Oliver Twist

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Sikes' romantic partner, Nancy at first takes Oliver back to Fagin but later expresses regret for this, and attempts to protect Oliver as much as she can. After talking one night to Rose and Brownlow, and being overheard by Noah, Nancy is killed by Sikes in a rage, for Sikes believes Nancy has "peached," or ratted out the gang (despite the fact that she has staunchly refused to do so).

Nancy Quotes in Oliver Twist

The Oliver Twist quotes below are all either spoken by Nancy or refer to Nancy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Oliver Twist published in 2002.
Chapter 40 Quotes

Do not close your heart against all my efforts to help you . . . I wish to serve you indeed.
You would serve me best, lady . . . if you could take my life at once; for I have felt more grief to think of what I am, tonight, that I ever did before . . . .

Related Characters: Nancy (speaker), Rose Maylie (speaker)
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

Rose and Nancy are not so much foils as characters in utter opposition. Rose Maylie, as above, has devoted her life to others, and her sickness, which nearly kills her, is an occasion for much grieving among those in her family. Nancy, on the other hand, has made a life of petty theft - although Fagin and Sikes did help to raise her and care for her, and she is loyal to them because of it. Nancy, Dickens implies, chose her life because she had nothing else to choose - there were no other options available to her that would keep her safe and fed.

Rose seems to understand this and wants to protect Nancy. She believes that Nancy is, at heart, a good person, and, further, that Nancy can change her circumstances, can improve them by leaving Fagin and Sikes behind. But Nancy seems already to know at this point that she can never abandon her life, nor can she leave Sikes - that Sikes would as soon kill her as let her do that. 

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Chapter 44 Quotes

You have a friend in me, Nance; a staunch friend. I have the means at hand, quiet and close. If you want revenge on those that treat you like a dog . . .come to me. I say, come to me.

Related Characters: Fagin (speaker), Nancy
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

Fagin does not realize exactly what Nancy is doing - he believes that Nancy is meeting with another lover (not Sikes, that is), on the bridge, rather than meeting with Rose and attempting to work for Oliver's ultimate protection. But for Fagin, the real reason for Nancy's distance with Sikes is not important. What does matter is that Nancy wants this distance, that she hopes to build a life for herself away from Sikes' control. In this, Fagin sees an opening.

Dickens thus describes in this section two different kinds of treachery. On the one hand, Nancy is, of course, giving up her friends and associates to help Oliver and Rose, whom she considers to be worthy people. She is doing this, however, because she knows that her "friends" are criminals and should be stopped - she is serving, in effect, as a whistleblower. Fagin also wants to go against his friend (Sikes), but his treachery is motivated only by the possibility of greater personal gain - of cutting Sikes out of their illicit business.

Chapter 45 Quotes

She goes abroad tonight . . . and on the right errand, I'm sure; for she has been alone all da, and the man she is afraid of, will not be back much before daybreak . . . .

Related Characters: Fagin (speaker), Noah Claypole, Sikes, Nancy
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a further instance of Fagin's treachery. He has recruited Noah to do his spying for him, to track Nancy. Thus, he is not really trying to help Nancy at all, to help her get away from Sikes, for example, or to make a life for herself on her own. No - he wishes, instead, to use Nancy as a pawn, as a means of enraging Sikes, perhaps, and further asserting control among the other criminal associates.

Fagin is a difficult character to summarize for several reasons. First, of course, he is a profoundly offensive caricature, especially in the contemporary context (although the offensiveness would also have been apparent in Dickens' time) - and, related to this, his motivations are hard to understand. For Fagin seems to have almost no shred of dignity at all - he will do anything, at any cost, to get his own way - and he seems not to care who stands in his path. 

Chapter 47 Quotes

It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down.

Related Characters: Sikes, Nancy
Page Number: 302
Explanation and Analysis:

The most gruesome passage in the book, and the moment when the foreshadowings of death, which have run throughout the pages of Oliver Twist, become actualized in Nancy's murder. From the beginning, Nancy has attempted to assert herself against, and protect herself from, Sikes, a man who has no moral scruples, no willingness to contain his anger - and who has abused Nancy brutally for years. Sikes is a character with no good in him, and Dickens does not hide the cruelty Sikes is capable of inflicting on those around him. Sikes directs the vast majority of that cruelty against Nancy.

