Oliver Twist: Chapter 17 - Summary & Analysis

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Oliver's Destiny continues Unpropitious, Bringing a Great Man to London to Injure his Reputation.


      Now the reader is taken back to the town where Oliver was born. Mr. Bumble one day early in the morning went to meet Mrs. Mann, it was three miles distant from the town workhouse. His duty was to hand over to Mrs. Mann the monthly stipend which the parish was paying her for the maintenance of her charitable establishment and for her services to look after the orphans and paupers. After giving her money Mr. Bumble told Mrs. Mann that he was going to London in the case of a court related to paupers. He then asked about the paupers and how they were getting on. Mrs. Mann said that they were very well with the exception of two who had died in the previous week and there was a boy Dick who was not improving from his disease. Mr. Bumble said that Dick was a very mischievous boy with ill-disposition. He told Mrs. Mann that he wanted to see Dick. Dick was brought there and told Mr. Bumble that he would soon die but before death he wanted to convey his love and best wishes to Oliver.

      Mr. Bumble was now on his journey towards London. He was in a coach. When he was taking his breakfast, he happened to see an advertisement in a newspaper. This advertisement was concerning with Oliver. Mr. Brownlow had offered to give five guineas to anybody who would inform him about the young boy Oliver Twist where was he and also made him acquainted with Oliver's history of past life because the boy had absconded residence. Mr. Bumble immediately decided to meet Mr. Brownlow following his address given in the newspaper. He was more inclined to get the reward.

      Accordingly, Mr. Bumble went to Brownlow's residence in Pentonville. Mrs. Bedwin received him and expressed much interest in Mr. Bumble when she came to know that he had arrived there in order to inform about Oliver Twist. Mr. Brownlow was, at that time, in the company of Mr. Grimwig and they conducted Mr. Bumble in the library. As Mr. Grim wig saw Mr. Bumble he said to Mr. Brownlow that he could easily guess that a beadle had come to meet him. Mr. Bumble confirmed it that he was a beadle. Then he told about Oliver Twist to Mr. Brownlow that Oliver, right from the very beginning of his life had been showing vicious traits — treachery, ingratitude and malice. He also informed them that once Oliver had made a violent attack upon a lad in his undertaker's shop and had fled from there in the night. In other words, Mr. Bumble reported Oliver as a very dangerous and scoundrel fellow who is absolutely unreliable. He then left from there after getting five guineas as advertised to be given to anybody who would bring some information about the history of Oliver.

      Mrs. Bedwin refused to accept Mr. Bumble's report of Oliver Twist when Mr. Brownlow told her about that. But Mr. Grimwig had believed each and every word of Mr. Bumble. Mrs. Bedwin said instead that Oliver was a gentle and loving boy. Mr. Brownlow ordered her not to mention his name in the house ever again. Thus he also turned hostile to Oliver

Critical Analysis

      It is a transitional chapter. It shows a link between the workhouse where Oliver spent his childhood and the world of London. Dickens has tried to give his plot an organic structure by sending Mr. Bumble to London and later on Noah Claypole to London and involving them with Fagin.

      When Mr. Bumble says to Mrs. Mann "all public characters must suffer prosecution," probably he means 'persecution'. And here lies the irony. We feel that such cheap officials of the workhouse who are so inhuman deserve to be prosecuted.

      Mrs. Brownlow's belief in the statements of Mr. Bumble annoys us but later we feel that if he does not have this kind of nature, he would not have reposed his trust and confidence into Oliver.

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