Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fagin begins slackening his pace, however, and regaining his cool as he enters a small market neighborhood not too far from his apartment; he stops and talks to a trader of stolen merchandise, who knows Fagin in a business capacity, named Lively. Fagin asks Lively if anyone is at the Three Cripples, a nearby pub and hangout for local criminals; Lively says he doesn't know, nor does he know (as Fagin follows up by asking) if Sikes is present at that pub, in particular. Lively says he'll join Fagin for a drink there, but Fagin waves him away, and proceeds to the pub on his own.
The size of London becomes apparent when one considers that there are entire streets and small neighborhoods given over to illegal activities—the police seem not to bother these neighborhoods, so long as the criminality does not extend beyond certain prearranged borders. The Cripples pub, too, is a seat for criminals, and it remains mostly untouched in the novel until Brownlow prompts the authorities to search it, for evidence of Fagin and his cronies.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Fagin walks into the smoky pub, filled as it is with criminals whom Fagin recognizes. Fagin speaks to a man the narrator refers to as the chairmen, and asks him whether he (the chairman) has seen Barney or Sikes that night. He also asks the chairman, who is the landlord of the establishment, whether a man named Monks will be at the pub that evening. The chairmen replies that none of the men are present. Fagin asks the chairmen to tell Monks to visit Fagin the next day.
The first significant description of Monks in the novel. Of the book's three villains, Monks is at once the most human—he is, after all, Oliver's half-brother—and the most difficult to understand. Fagin is motivated by his greed, and Sikes by his lust for violence. Monks, however, seems only to want to blot Oliver out of the virtuous life to protect his own legacy.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Satisfied with this intelligence received at the Three Cripples, Fagin finds a hack-cab on the street and takes it to near Nancy's and Sikes' apartment. He gets out of the cab and vows to get more information out of Nancy, whom he believes to be there. He knocks on the door and is let in by Nancy. Fagin sees no evidence of Sikes in the apartment.
Nancy is beginning to fall into a spiral from which she will not escape. The mistreatment under which Oliver has been placed has upset her a great deal, and her already pronounced desire for alcohol has been exacerbated. Fagin, notably, does nothing to help her in this scene.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Fagin asks Nancy where Sikes and Oliver are; Nancy replies that she doesn't know, and she exclaims (coincidentally), that if Oliver is lying dead in a ditch somewhere, he is better dead than under Fagin's and Sikes' control. Fagin tells Nancy to be quiet, since she is obviously inebriated and distraught. Fagin tells Nancy, further, that if Sikes comes back to the apartment without the boy, Nancy should kill Sikes, and Fagin will protect her—the boy is worth a good deal to Fagin, and Fagin cannot allow Sikes to live after having taken so little care of Oliver during the botched robbery. Nancy is shocked that Fagin would turn on Sikes so quickly, and she defends Sikes. She does not promise Fagin anything.
Fagin makes an important attempted bargain here. Of course it has been known that Fagin is an unscrupulous character, but here he markedly goes behind the back of his associate, Sikes, in order to get him out of the picture—Fagin appears to believe that, because Sikes is no longer a dependable housebreaker, he might just be a violent nuisance, a man who must be eliminated. Nancy stands up for Sikes here, and she will do so again later, which makes Sikes eventual murder of her all the more tragic.
Themes
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Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
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Fagin leaves Nancy, drunk, in the apartment, and is satisfied, since he has informed Nancy that Sikes has left Oliver (believing he can gain more control of Nancy if she knows that Sikes cares nothing for the boy), and has confirmed that Sikes is not in the apartment. On his way back to his own abode, Fagin runs into a man who has been waiting for him on the street.
Monks has a tendency to appear where he is least expected. Although Fagin had asked to meet with him the following night, Monks was nevertheless able to hurry from wherever he was staying to find Fagin. Monks' abode is never described in the novel, nor is his ability to travel so far so fast ever explained.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
The man is Monks, whom Fagin had been seeking out. Fagin takes him into a spare room on a lower floor of the tenement building. There the men converse in low voices (the narrator does not describe their exact conversation), but then the narrator reveals that Monks is chastising Fagin for placing Oliver so quickly into harm's way, and for not raising Oliver in the craft of pickpocketing, which, after a while, would have paid Fagin a good deal of money, and after which Fagin could have simply sent Oliver far away.
Monks reiterates his intentions here: he wishes that Oliver become a criminal, but not for his own direct personal gain (as Fagin does). Monks, instead, wishes only to blot Oliver's name—to keep him from living a virtuous life. The reader finds out, later, that Monks' desire dovetails with his hope to keep Oliver from learning of his true parentage, and of his inheritance.
Themes
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Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
It appears that Monks has a mysterious vested interest in Oliver, and, especially, in Oliver being sent away, but he does not elaborate on what this interest might be. Monks claims, further, that he does not want Oliver killed, as Oliver's death would somehow get back to Monks, and Monks wishes to avoid all penalty regarding Oliver's disappearance. Fagin explains to Monks that Nancy has taken a liking to Oliver, but Fagin appears to believe that, if Oliver survives the robbery and becomes a hardened criminal, Nancy will no longer pity him.
Nevertheless, Monks stops short of asking that Oliver be killed—which would be the simplest and "cleanest" way to handle his problem. It is never explained why Monks is unwilling to kill his brother, unless it is simply a residue of family-feeling, a belief that it is an especial moral wrong to kill a member of one's own family.
Themes
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Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Monks, paranoid that someone has heard them speak, tells Fagin they must search the dark abandoned rooms of the tenement for intruders, but after this is done, and no one is found, Monks take his leave of Fagin at around one in the morning, and Fagin returns to his own apartment.
Both Monks and Fagin are notable for their abundance of caution, and the speed with which they can slink away in the dark. Nevertheless, Nancy is able to spy on both of them later on in the novel.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon