed the hat on a table, right); a more realistic portrayal, perhaps, Mahoney's lacks the emotional intensity presented on the faces of Monks's co-conspirators in the Cruikshank original. Foregrounding this dramatic moment by placing it in the dominant position in the text does, however, establish the importance of Monks and the evidence of Oliver's being an heir to sizeable estate right at the beginning of the novel, even though Dickens likely added this plot twist later in the development of the story.

For the third volume of the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss's rendering of the scene (still derived from Cruikshank, but incorporating the Mahoney characterisation of Monks) heightens its drama by the sharpened contrast of the black-and-white shading, the terror on the faces of the Bumbles, and the emphatic gesture of Monks, whose facial expression the viewer cannot apprehend. That Furniss gave the figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story suggests that the later artist felt this was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text.


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The Evidence Destroyed

Chapter 38

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and pulling an iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused that gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great precipitation.

"Look down," said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. "Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when you were seated over it, if that had been my game."

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble himself, impelled by curiosity, ventured to do the same. The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its headlong course.

"If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to-morrow morning?" said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well.

"Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides," replied Bumble, recoiling at the thought.

Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone.

The three looking into each other's faces, seemed to breathe more freely.


Commentary:

Furniss follows George Cruikshank's illustration in the 1838 Bentley's Miscellany (see below) and depicts the mysterious Monks, who is in league with the Bumbles, destroying the evidence of Oliver's birth at an abandoned factory on the river, amidst the pathetic fallacy of a thunder storm.

Furniss's notion of having the diabolical Monks gain possession of and destroy the scant evidence of Oliver's true origins is derived both from the original serial illustration by George Cruikshank in the August 1838 number of Bentley's Miscellany and from the frontispiece The Evidence Destroyed by James Mahoney for the 1871 volume in the Household Edition.

For the third volume of the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss's rendering of the scene (still derived from Cruikshank, but incorporating the Mahoney characterisation of Monks as dark, menacing, commanding, yet obscure) heightens its drama by the sharpened contrast of the black-and-white shading, the terror on the faces of the Bumbles, and the emphatic gesture of Monks, whose facial expression the viewer cannot apprehend. That Furniss gave the figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story suggests that Furniss felt this was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text.

The destruction of the objects associated with Oliver's birth that might well confirm his identity as the son (albeit, illegitimate) and heir of Edwin Leeford would seem to suggest that the powers of evil are now in the ascendant. The conventional aristocratic villain of melodrama, Monks, having suborned the Bumbles, discards the evidence irretrievably, seemingly cementing Oliver's obscurity. Thus, unlike Iago in Shakespeare's Tragedy of Othello, the malignancy of Monks is hardly "motiveless." Oliver's evil twin, as naturally bad (although legitimate) as Oliver is naturally good, is "consumed with a desire to corrupt and destroy his brother" (McMaster 185). To underscore this binary difference in the half-brothers, the illustrators consistently depict Monks clothed from head to foot in black and usually show him operating in darkness, whereas they consistently characterise Oliver as pale-faced and blond-haired. Apparently, Monks is not content with his own share of the patrimony — he must have all, and therefore must commit Oliver to a life of crime so that, by the peculiar terms of his father's will, Oliver will be ineligible to inherit. Whereas one might legitimately argue that Fagin's evil is a defense against poverty and social exclusion, Monks's evil is evidence of his corruption: he has not been forced into being and doing evil. The badge of his respectable, upper-middle-class status — his dark suit, cape, and top-hat — ironically in the Mahoney and Furniss illustrations becomes the signifier of his "apartness," his alienation from the genuinely Christian morality of Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies, Samaritans who show compassion for the orphan child and believe in his innate goodness.



Harry Furniss's thumbnail vignette of Monks with the lantern.


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Mr. Fagin and his pupils recovering Nancy

Chapter 39

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

"Such a number of nights," said the girl, with a touch of woman's tenderness, which communicated something like sweetness of tone, even to her voice: "such a number of nights as I've been patient with you, nursing and caring for you, as if you had been a child: and this the first that I've seen you like yourself; you wouldn't have served me as you did just now, if you'd thought of that, would you? Come, come; say you wouldn’t."

"Well, then," rejoined Mr. Sikes, "I wouldn't. Why, damme, now, the girls's whining again!"

"It’s nothing," said the girl, throwing herself into a chair. "Don't you seem to mind me. It'll soon be over."

"What'll be over?" demanded Mr. Sikes in a savage voice. "What foolery are you up to, now, again? Get up and bustle about, and don’t come over me with your woman's nonsense."

At any other time, this remonstrance, and the tone in which it was delivered, would have had the desired effect; but the girl being really weak and exhausted, dropped her head over the back of the chair, and fainted, before Mr. Sikes could get out a few of the appropriate oaths with which, on similar occasions, he was accustomed to garnish his threats. Not knowing, very well, what to do, in this uncommon emergency; for Miss Nancy's hysterics were usually of that violent kind which the patient fights and struggles out of, without much assistance; Mr. Sikes tried a little blasphemy: and finding that mode of treatment wholly ineffectual, called for assistance.

"What's the matter here, my dear?" said Fagin, looking in.

"Lend a hand to the girl, can't you?" replied Sikes impatiently. "Don't stand chattering and grinning at me!"

With an exclamation of surprise, Fagin hastened to the girl's assistance, while Mr. John Dawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger), who had followed his venerable friend into the room, hastily deposited on the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and snatching a bottle from the grasp of Master Charles Bates who came close at his heels, uncorked it in a twinkling with his teeth, and poured a portion of its contents down the patient's throat: previously taking a taste, himself, to prevent mistakes.

"Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellows, Charley," said Mr. Dawkins; "and you slap her hands, Fagin, while Bill undoes the petticuts."

These united restoratives, administered with great energy: especially that department consigned to Master Bates, who appeared to consider his share in the proceedings, a piece of unexampled pleasantry: were not long in producing the desired effect. The girl gradually recovered her senses; and, staggering to a chair by the bedside, hid her face upon the pillow: leaving Mr. Sikes to confront the new comers, in some astonishment at their unlooked-for appearance.


Commentary:

Having been at Broadstairs on holiday during the summer months, Dickens skipped an installment for Bentley's Miscellany in September, offering his readers instead the "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything," a continuation of the October 1837 spoof of British scientific societies.

Part 17, however, in the illustrated monthly periodical edited by Dickens himself for the first two years of its existence, Bentley's Miscellany contained chapters 38 and 39 — and two illustrations, including this somewhat sexist depiction of the distressed Nancy and the down-and-out housebreaker with the soiled nightcap. The plate itself marks a turning point in the plot as Nancy shortly, having been mistreated by Sikes after nursing him through a fever, overhears the plotting of Fagin and Monks, and approaches Rose Maylie with the story of Monks's behind-the-scenes manipulations of Oliver's fortunes.

Although Cruikshank and Furniss focus on Nancy's "hysterics" and the gang's attempting to cure her of them, the other illustrators have dealt instead with the deplorable physical and mental state into which Sikes and his common-law wife have fallen since the botched robbery in Chertsey. Although seven serial installments and illustrations were yet to appear, already Dickens and Cruikshank were winding up the story for volume (triple-decker) publication by Richard Bentley on 9 November 1838. The last half-dozen illustrations were not scrutinized by Dickens with the result that, returning to town that fall, Dickens requested that Cruikshank substantially revise the final plate (the so-called "Fireside" plate). Reprinted in ten equal monthly installments between 31 December 1845 and 30 September 1846, Oliver Twist appeared as a single volume with all twenty-four illustrations under the Chapman and Hall imprint in the autumn of 1846 after Dickens, while in Italy and Switzerland, had completely edited the story.

Although undoubtedly intended as a piece of low character comedy, this second August 1838 illustration does not mark a significant moment in the plot or add appreciably to the reader's understanding of the characters. A more pertinent scene would have been Nancy's overhearing Monks and Fagin subsequently in this installment. Furthermore, Cruikshank's fat, slatternly Nancy does not correspond with Dickens's developing Nancy as the attractive, young harlot with the heart of gold whose tender concern for the persecuted child undermines Monks's carefully laid plot. The illustration may, however, serve to heighten suspense since Nancy's so easily falling into hysterics makes one wonder whether she is equal to the task of holding her emotions in check around Sikes, and slipping away undetected for the fateful meeting with Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie beneath London Bridge.

Cruikshank might have detailed the contents of Fagin's "care package" intended to mollify Bill for Fagin's apparent neglect of him over the past month, but, instead of the green tea, two-pound loaves, butter, massive rabbit pie, and Gloucester cheese, all that Cruikshank has included is the sack (in fact, an old tablecloth) in the foreground and the wine-bottle in the Dodger's hand. The only significant piece of detailing is the bellows. In the illustration as opposed to the text, Sikes's dog plays no active role in the scene, being consigned to the area under the table (right). Cruikshank usefully, however, in this Newgate farce foregrounds the semi-conscious Nancy, and makes her the subject of the scrutiny of Fagin and Sikes, although the composition of the tableau is hardly likely to "rewive the drayma," despite the waggish Master Bates's assertion.




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Bill Sikes and Nancy

Chapter 39

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

On the evening following that upon which the three worthies mentioned in the last chapter, disposed of their little matter of business as therein narrated, Mr. William Sikes, awakening from a nap, drowsily growled forth an inquiry what time of night it was.

The room in which Mr. Sikes propounded this question, was not one of those he had tenanted, previous to the Chertsey expedition, although it was in the same quarter of the town, and was situated at no great distance from his former lodgings. It was not, in appearance, so desirable a habitation as his old quarters: being a mean and badly-furnished apartment, of very limited size; lighted only by one small window in the shelving roof, and abutting on a close and dirty lane. Nor were there wanting other indications of the good gentleman's having gone down in the world of late: for a great scarcity of furniture, and total absence of comfort, together with the disappearance of all such small moveables as spare clothes and linen, bespoke a state of extreme poverty; while the meagre and attenuated condition of Mr. Sikes himself would have fully confirmed these symptoms, if they had stood in any need of corroboration.

The housebreaker was lying on the bed, wrapped in his white great-coat, by way of dressing-gown, and displaying a set of features in no degree improved by the cadaverous hue of illness, and the addition of a soiled nightcap, and a stiff, black beard of a week's growth. The dog sat at the bedside: now eyeing his master with a wistful look, and now pricking his ears, and uttering a low growl as some noise in the street, or in the lower part of the house, attracted his attention. Seated by the window, busily engaged in patching an old waistcoat which formed a portion of the robber's ordinary dress, was a female: so pale and reduced with watching and privation, that there would have been considerable difficulty in recognising her as the same Nancy who has already figured in this tale, but for the voice in which she replied to Mr. Sikes's question.

"Not long gone seven," said the girl. "How do you feel to-night, Bill?"

"As weak as water," replied Mr. Sikes, with an imprecation on his eyes and limbs. 'Here; lend us a hand, and let me get off this thundering bed anyhow."


Commentary:

Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in the 1837-8 serial, George Cruikshank, depicts the housebreaker Bill Sikes as the sordid, lower-class villain out of contemporary melodrama, the figure whom Felix Octavius Carr Darley describes in his series of Character Sketches from Dickens (1888) is once again much more of an individual (despite his characteristic long face and white top hat) than a type. In the chapter 22 illustration which depicts Oliver's being surprised and shot at as soon as he has entered to house that Sikes is attempting to rob, The Burglary, George Cruikshank introduces the notorious housebreaker into the narrative-pictorial sequence in a framed portrait, as Sikes watches the unfolding scene with interest. 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 of harm's way by the collar in the text on the page facing the steel-engraving. Selecting an equally dramatic moment in the story, Darley depicts Bill Sikes in action, rather than as a static figure, whereas in the Diamond Edition of 1867, Sol Eytinge in Bill Sikes and Nancy captures the disreputable couple's desperation and despondency. Taking a little more pity on the down-and-out couple, in the Household Edition, realist James Mahoney focuses on Nancy's tenderness for the exhausted Skies, whom she tends as if he were her child. In the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Furniss focusses on Nancy's emotional transformation as she becomes distraught at the thought of what Fagin and Monks have in store for Oliver. In the 1910 illustrations she is indeed the proverbial jade with a heart of gold.


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"Then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips."

Chapter 39

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

Fortifying himself with this assurance, Sikes drained the glass to the bottom, and then, with many grumbling oaths, called for his physic. The girl jumped up, with great alacrity; poured it quickly out, but with her back towards him; and held the vessel to his lips, while he drank off the contents.

"Now," said the robber, "come and sit aside of me, and put on your own face; or I'll alter it so, that you won't know it agin when you do want it."

The girl obeyed. Sikes, locking her hand in his, fell back upon the pillow: turning his eyes upon her face. They closed; opened again; closed once more; again opened. He shifted his position restlessly; and, after dozing again, and again, for two or three minutes, and as often springing up with a look of terror, and gazing vacantly about him, was suddenly stricken, as it were, while in the very attitude of rising, into a deep and heavy sleep. The grasp of his hand relaxed; the upraised arm fell languidly by his side; and he lay like one in a profound trance.

"The laudanum has taken effect at last," murmured the girl, as she rose from the bedside. "I may be too late, even now."

She hastily dressed herself in her bonnet and shawl: looking fearfully round, from time to time, as if, despite the sleeping draught, she expected every moment to feel the pressure of Sikes's heavy hand upon her shoulder; then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips; and then opening and closing the room-door with noiseless touch, hurried from the house.

A watchman was crying half-past nine, down a dark passage through which she had to pass, in gaining the main thoroughfare.

"Has it long gone the half-hour?" asked the girl.


Commentary:

Although Cruikshank and Furniss focus on Nancy's supposed "hysterics" as the gang attempts to cure her of them, the other illustrators have dealt instead with the deplorable physical and mental state into which Sikes and his common-law wife have fallen since the botched robbery in Chertsey. Mahoney has developed a rare scene of tenderness involving Sikes, delirious from unwittingly consuming laudanum, and the ministering Nancy, who is about to slip out to contact Rose Maylie in order to reveal what she knows of the plot instigated by Monks against Oliver, the knowledge she has gleaned from overhearing a recent conference between Monks and Fagin when she went to pick up expense money for Sikes.

Again, Mahoney describes a tranquil surface that the reader, having acquired additional knowledge of the principals from the accompanying text, must react against. Indeed, Nancy's tender regard for Sikes, despite his roughness, is genuine; however, the text reveals that she has just administered to him a powerful sedative so that, undetected and unobserved, she can make the lengthy trip to the West End and reveal the plot against Oliver to Rose Maylie, of whose identity and involvement in the boy's fortunes she has also learned from overhearing Monks's conversation with Fagin. The illustration draws the reader's attention to Nancy's conflicted relationship with the burglar, whom she loves but fears. Mahoney reduces both characters to signifying postures, for Sikes is an inert bulk on the bed, and Nancy a ministering nurse — significantly, Mahoney prevents the reader from studying her facial expression, that that one must conjecture about what conflicting emotions would be present as she determines to defend Oliver from the machinations of "Monks." The light in the Mahoney illustrations falls most strongly on the face and upper body of Sikes — and on the bottle and glass from which he has just drunk.


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Nancy in hysterics

Chapter 39

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustration:

"What'll be over?" demanded Mr. Sikes in a savage voice. "What foolery are you up to, now, again? Get up and bustle about, and don’t come over me with your woman's nonsense."

At any other time, this remonstrance, and the tone in which it was delivered, would have had the desired effect; but the girl being really weak and exhausted, dropped her head over the back of the chair, and fainted, before Mr. Sikes could get out a few of the appropriate oaths with which, on similar occasions, he was accustomed to garnish his threats. Not knowing, very well, what to do, in this uncommon emergency; for Miss Nancy's hysterics were usually of that violent kind which the patient fights and struggles out of, without much assistance; Mr. Sikes tried a little blasphemy: and finding that mode of treatment wholly ineffectual, called for assistance.

"What's the matter here, my dear?" said Fagin, looking in.

"Lend a hand to the girl, can't you?" replied Sikes impatiently. "Don't stand chattering and grinning at me!"

With an exclamation of surprise, Fagin hastened to the girl's assistance, while Mr. John Dawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger), who had followed his venerable friend into the room, hastily deposited on the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and snatching a bottle from the grasp of Master Charles Bates who came close at his heels, uncorked it in a twinkling with his teeth, and poured a portion of its contents down the patient's throat: previously taking a taste, himself, to prevent mistakes.

"Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellows, Charley," said Mr. Dawkins; "and you slap her hands, Fagin, while Bill undoes the petticuts."

These united restoratives, administered with great energy: especially that department consigned to Master Bates, who appeared to consider his share in the proceedings, a piece of unexampled pleasantry: were not long in producing the desired effect. The girl gradually recovered her senses; and, staggering to a chair by the bedside, hid her face upon the pillow: leaving Mr. Sikes to confront the new comers, in some astonishment at their unlooked-for appearance.


Commentary:

Nancy in hysterics by Harry Furniss. Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens Library Edition. Things have not gone well for Sikes and Nancy since the abortive robbery at Chertsey, and the pair on the "lamb" in a shabby apartment not far from Sikes's former East End residence, which he has had to abandon for fear that the Bow Street Runners might take him up there for the attempted robbery since he has been clearly identified. In the Furniss scene, it is now early evening in the "mean and badly furnished apartment", and, just as Nancy descends into hysterics as a result of having to nurse Sikes through the fever for weeks with nothing but remonstrations and blows for recompense, Fagin, Charley, and The Artful Dodger happen by. The trio are delivering "beau-ti-ful things" to bring the burglar out of his funk:

"Sitch a rabbit pie, Bill," exclaimed that young gentleman [Charley Bates], disclosing to view a huge pasty; "sitch delicate creeturs, with sitch tender limbs, Bill, that the wery bones melt in your mouth, and there's no occasion to pick ‘em; half a pound of seven and six-penny green, so precious strong that if you mix it with biling water, it'll go nigh to blow the lid of the tea-pot off; a pound and a half of moist sugar that the niggers [i. e., West Indian plantation workers] didn't work at all at, afore they got it up to sitch a pitch of goodness, — oh no! Two half-quartern brans; pound of best fresh; piece of double Glo'ster; and, to wind up all, some of the richest sort you ever lushed!"

Uttering this last panegyric, Master Bates produced, from one of his extensive pockets, a full-sized wine-bottle, carefully corked; while Mr. Dawkins, at the same instant, poured out a wine-glassful of raw spirits from the bottle he carried: which the invalid [Sikes in his dirty nightcap] tossed down his throat without a moment's hesitation.


