Mr. Bumble: Character Analysis in Oliver Twist

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Mr. Bumble: A Beadle

      Mr. Bumble is a parish beadle in the town where Oliver Twist is born. From the early chapters of the novel Mr. Bumble plays a very significant role. Mr. Bumble is presented symbolically and treated as an individual also. Suggestively he brings out the callous workhouse system which was a curse of the Victorian age. As an individual he is made a chief source of comic relief.

His Personality

      Mrs. Bumble's personality is invariably presented through his dress — the official cocked hat, the magnificent coat with its gilt-edged lapel and gold-laced cuff, and beautiful buttons in which Mrs. Bumble feels excessive pride. Without beadle's coat, breeches, cane and cocked hat, Mr. Bumble is sheer a fat man, "dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat, than some people imagine."

Extremely Ruthless

      Mr. Bumble seems to take enjoyment in inflicting pain on the paupers and orphans. When Oliver has asked for more, he gets shocked and rushes to the office of the Board of Trustees of the workhouse, reports in much excitement: "Mr. Limbkins, Oliver Twist has asked for more." His tone was like he has seen any bombshell. He presents Oliver to the Board after giving him a tap on the head with his cane to wake him up and another on the back to make him lively." He punishes him too mercilessly like washing himself in ice cold water under the pump and he saves him from catching cold by making a tingling sensation on all his body by repeated application of the cane. He is like a devil for the inmates of the workhouse. He is so horrifying that when Oliver rebels against Mrs. Sowerberry and Noah Claypole, Mr. Bumble is summoned to control him.

The Ironic Treatment of Mr. Bumble

      Dickens has treated Mr. Bumble very ironically. In the parish the office of beadle is of an inferior position but Mr. Bumble's sense of self-importance is contrary to his actual status. The children feel much afraid while Mrs. Mann fawns upon him when he comes to visit the workhouse. But he comes again into his proper size when chairman of the board rebukes him: "hold your tongue, Beadle". Even after that he continues to express his self-importance.

      Mr. Bumble is made sometimes amusing also. When Mrs. Sowerberry appreciates the buttons of his coat, Mr. Bumble replies in excitement and says to enlighten Mrs. Sowerberry that there are parochial seal on the buttons; "the good Samaritan healing the sick and bruised man" and "I put it on. I remember, for the first time, to attend the inquest on that reduced tradesman who died in a doorway at midnight". Such delightful ironic treatment is presented by Dickens in Oliver Twist.

Very Avaricious

      Mr. Bumble is too greedy. When he sees the advertisement by Mr. Brownlow for inquiring Oliver and his life, he immediately goes to meet him and tells a lie against Oliver thinking that it would help him but he feels regret when Mr. Brownlow tells him to give him reward very generously. His decision to marry Mrs. Corney is also inspired by his greed. He stealthily counts her spoons, sugar tongs etc. It is late in the novel he realizes that he has sold himself at a very low price. He is divested of his cocked hat, which was his representative soon after his marriage.

Mr. Bumble: A Coward

      Mr. Bumble is also very timid. When Oliver gives a strong thrash to Noah Claypole and Mr. Bumble is summoned to control him, he goes with the wax-end properly twisted round the bottom of his cane to flog Oliver. When he listens the hyperbolic account of Oliver's ferocity, he strategies and decides it safe to communicate him through the key-hole of the door where Oliver is kept locked. When Oliver persists in his defiance, Mr. Bumble does not gather his courage to open the door and talk to Oliver. He starts talking to Mrs. Sowerberry; "It is meat..... You have overfed him, Ma'am, unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs. Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It is quite enough that we let'em have live bodies. If you had kept the boy on gruel, Ma'am, this would not have happened."

A Comic Figure

      From the very beginning Mr. Bumble is treated as a chief comic figure in the novel.

      It is his self-importance that makes him a comic personality. He appears much ridiculous in, his prenotion about the dignity. When he wooes Mrs. Corney, that scene is utterly humorous. Dickens makes him very funny when he writes about Mr. Bumble's impassioned kiss on Mrs. Corney's nose or when he puts his arms round her waist or he tastes the 'medicine'. His counting of cutlery and the furniture, his opening of the drawers and the jingling sound of coins are quite funny.

      When Mrs. Bumble humiliates him and tells him to escape himself from her furry Mr. Bumble appears absolutely comic. She scratches his face and threatens him to leave the house.

      He is most inappropriate for his post and status that he enjoys. He talks nonsense. He says; "that audacious Oliver has demoralized them all". At another occasion he speaks, "a parochial life, ma’am is a life of worrit, and vexation, and hardihood, but all public characters, as I may say, must suffer prosecution." Mr. Bumble, not Absolute Devil but Human. Though Mr. Bumble is presented entirely callous yet he is given a touch of humanity also. Even he moves to see poor Oliver weeping bitterly and to feel his heart-rendering loneliness when Oliver accompanies him and pretends to have cough. This slight touch of humanity imparts reality to his character. Poetic justice is done to him towards the end of the novel when he is made an inmate of the workhouse in which once he had been in administration and exploited the paupers and orphans a lot.

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