Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Noah runs all the way to the workhouse, and finds Mr. Bumble. Noah informs Bumble that Oliver has "gone vicious" and attempted to kill him; Noah exaggerates the episode, and says also (falsely) that Oliver pledged to kill Sowerberry as well. Noah asks whether Bumble would return to the Sowerberry home and beat Oliver, since Sowerberry is out at the moment. The man in the white waistcoat, who overhears this exchange, remarks that he always knew Oliver was a bad seed—a boy who one day would be hung.
It was not enough that Noah pushed Oliver into a fight for which he (Noah) was not ready—Noah also lies to Bumble, making it seem that Oliver started the fight, and that Oliver has been plotting to kill the Sowerberrys all along. Bumble is all too willing to believe this—to ascribe unsavoriness to Oliver's character. Of course, later in the novel, it is Bumble who is revealed, by the narrator, to be an unsavory and immoral man.
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
Bumble heads with Noah back to the Sowerberrys'. He finds Oliver locked in a room, and Oliver tells Bumble he is not afraid of him. Bumble informs Mrs. Sowerberry that Oliver's anger is attributable to his being fed meat at their home. Bumble recommends leaving Oliver down in the cellar for a day or too, to "starve" him a little; he says that Oliver's mother was also physically very strong, and she fought long and hard before she died in childbirth.
A means by which Bumble justifies his, and the workhouse's, thin ration of gruel—any larger amount of food, and the prisoners and workers, well-fed, would revolt against Bumble and the board. It is hard to believe that Oliver would be strong enough to fight Noah, who is much larger than Oliver, even if Oliver is being fed "meat."
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
Sowerberry returns at this point. Mrs. Sowerberry insists that whatever Noah said about Oliver's mother was true, but Oliver becomes enraged at this, and shouts to Mrs. Sowerberry that these are lies. Mrs. Sowerberry bursts into tears, and at this point Sowerberry, initially reluctant to punish Oliver, feels he must do so.
An important point, noted by the narrator: Sowerberry is still inclined to like Oliver and to side with him. Only after Oliver contradicts his wife does Sowerberry decide that, to save face, he must punish the boy. Sowerberry's major flaw, demonstrated here, is a willingness to please his wife at all costs.
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
Sowerberry beats Oliver to Bumble's and Mrs. Sowerberry's satisfaction, then has him sleep in the coffin workshop alone. That night, Oliver realizes how alone he is in the world, and resolves to do something about his position. In the early morning light, he sneaks out of the Sowerberrys' house and makes his way, quickly and quietly, to the workhouse.
A turning point in the book. Oliver decides to take his "fate" into his own hands. If he were to stay at the coffin-shop, he would be an unhappy, poor apprentice for much of his young life. Instead, he attempts to make his fortune in London.
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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Oliver encounters an old friend named Dick in the workhouse garden. Oliver tells Dick never to tell anyone that he has seen Oliver there; Oliver announces that he is going off in the world to seek his fortune. Oliver tells Dick he will one day be happy, and Dick, overcome with love for Oliver, kisses him and blesses him. The narrator says that Oliver never once forgot this blessing from Dick—which were really the first kind words anyone had ever spoken to him.
Dick barely appears in the novel—he is in three scenes—but he is something of a foil to Oliver, another "good boy" who is not so lucky, and who apparently does not come from high-born parents. Whatever benefits Oliver later receives, Dick does not; thus their two fates, so similar in the beginning of the text, diverge a great deal by the end, when Oliver returns to his village with Brownlow and the Maylies and Dick dies. In this way, Dickens is able to maintain his criticism of England's Poor Laws even as Oliver escapes poverty.
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