The delicacies are not yet in evidence as the crew attempt revive Nancy, a woman very different from the persuasive "sister" of Oliver and the hectoring bully of the scene outside the beershop earlier, as realised by Cruikshank in Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends (Part 7, September 1837), and by Harry Furniss in Oliver Trapped by Nancy and Sikes (Chapter 15). The figures in the present group study left to right are as follows: Bill Sikes (in nightcap), Charley (applying the bellows), Fagin and Nancy, and, in his signature battered top-hat, Jack Dawkins (right, checking Nancy's pulse).

Part 17 in the illustrated monthly periodical edited by Dickens himself for the first two years of its existence, Bentley's Miscellany contained chapters 38 and 39 — and two illustrations, including this somewhat sexist depiction of the distressed Nancy and the down-and-out housebreaker with the soiled nightcap. The plate upon which Furniss based the scene of Fagin, Nancy, Sikes, and the gang by George Cruikshank signalled a turning point in the plot as Nancy shortly, having been mistreated by Sikes after nursing him through a fever over the weeks after the robbery, overhears Fagin and Monks plotting against Oliver, and determines to approach Rose Maylie with the story of Monks's behind-the-scenes manipulations of Oliver's fortunes. In this second August 1838 illustration, Fagin and his chief juvenile collaborators, Charley Bates and Jack Dawkins, arrive at Sikes's "crib" just in time to assist the down-and-out Bill Sikes in recovering Nancy from an hysterical fit.

Although Cruikshank and Furniss focus on Nancy's "hysterics" and the gang's attempting to cure her of them, the other illustrators have dealt instead with the deplorable physical and mental state into which Sikes and his common-law wife have fallen since the botched robbery in Chertsey. In contrast to the original scene of the hysterical Nancy, as well as in the 1846 Chapman and Hall wrapper vignettes at the top, Furniss's is more natural, and his interpretation of Nancy is somewhat different from Cruikshank's fat, slatternly Nancy. Rather, benefiting from having read the entire text before attempting the illustrations for the Charles Dickens Library Edition of 1910, Furniss has created a Nancy here who corresponds to Dickens's developing Nancy as the attractive, young harlot with the heart of gold whose tender concern for the persecuted child undermines Monks's carefully laid plot. Following Dickens's notions of alternating comic and serious scenes in a melodramatic plot (in the manner of "streaky" bacon), the comic illustration, coming immediately after the night-time destruction of the artifacts, may also serve to heighten suspense since Nancy's so easily falling into hysterics makes one wonder whether she us equal to the task of holding her emotions in check around Sikes, and slipping away undetected for the fateful meeting with Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie beneath London Bridge.

As William T. Lankford has noted, from this point onward the action abandons Oliver, now comfortably situated in the upper-middle class as the ward of the affluent Maylies, and focuses on Sikes and Nancy:

Oliver has entirely ceased to be the parish boy and remains safe with his patrons from this point on; the novel's thematic concern with with the impact of social injustice on the poor and homeless is now buried beneath the surface development of the plot. Continuity is no longer supplied by Oliver's movement, but by Nancy, who becomes central to the thematic development; Rose and Sikes contest her loyalty, as earlier Fagin and Brownlow competed for control of Oliver. And while the sustained comparison of Nancy and Rose reinforces the original thematic conflict of nature and experience, the supporting pattern of analogy between their social classes narrows to the two girls alone.

Thus, for example, in the original serial illustrations, Oliver now disappears, only to re-emerge in the so-called "cancelled illustration" — Oliver and His Family — The Fireside Plate — and the plate which Dickens requested to replace it, Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate. In the Household Edition, James Mahoney likewise shifts the reader's attention from the fortunes of Oliver to the doomed relationship between Nancy and Sikes. In the first half of the novel, Oliver appears in eight of the Mahoney wood-engravings, but in only two in the second half and in none towards the end, when Mahoney focuses on Fagin, Sikes, and Nancy). Conversely, Nancy, a minor figure in the first half of the novel as illustrated by Cruikshank and Mahoney, becomes significant in the Household Edition, Nancy appears three times towards the end, and her common-law husband as many. In Frederic W. Pailthorpe's 1886 series of twenty-one engravings — notably in "Has it long gone the half-hour?" (the scene in which Nancy hastens to her rendezvous with Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow at London Bridge, fearful that Sikes or another gang member may be following her) Nancy is a significant figure: she appears as Sikes's victim in A foul deed, no longer a slattern as in Cruikshank, but an attractive, respectably dressed young woman. The most appealing realisation of Nancy is undoubtedly that in the Waverley Edition, illustrated by Charles Pears, the vulnerable maiden haunted by the shadow of Bill Sikes in the tense portrait, Nancy. This sympathetic characterisation amounting to a reassessment of her character and her role as blameless victim is consistent with the Nancy whom we see in the final illustrations in Furniss's sequence. Whereas Furniss depicts her just twice in the first half of his sequence (both with Sikes), in the second half she occurs four times, and most conspicuously as a corpse in the centre of the bottom register of Characters in the Story. This scene in Chapter 39, realised in various ways by some of the novel's principal illustrators, marks a shift the reader's understanding of Nancy. Formerly, she was a slattern and the willing accomplice of a street thug, the principal agent in the gang's recovering Oliver, apparently tough-minded and wholly without sympathy for the child; now, even though still fiercely loyal to him, she is a victim of Sikes's brutality, despite her having nursed him though a fever over the course of three weeks. Shortly, in order to expose Monks's plot, she will turn informant. Thus, the illustrators graph the moral progress of Nancy, woman of the East End streets and ultimately the redeemed prostitute with a heart of gold.


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5976 comments Mod


"Has it long gone the half-hour?"

Chapter 40

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

"The laudanum has taken effect at last," murmured the girl, as she rose from the bedside. "I may be too late, even now."

She hastily dressed herself in her bonnet and shawl: looking fearfully round, from time to time, as if, despite the sleeping draught, she expected every moment to feel the pressure of Sikes’s heavy hand upon her shoulder; then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the robber’s lips; and then opening and closing the room-door with noiseless touch, hurried from the house.

A watchman was crying half-past nine, down a dark passage through which she had to pass, in gaining the main thoroughfare.

"Has it long gone the half-hour?" asked the girl.

"It'll strike the hour in another quarter," said the man: raising his lantern to her face.

"And I cannot get there in less than an hour or more," muttered Nancy: brushing swiftly past him, and gliding rapidly down the street.



message 31: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5976 comments Mod


Rose and Nancy

Chapter 40

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Your having interfered in this dear boy's behalf before," said Rose; "your coming here, at so great a risk, to tell me what you have heard; your manner, which convinces me of the truth of what you say; your evident contrition, and sense of shame; all lead me to believe that you might yet be reclaimed. Oh!" said the earnest girl, folding her hands as the tears coursed down her face, "do not turn a deaf ear to the entreaties of one of your own sex; the first — the first, I do believe, who ever appealed to you in the voice of pity and compassion. Do hear my words, and let me save you yet, for better things."

"Lady," cried the girl, sinking on her knees, "dear, sweet, angel lady, you are the first that ever blessed me with such words as these, and if I had heard them years ago, they might have turned me from a life of sin and sorrow; but it is too late, it is too late!"

"It is never too late," said Rose, "for penitence and atonement."

"It is," cried the girl, writhing in agony of her mind; "I cannot leave him now! I could not be his death."


Commentary:

Earlier in the novel, Dickens stipulates that an effective melodrama requires an alternation of serious and comic scenes. Whereas Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank in the periodical sequence follows up the comic scene of Nancy's "hysterics' with yet another comic interlude, The Jew & Morris Both begin to understand each other (Part 19, November 1838).

It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas, to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky well-cured bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bed, weighed down by fetters and misfortunes; in the next scene, his faithful but unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song. [Ch. 17 in the 1910 edition]

In Furniss's sequence, the serious scene follows the comic interlude; however, both comic and serious illustrations signal the change in Nancy's character that is necessary to advance the plot of her informing on Fagin and Monks. A less effusive and less emotional scene that likewise signals the moral growth of Nancy's character is that by James Mahoney in the Household Edition, Then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips. What is not immediately apparent, however, in Mahoney's treatment of the scene is that Nancy has, in fact, drugged Sikes, to ensure that she can keep her appointment with Rose Maylie at her West End hotel — an anxious journey that F. W. Pailthorpe describes in his 1886 hand-tinted engraving "Has it long gone the half-hour?", which gives us a much more sympathetic Nancy, fearful that she is being followed. However, the Mahoney illustration underscores the anomaly in Nancy's character, expressed in the text accompanying Furniss's, that Nancy believes she can remain true to Sikes even as she seeks to defend Oliver from Fagin and his aristocratic co-conspirator.

