Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist Chapter 48 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Sikes is sitting in his apartment, staring at Nancy's body, which he has tried to cover with a rug, but to no avail—there is too much blood in the apartment, and it is driving Sikes mad. Sikes attempts to clean his shoes and leaves the apartment, Nancy's body still inside, with his dog; he does not know where he is going, but he no longer can stay alone with the body.
Nancy's death is accomplished in an instant, but Sikes regrets it almost as quickly. Silks regret seems to be in part selfish—that he knows there is nothing he can do to protect himself. Yet at the same time, Sikes also seems truly distraught that he has killed Nancy, as if he senses that she felt a real kind of love for him—a love now forever beyond him—and he repaid her with death. Sikes' desperation in this and the following chapters is truly something to behold; Dickens is a powerful writer of this kind of abjection.
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
Sikes wanders all day, and ends up in a town where he meets a hawker selling a product that can "get stains out of anything—any kind of stains." The hawker sees a spot of blood on Sikes' clothes, and attempts to get it out with this product. Sikes is aghast and moves on. He walks by two guards, who are talking of a murder in London, and it seems, from this information, that they are speaking specifically of Nancy's murder. Sikes is alarmed and continues his aimless journey.
Another coincidence, and instance of dramatic irony: the audience, or reader, knows that Sikes has just killed someone and that the stain the man attempts to rinse can never be rinsed. But the man selling his wares does not know this, nor does he understand why Sikes seems so upset.
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
Sikes attempts to sleep in a barn but is tormented by thoughts of his deed, and as he walks, later that night, he comes upon a farm-building that has gone up in flames. To distract himself from his own mind, Sikes takes up water-pails and helps the villagers to put out the fire. That next morning, the fire having been put out, Sikes hears some of the firemen talking of the murder, and saying that they heard the murderer has fled to Birmingham. Sikes walks away, now even more conscious of his need to escape detection, and more paranoid that he will be caught.
This conflagration is an apt metaphor for Sikes state of mind. Try as he might to put out the flames of guilt even as he helps to put out the fire, he can only contain them—he cannot stop the fire completely. This bit of physical activity helps Sikes to "lose himself" for a moment, but soon he will have to come to terms, once more, of the fact that he has killed his lover, and will be brought to justice for it, as all London is discussing the murder.
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
Sikes realizes that his dog could be used to identify him. He resolves to kill the dog, but as he calls it over—the two are hiding in a culvert near the road, to pass part of the day—the dog runs off, as if knowing that Sikes wishes to kill it. Sikes is now left alone, with his thoughts, and with no plan for where to live, or how to return to London, if at all.
Sikes wants to kill the dog out of his instinct for self-preservation—the same instinct that made him kill Nancy. The dog seems to sense this, though, leaving Sikes truly and totally alone, with nothing left to live for—no love, no home, not even his dog.
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
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