Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the same night that Nancy dosed Sikes with laudanum and visited Rose, Noah Claypole and his now-partner Charlotte (it is unclear if they are legally married) are walking to London, with only a small bit of clothing tied to sticks they are carrying. Both have escaped Sowerberry, and are coming to London to seek their fortune. They stumble upon a pub called the Three Cripples, where they stop for refreshment, as they have traveled a long distance and eaten and drunk very little.
Noah Claypole might have been believed to have been out of the narrative for good, but here he is introduced again, as a young aspiring criminal on his way to London. In this way, Noah's journey, with Charlotte, to London on foot mirrors Oliver's journey so many months before. And, like Oliver, Noah will soon come into contact with Fagin.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Noah requests of Barney, who is working at the Cripples that night, some beef and ale, and he and Noah sit in a small room, eating and drinking. Barney then goes in the back of the pub and meets with Fagin; both of them are able to observe Noah and Charlotte through a small and out-of-sight window into the room in which the pair is eating. Fagin, not knowing of Noah's connection to Oliver, simply likes the man's "looks," and the fact that Noah seems capable of "controlling" his wife. Fagin vows that he can "use" Noah.
Dickens here makes reference to a common theory among Victorians, the idea that one's "looks," or "physiognomy," could tell an observer important information about that person's personality, or even moral outlook. Fagin believes he sees, in Noah, the shadow of a criminal temperament, and so he pursues Noah to that end.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Fagin comes in just as Noah was discussing how he intended to make money in London through petty thievery—pickpocketing and the like. Fagin notices that the two are from the country based on the dust on their shoes—Noah is impressed by this detection. Fagin indicates that he overheard Noah and Charlotte talking about illegal activities, but he says the two are lucky, as he, Fagin, is also "in that line of work" himself. Noah and Charlotte are stunned and listen attentively to Fagin.
Fagin is nothing if not observant. Although he does not know exactly from where Noah and Charlotte come, he does know that they have come from the country; Fagin is too sly to say, however, what he really means, which is not that the dust tipped him off to their country origins, but rather their behavior did—Noah and Charlotte are terrified of the city, and it is obvious.
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
City and Country Theme Icon
Fagin says he has "a friend" who does some criminal work; Noah realizes that he more or less has to help Fagin, now, in his this criminal enterprise, since Fagin has overheard him discussing his desire for illegal employment, and Fagin could take this information immediately to the police. Noah asks for some "light" work to begin with, as he does not have much experience with crime in the big city of London. Fagin says he has just the thing for Noah—Noah will steal small amounts of money from children, given them by their mothers, in certain parts of the city. He will be a robber of little boys and girls. Noah agrees to this, and introduces himself to Fagin as Mr. Bolter, here with his wife Mrs. Bolter.
Once again, Fagin leverages his information and places himself in a position of power by claiming that he could turn Noah in to the police for Noah's desire to become a criminal, should Noah find it necessary to go his own way and disregard Fagin's orders. Fagin is a master at manipulating people without having to resort to the threat of physical violence—in other words, unlike people like Sikes.
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
City and Country Theme Icon
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