In Furniss's unparalleled illustration, Rose is almost shocked at Nancy's breaking down as she grapples with a powerful ethical conflict, namely how to remain true to her brute of a husband while defending Oliver and ensuring the downfall of "Monks" by informing Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie of the plot to drag the boy into the criminal underworld. Thus ennobled by her intent, Nancy speaks the emotionally heightened, grammatically correct language of melodrama rather than the dialect of the streets. Furniss lends her a convincing, entreating, contrite, and even desperate posture as she hides her tearful face from a respectably dressed woman of about her own age. Furniss has lightly sketched in the background to make the contrasting figures stand out: Rose, of the affluent suburbs, stands, but must support herself on a chair, as she looks down in pity and sympathy upon this wayward but reformed young man of the criminal classes. The hotel room bespeaks tasteful and leisured living, with padded furniture, draperies, a painting, bric-a-brac on the mantle, and a fireplace screen. The inward, pained look on Rose's face may well reflect her own inner turmoil as the mystery surrounding her birth has led her to reject her adopted brother, Harry, as a suitor since such a questionable alliance would likely damage his political career. The gulf between herself at seventeen and Nancy (apparently of much the same age) may not be so great, after all, she may be considering, despite their most obvious difference, that of dress, the signifier of their respective classes.


message 32: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5976 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Is Monks Dracula?"

Definitely. :-)


message 33: by Xan (last edited Aug 01, 2018 07:37AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 40

I imagine by now you have guessed that my favourite character in the novel is Nancy. While she is a very early example of a female character in a Dickens novel she is, nevertheless, in ..."


This chapter redeems the novel and Dickens, I think. Forget the melodrama, the over the top exchange of words between Rose and Nancy, and the obvious contrast between the two. What's striking here is Nancy insisting on returning when she could be saved. There is so much going on in this decision of hers.

The easy explanation would be that Nancy is a fool for loving a man who beats her. But that isn't it, I don't think. Nancy only knows one world. All she has is bad friends, but they are still HER friends, and the only ones she has. It's all that she knows, this niche in hell, her home, and people don't leave home easily. One of the hardest things to do is to up and leave home, face the unknown, and start over again.

And Dickens gets this.

Crime drags you down, but bad friends are an affliction that do not easily go away.


message 34: by Peter (last edited Aug 01, 2018 07:35AM) (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 40

I imagine by now you have guessed that my favourite character in the novel is Nancy. While she is a very early example of a female character in a Dickens novel she is, nev..."


Xan

I found your response both articulate and insightful and it has given me a broader appreciation of Nancy. “This niche in hell, her home, and people don’t leave home easily” is such a powerful insight.

There is a line from Robert Frost’s poem “The Death of the Hired Hand” that goes “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” In Frost’s poem, the character has sought a good home, but the point remains. We all crave a home, and Nancy’s home, as you demonstrated, is one most of us hopefully will never experience.


message 35: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Kim wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Is Monks Dracula?"

Definitely. :-)"


He might be Dracula, but a lot of the illustrators still manage to work in as well a resemblance to saintly Oliver. It's remarkable.


message 36: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Peter wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 40

I imagine by now you have guessed that my favourite character in the novel is Nancy. While she is a very early example of a female character in a..."


Plus look how the housemaids treated her. She knows a lot of people aren't going to give her a second chance.

Peter and Xan, I think everything you're saying is true, but I also think Nancy as a character is stuck with being devoted to Bill because she's female and it's a Victorian novel. If she didn't love him, her living with him would be even more damning than it already is. And once they've given their hearts away in these books, as far as I can tell, women are never, ever, ever allowed to change their minds because then they'd be untrue. So Rose has to think on hopelessly about Harry, and Nancy has to think on hopelessly about Bill, and Nancy's fidelity is described as a perversion of the only female virtue she's got left. It's so very frustrating.


message 37: by Peter (last edited Aug 01, 2018 09:33PM) (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Peter wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 40

I imagine by now you have guessed that my favourite character in the novel is Nancy. While she is a very early example of a female ..."


Hi Julie

Yes. The female found herself in a trapped position within Victorian society as a wife or significant other. As you say, once a female gives her heart away in a Victorian novel - at least a Dickens novel - she was not allowed to change her mind.

It is very frustrating, especially if we leap ahead in the marriage of Charles and Catherine Dickens. Catherine found herself rather trapped as the marriage dissolved while Charles pursued his desire and passion. It is amazing to think that it took over 150 years for a full length study of Catherine Dickens to look into her side of their marital story.

The Other Dickens: A Life of Catherine Hogarth


message 38: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Peter wrote: "Julie wrote: "Peter wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 40

I imagine by now you have guessed that my favourite character in the novel is Nancy. While she is a very early exampl..."


It must have been frustrating to be the novelist, too. We seem to have Oliver and Nancy both trapped in the virtue-conventions of their times. You can see Dickens pushing very hard to get people to look more kindly on poor orphans and prostitutes, but it's not going to work unless the poor orphan looks weirdly incorruptible and the prostitute looks doomed by her sins. There doesn't seem to be room for a character who slips and then recovers, and that rules out so many realist characters and storylines.


message 39: by John (new)

John (jdourg) | 1054 comments Just checking in. I'm still here. I got a little behind on my reading and hope to at least catch up to Chapter 40 very soon.


message 40: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
John wrote: "Just checking in. I'm still here. I got a little behind on my reading and hope to at least catch up to Chapter 40 very soon."

