Oliver Twist: Chapter 2 - Summary & Analysis

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Treats of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, and Board.


Mrs. Mann, the Care Taker of Oliver Twist

      Now, the workhouse authorities had reported the helpless and miserable condition of the newly born child to the parish authorities. After learning the situation of the infant, the parish authorities decided to send him to a branch workhouse three miles away, in order to leave him in the care of an elderly woman who would be paid for the expenses of child's nourishment by parish authorities. The parish authorities offered to give this woman enough money to rear up the child.

      But the heart of this elderly lady named Mrs. Mann was not full of milk. She was too greedy to spend the minimum possible money for such purposes. She did not adequately use that money for the nourishment of child entrusted to her care. For nine years, Oliver Twist remained under the supervision of Mrs. Mann.

The Arrival of Mr. Bumble, A Beadle

      Nine years after the birth of Oliver Twist, the beadle of the parish Mr. Bumble arrived at Mrs. Mann's establishment with the order from parish authorities to take the child back to the workhouse. Mr. Bumble was a fat man of a choleric disposition and all the time displaying his oratorical powers and exercising his authority. He was kept waiting because Mrs. Mann had to release Oliver and his companions who were confined to a cold cellar. Mr. Bumble was very cordially and warmly welcomed by Mrs. Mann. She was acting all the time to give the impression that she had been attentively and carefully looking after Oliver Twist. She had offered gin-and-water and Mr. Bumble had it. He drank it to the health of Mrs. Mann. He disclosed this fact to Mrs. Mann that the name Oliver Twist was given by him to this boy according to a certain formula which was formulated by the main workhouse. It was to name the illegitimate child, who took birth in the workhouse in an alphabetical order. In the case of this child, name was to begin with T; and Mr. Bumble had decided to give the name 'Twist'.

      Mr. Bumble also, told her that their efforts to ascertain the identity of Oliver Twist's faddier or to find out the origin of her mother were of no use. Thus they had decided to bring back the child to the workhouse where he took his birth. In the meantime, Oliver was made presentable. Mrs. Mann embraced the boy a thousand times before leaving him in the charge of Mr. Bumble, it was another matter that the boy was not even properly fed ever there.

Learning of Picking Oakum in order to Make Oliver Twist Independent

      Mr. Bumble took Oliver Twist along and presented him to the Board of Trustees. They were there to decide what to do with the child. The board meeting was governed by a fat gentleman, whose chair was higher than the chairs belonging to the other members of the board. The chairman decided to make Oliver Twist learn a trade so that he could earn something for his livelihood. He informed Oliver Twist to start picking oakum from the next morning. Thus from the next day, Oliver started learning to pick oakum accordingly.

Oliver's Protest against the Meagre Food

      Oliver had to do his work in a group of boys. These boys were not sufficiently fed in the workhouse, thus they always suffered from hunger. After a few months of this kind of ill-fed life, boys held a meeting and decided to protest against the meager food. Oliver was selected by them to protest first against the small quantity of food. Accordingly, next day Oliver told the official for more food. The official got shocked because no boy had ever asked for more food. This matter was reported to the higher authorities. They also decided to get rid of him because providing more food to all the boys of workhouse was no question for them. They could never agree to it. Thus there was put up a notice on the gate of the workhouse to offer a reward of five pounds to anybody who would take Oliver Twist away with him and involve him in some trade or business.

Critical Analysis

      A satirical picture of baby-farms is presented in this chapter. The entire system of looking after paupers and orphans is condemned indirectly. The references to many premature deaths of orphans are very touching and heart-rendering.

      Mr. Bumble, an important character in the novel was first introduced in this chapter. He is presented as an embodiment of selfishness and callousness.

      The most striking incidents of the novel is Oliver's asking for more food. "Please, Sir, I want some more". This is the eternal problem of the rights of weak against the strong. Arnold Kettle had perceived it in general. "We care, we are involved not because it is Oliver and we are close to Oliver, but because every starved orphan in the world and indeed everyone who is poor and oppressed and hungry is involved and the master of the workhouse is not anyone in particular but every agent of an oppressive system everywhere."

      The devastating use of irony for the inclusion of evil is important. When Oliver is presented to the board Mr. Bumble "gave him a tap on the head with his cane to wake him up, and another on the back to make him lively,.."

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