Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator turns to the story of Bumble and Mrs. Corney (now Mrs. Bumble); they have been married two months, and Bumble is in a melancholic state. Although he is master of the workhouse, he has resigned as beadle, and so has given up a certain amount of his social stature—he felt that the promotion to workhouse master would be greater than it ended up being in fact.
Here, Dickens turns to a bit of domestic comedy, showing that, once they are married, Bumble and his wife turn into a textbook unhappy couple. Mrs. Bumble now bosses her husband around, and the great irony is, that Bumble, in his attempt to become master of the workhouse, is not even master of the marriage he so desperately desired.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Bumble fight about Bumble's laziness, and Mrs. Bumble ends up pushing him out of his chair to take a turn of the workhouse; Bumble begins having sympathy for those men who escape their families in order to be "rid of their wives." Bumble finds his way into a room where a group of women are doing laundry, and as he observes them at his work, Mrs. Bumble comes in and insults him in front of them.
There could be no greater shame, for Bumble, than being insulted in front of the paupers, who he does not consider to be fully human, and yet whose opinion does seem to matter to him. Mrs. Bumble, sensing this, makes sure to highlight Bumble's flaw and failures for the joy of those paupers observing.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Bumble becomes upset, and walks out of the room in a huff. He winds up in a pub and begins drinking, to calm himself down. While at the pub he comes upon a strange man, seated near him, and begins talking to him—the man buys Bumble another pint, and even appears to have been waiting to talk to him. The strange man indicates that he knows about Oliver Twist, and more particularly, about the woman Old Sally who nursed Twist's mother before she died, and who had information and a package from Oliver's mother.
Another coincidence, this one necessary to bring Bumble, Monks, and Mrs. Bumble together. As Monks will find out, Mrs. Bumble has a package that was given by Oliver's dying mother to Old Sally, her nurse in the workhouse. Mrs. Bumble, believing this package might have some value, has kept it, but it turns out that the package is more valuable as a piece of information that can be leveraged, from Monks, for financial gain.
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
The strange man goes on to imply that he knows, further, that Mrs. Bumble now has that package, taken from Old Sally (and originally possessed by Oliver's mother). The strange man wishes to arrange a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Bumble for the following night—to all this Bumble, confused, agrees. The man, as he is leaving, gives his name to Bumble—Monks, the same man who was seen with Fagin outside Oliver's window, by the Maylies' house.
Bumble is not particularly adept at this kind of discreet plan-making, but his wife appears more comfortable dealing with Monks and his special brand of underworld wheeling and dealing. Bumble, for the remainder of the novel, is out of his depth, and this scene marks the total dominance of Mrs. Bumble, in their strange, unhappy marriage.
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
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