Hi John

Good to hear from you. We’ll wait for you at The Three Cripples.


message 41: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "

Monks

Chapter 38

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Come in!" he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the ground. "Don't keep me here!"

The woman, who had hesitate..."


I found this commentary and the accompanying illustration by Sol Eytinge to be very insightful and thought provoking. Monks is a central character and mystery in the novel and by linking him to the Gothic tradition in literature in his his actions, appearance, and name opens up much possibility of interpretation within the novel. By commenting on the “melodramatic traditions embodied in the enigmatic figure of ‘Monks’”the character and the illustration of him certainly creates a “portrait of a diabolical, enigmatic figure.”

Many of the illustrators provided their interpretations of Monks and the trap door with the Bumbles in attendance. I enjoyed them all. What a creepy scene with dislikable people and mysterious and shocking revelations. Melodramatic yes. A bit too much over-the-top, perhaps. But for me, what a great chapter to read.


message 42: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Peter wrote: "Can you help Mr Brownlow by providing a couple of hints that you are aware of as a reader that he is not aware of as a character in the novel in order to trap Monks?..."

A Crucifix?

A Stake?

Sunlight?

So Rose, and now the others, knows that Monks and Fagin know where she and Oliver are staying, yet while they are all strategizing no one thinks to move them? That would have been my first thought.


message 43: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3204 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Bill Sikes and Nancy

Chapter 39

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

On the evening following that upon which the three worthies mentioned in the last chapter, disposed of th..."


This illustration by Sol Eytinge captures the essence of the Sikes-Nancy relationship very well. Here we have Sikes, just risen from his sick bed, with Nancy on his left. Sikes is appropriately scruffy in appearance and his facial expression is one of anger. Nancy, as she looks down on Sikes, is thin, which is appropriate. Cruikshank's portrayal of Nancy as plump in his recent illustration contradicts both the text and logic. Nancy’s left hand in placed with great tenderness on Sikes’s shoulder and her right hand is poised at her hip. Is she going to hold his brow or place it on his head? The hand’s position and the look of concern on Nancy’s face suggest compassion for this rough and brutal man.

Completing the illustration is Sikes’s dog found in the bottom right of the illustration. The dog looks up at Sikes from beneath the bedside. Thus Sikes is attended and watched over by those who have compassion for him. Their looks frame Sikes even more as the centre of the illustration. Both suggest love and compassion and faithfulness to a man who has neither for either of the attendants.

This illustration is also a very powerful one in terms of foreshadowing. No spoilers, but remember it please for the ending chapters of OT.


message 44: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Seriously, they know what Monks told Fagin, but Monks doesn't know this. They could tell him some of what they know (which he would know to be true) with the promise of telling him more if they meet. Time and place of their choosing, not his. They could even say they have letters.


message 45: by Alissa (last edited Aug 02, 2018 07:42PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Oliver knows what Monks looks like, that he has seizures, and the hotel Monks was carried into after the seizure. The good characters could ask the hotel staff for information about Monks, like what was his last name, where was he from, and where was he going.

Apparently, they overlooked this option. Their plan is to get more info from Nancy, which I think is riskier and less reliable, since she might not show up. Plus, they have to wait five days to meet her.

At least, they finally had the sense to make Giles Oliver's bodyguard. This makes me feel a lot better about Oliver running errands.


message 46: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments I loved Grimwig's reaction to the news about Oliver: stiffening in his chair and making a long, loud whistle from his stomach. Was Dickens making him like a teapot, you think?

I also thought the squabble between Brownlow and Grimwig that ended in them taking snuff was really funny too. I'm glad these characters are back.


message 47: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1253 comments Alissa wrote: "Oliver knows what Monks looks like, that he has seizures, and the hotel Monks was carried into after the seizure. The good characters could ask the hotel staff for information about Monks, like wha..."

I too am very glad to see disaster-prone Oliver with a bodyguard.


message 48: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 889 comments Alissa wrote: "I loved Grimwig's reaction to the news about Oliver: stiffening in his chair and making a long, loud whistle from his stomach. Was Dickens making him like a teapot, you think?..."

Now that's a mental image. Grimwig the teapot blowing off steam.


message 49: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Julie wrote: "I felt some of her speeches were less Nancy talking about Nancy and more Dickens talking about Nancy..."

I agree, Julie. It wasn't a realistic exchange in my mind, but a sermon of sorts.


message 50: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Eytinge never fails to make Dickens' characters look like some exaggerated version of Frankenstein's monster. Although, in Sikes I'd have to say it fits the bill pretty well.

I agree that a plump Nancy is unrealistic.

And Xan, the Dracula comparison was perfect. :-)


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