Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bumble and his wife go to meet Monks, in a shabby old building down by the river Thames. They find him outside and, ducking out of the thunder and rain outside, head with him up a ladder to small room. Monks indicates, to Mrs. Bumble, that he knows she possesses something of value taken from Old Sally; Mrs. Bumble demands that Monks pay her twenty-five pounds for this package. Bumble remains silent and nervous during this exchange.
Here, Mrs. Bumble puts into practice her street-smarts, demanding payment for the package before Monks even sees it. Monks, therefore, must know that the package is valuable for him, otherwise he would not be so willing to offer cash for it up-front, without even examining it first.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Monks produces twenty-five gold coins and gives them to Mrs. Bumble, who begins her story of how she received the package from Sally. Mrs. Bumble describes Old Sally's death, and states that, though Sally died without saying anything of interest regarding the package she had mentioned to Mrs. Bumble, she did possess, in her hand, a pawnbroker's slip for this package—and Mrs. Bumble took this slip and redeemed it, finding the objects in a small bag, once belonging to Oliver's mother, which she gives, at this point, to Monks.
Dickens qualifies the exact manner by which Mrs. Bumble received the package. This is probably done simply for practical reasons: it would be much more difficult for Old Sally to have clutched the package to her person during the final throes of her illness. A slip for a pawnbroker is much easier to conceal in one's fist, and much easier, too, to hang onto during one's final moments.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
In the bag are: a locket engraved with the name Agnes (and a blank for the last name), a wedding-ring, and two locks of hair. At this, Mrs. Bumble completes her story, and asks Monks whether this is what he wanted, and whether he can use this package or this information to ruin Mrs. Bumble. Monks replies that this information will ruin no one, and at that, he opens a trap door, which leads all the way down to the river rushing beneath (as the building juts over part of the Thames River). Monks then drops the package into the river, and claims it is gone forever.
The first announcement of the name of Oliver's mother. This is important for the plot, and also for symbolic reasons. For up till this point, Oliver's mother was a character only inasmuch as she was the woman who gave birth to the novel's hero. But Agnes is a character of her own—one with a family, and a history. It is this history that is to be revealed as the text progresses.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Monks then tells Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Bumble that this is all, and tells them, too, that they must keep the meeting secret. The Bumbles leave the house, and Monks stays behind, with an unnamed servant-boy.
The entire conversation is quite short, and Bumble, notably, has played almost no part in the proceedings.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
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