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Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist Chapters 51-53

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3442 comments Mod
Chapter 51

Hello Fellow Curiosities

Well, here we are at the end of Oliver Twist. The time has flown by for me and it has been a pleasure to be your moderator as Tristram journeyed across the Atlantic to visit with family and enjoy a well-deserved vacation. For me, it has been quite the summer as well. My wife and I visited our first grandchild in Toronto. We decided that we wanted to enjoy being with our family too and so decided to move back to Toronto. Fortunately, we found a condo in the same area we lived in prior to coming to Victoria so we will be in a comfort zone when we move back. Now, Ana and I are surrounded by boxes, bubble wrap, and wrapping paper. It was an extremely difficult decision since we love it here in Victoria. But the siren call of our first grandchild has drawn us back to Toronto. And so it goes ...

Endings and beginnings. This week we will finish our discussion of Oliver Twist. He, too, will find a home, a family, and be with those who he loves most and who love him. Does life imitate art? Does art imitate life? In many ways I think so.

Our novel spans three chapters to wrap up. Perhaps too long, but this is an early Dickens novel, so let us give him some space. That said, I sit here hoping I touch on most of the important bits and pieces still awaiting a conclusion.

This chapter begins with Oliver travelling towards his “native town.” He is surrounded by the good people in his life all of whom are prepared to bring Oliver’s past to a conclusion and offer him a secure and happy future. As Oliver travels back to his beginnings he sees objects and has memories from his past. One special memory is Oliver’s remembrance of his childhood friend Dick. Rose assures Oliver that he will see Dick soon, but she also appears to know something Oliver does not. Oliver passes Sowerberry’s and notes that it seemed to be “smaller and less imposing in appearance than he remembered it.” He then sees Gamfield’s cart, the workhouse, and the town’s chief hotel. To Oliver, each place seems smaller. Has this ever happened to you? A place that once was imposing is now reduced in your memory? It has to me.

There is a bit of a mystery going on in the chapter as a number of secret meetings are happening among the men of the group. Neither Rose or Oliver are included in the meetings and both are perplexed as to what is occurring. And then a great revelation. Monks is presented to Oliver and Oliver is told that Monks is his brother. We learn that Oliver’s father, Edwin Leeford, was Mr Brownlow’s dear friend, and that Oliver’s mother’s name is Agnes Fleming.


Thoughts


Did you know or suspect any of these revelations? If so, what were the hints that lead you to your suspicions?


What follows is a lengthy explanation from Monks that fills in many of the blanks in the story. Here is a brief summary of Monks’s story. Oliver’s father took ill in Rome and was joined by his estranged wife and son Monks who went there to look after his property. Leeford’s senses were gone and he died. In Leeford’s rooms Monks and his mother found papers addressed to Brownlow, a letter to Agnes Fleming, and a will. Leeford’s letter to Agnes was a “penitent confession” and asked for her forgiveness for getting her pregnant because “all the guilt was his.” Leeford asked her to wear the locket and ring he had given her.

The will contained the miseries of his life with his wife and his wife an annuity of £800. The bulk of the property was divided into two equal proportions between Agnes Fleming and their child-to-be. There was one stipulation and that was if their child was a male then he should never [stain] his name with “any public act of dishonour, meanness, cowardness, or wrong.” Apparently, these conditions were made through his belief that Agnes Fleming would raise Oliver with her own “gentle heart.” If their child did not match the criteria then the money would go to Monks as both of his children would be equal, and thus Monks would have a stronger claim upon the will since Monks is his legitimate son. Monks’s mother then confronted Agnes’s father who, in shame, fled to a remote part of Wales. Agnes left their new home in shame, her father searched in vain for her, and then her father died of a broken heart.


Thoughts

A deep breath. I think I’ve covered most of the initial parts to this admittedly convoluted tale. If I have missed anything that is important please feel free to add it or correct me. There is more to come. If I ever complain about future Dickens novels and their coincidences or conclusion please remind me of Oliver Twist.

Let’s press on.

Mr Brownlow continues the story. Years later Brownlow heard that Monks had robbed his mother and then left her to live with the “lowest outcasts.” His mother, “sinking under a painful and incurable disease” wanted to see her son again. They reunited and went to France. There she died but not until she had bequeathed all her secrets to Monks. Monks promised her that he would seek out her husband’s illegitimate child and “spit upon the empty vault of the insulting will by dragging it ... to the very gallows-foot.” Brownlow then explained that Fagin, an old accomplice and confident of Monks, was given a large reward to keep Oliver and turn him into a criminal. Monks confesses to buying the ring and locket from Mrs Bumble, who got them from the old nurse that stole them originally from Oliver’s mother. It is all a bit complicated, isn’t it? These facts are confirmed because it just so happens Brownlow and Grimwig have both Bumbles bundled in another room and are brought in to confirm the information. When the Bumbles burst out their supposed innocence it just so happens, yet again, that Brownlow and Grimwig have witnesses in the form of two old withered hags who heard all the events that occurred at the death of Oliver’s mother. To be brief, if that is possible, Bumble and his wife will lose their jobs because of their actions.

A few more surprises, coincidences, and revelations and we will be finished ... I hope. We find out that the father of Agnes had TWO daughters. After the death of the father the other daughter was taken in by some “wretched cottagers” who raised her. Monks’s mother managed to track down these cottagers and tell them of the second daughter’s shame “with such alterations as suited her” such as the fact that the second female child came of bad blood, was illegitimate, and was sure to go wrong in the future. One day, by chance (of course), a widow lady saw this child and took her home. This female child turns out to be Rose. Thus Rose is Oliver’s aunt, but Oliver declares that he will call her sister. We then have Rose and Oliver in a “long close embrace.”

We are not finished yet. Patience please. Harry shows up and declares that he knows all and still wants Rose. Rose, in response, reminds him that a sense of deep disgrace worked upon her father and, as result, he was “shunned all.” Harry responds by telling Rose that he has thrown over all his associations and aspirations to join in parliament and plans to become a humble village pastor. Rose and Harry now can share a life and future because they are now equals.

And finally, at the very end of the chapter, the reader is blindsided by Oliver who comes into the room and announces that “Poor Dick was dead.” And so the chapter ends extremely abruptly, and on a definite note of sorrow rather than joy.


Thoughts

To what extent did you find these revelations in the chapter to be satisfying? What did you like most about it? What did you dislike most about it?

I found the final sentence of the chapter extremely perplexing. Did Dickens want to tone down the joy of revelation by introducing the death of an individual who was innocent? Did Dickens want to insert a touch of reality into the chapter in that many children of the workhouse would not have survived into mid adolescence?

In your opinion did Dickens supply his readership with enough hints as to how the story of Oliver would unfold?


message 2: by Xan (last edited Aug 19, 2018 08:47AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments This was a difficult chapter to get through it was so maudlin. Everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, and all this happiness with Dick's death and the white waistcoat's death thrown in for ?balance? Oh, and how accommodating Monks is. At any minute I expected the Montague's and Capulet's to walk in and make up, thereby permitting Romeo and Juliet to rise from the dead and marry.

Have two more chapters to read but I suspect they are more just desserts.

PS: At least Fagin wasn't there to call everyone My Dear.


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3442 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "This was a difficult chapter to get through it was so maudlin. Everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, and all this happiness with Dick's death and the white waistcoat's death thrown in for ?bal..."

Xan

Fagin and his “my dears” - thank you for reminding me of that phrase. It was annoying. Your reference to the Montague’s and the Capulet’s doing a walk on and making up was spot on.

I am recovering from a case of “red eye” jet lag just now and needed a good chuckle and smile.

These chapters trip over themselves too much. OT is early Dickens and I’m glad we have this text now on our “have read” shelf. As we work our way through Dickens it will be all the more interesting to be able to reflect back on his development.


message 4: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Peter wrote: "Fagin and his “my dears” - thank you for reminding me of that phrase. It was annoying. ..."

Since joining this group, I pick up on others' (and my own, for that matter) little catch phrases. (There's probably a more accurate label for it, but I can't come up with it. Tristram will know. :-) )

Verbally, I tend to start statements with "Well, ..." I wonder why? Now that I've noticed it, I try hard to avoid it, but it's a challenge. Someone who's podcast I listen to does the same thing with the word "So, ..." A coworker of mine favors the phrase, "in all honesty..." A friend tends to overuse the word "smart" when describing movies and TV shows she likes (I think, in that case, she's subconsciously trying to describe herself, but now I'm psychoanalyzing!) So, while Fagin's use of "my dear" was certainly annoying, it was also very realistic. As is Grimwig's repeated declaration that he'll eat his head.

When not TOO overused, I like that Dickens does this. These verbal cues help me keep some of the characters straight. For example, I always remember Mr. Smallweed from Bleak House saying, "Shake me up, Judy!" or Micawber's assurances that "something will turn up." Fagin's "my dear" may be another example of a young writer overdoing it a bit.


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