Nancy's death is the book's most upsetting, most graphic, and most jarring moment. It is noteworthy that Rose, in her attempts to encourage Nancy to leave Sikes and stay with them, was not able to convince Nancy of this plan. This is not because Nancy didn't think it would work, but because Nancy felt her rightful place was with Sikes, even if he vowed, ultimately, do to great violence to her. 

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Nancy Character Timeline in Oliver Twist

The timeline below shows where the character Nancy appears in Oliver Twist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
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...understanding how the game relates to their "jobs" in the streets. Two women, Bet and Nancy, arrive dressed in finery, and after a little drink they head out with the Dodger... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Just at this moment, Bet and Nancy return to the apartment. Sikes and Fagin have resolved that someone needs to go to... (full context)
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Nancy goes to the court to try to find Oliver, claiming that she is Oliver's sister,... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...speaks throughout the novel as though he has a serious head-cold. Barney tells Fagin that Nancy is nearby, and Fagin and Sikes ask to speak with Nancy; they tell Nancy, once... (full context)
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...to the book-stall with Brownlow's books. As he nears the stall, he is intercepted by Nancy (Sikes has gone his own way) who throws an arm around him, trapping him, and... (full context)
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Oliver cannot counteract the combined force of Nancy and Sikes, who begin dragging him back to Fagin's apartment. Meanwhile, Grimwig and Brownlow continue... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Oliver is dragged by Nancy and Sikes through the back-streets of London—Sikes tells Oliver that, if he lets go of... (full context)
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Nancy and Sikes eventually lead Oliver to a new safehouse, where Fagin is now hiding with... (full context)
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Sikes demands that he and Nancy deserve the five-pound note, taken from Oliver; Fagin reluctantly allows the far more powerful Sikes... (full context)
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...Dodger, and Bates run after him. Sikes tries to send his dog after them, but Nancy blocks the door, saying that Sikes shall not hurt Oliver in that way. Fagin and... (full context)
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Fagin begins to berate and slap Oliver for trying to escape. Nancy stomps her foot and demands that, Oliver having been returned to his "care," Fagin should... (full context)
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Nancy starts screaming at Fagin, expressing remorse for aiding in the return of Oliver to the... (full context)
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...take Oliver's nice clothes and switch him into shabbier ones. Bet arrives and ministers to Nancy, who is not ill, only shaken up. Oliver quickly falls asleep, exhausted by the terrors... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...human company once again. The Dodger admits to Oliver that he, the other boys, Fagin, Nancy, Bet, and Sikes are all criminals and thieves—Oliver seems to have known this is the... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...apartment and the boys and travels to Sikes' small, squalid place, where Sikes lives with Nancy. Fagin has come to talk about an upcoming robbery in the village of Chertsey, outside... (full context)
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...that Oliver should be the boy for the job. Fagin wonders for a moment if Nancy will defend Oliver again, in front of Sikes, as she did previously, but Nancy appears... (full context)
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...could be convinced that thieving was what he ought to do. Fagin agrees to have Nancy bring Oliver to Sikes the next night. As Fagin is leaving, he remarks to himself... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Nancy comes and tells Oliver it is time to go to Sikes. Oliver considers begging Nancy... (full context)
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Nancy brings Oliver to Sikes' apartment. Sikes, taking Oliver in, shows him a loaded gun, and... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...the Three Cripples, Fagin finds a hack-cab on the street and takes it to near Nancy's and Sikes' apartment. He gets out of the cab and vows to get more information... (full context)
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Fagin asks Nancy where Sikes and Oliver are; Nancy replies that she doesn't know, and she exclaims (coincidentally),... (full context)
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Fagin leaves Nancy, drunk, in the apartment, and is satisfied, since he has informed Nancy that Sikes has... (full context)
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...and Monks wishes to avoid all penalty regarding Oliver's disappearance. Fagin explains to Monks that Nancy has taken a liking to Oliver, but Fagin appears to believe that, if Oliver survives... (full context)
Chapter 39
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The chapter opens in Sikes' flophouse, where he is still staying with Nancy. They are both in terrible condition, having very little money, and appear weak and starved.... (full context)
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As Fagin begins his explanation, Bates and the Dodger empty food for Sikes and Nancy out of their sacks. Sikes is angry that Fagin has not visited him, nor brought... (full context)
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Nancy goes, with Fagin and the boys, back to Fagin's apartment. There, after clearing out Toby... (full context)
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Nancy looks pale, and, after quickly taking the money from Fagin that he has promised for... (full context)
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Nancy walks with great speed through the streets, and ends up at a nice hotel in... (full context)
Chapter 40
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Nancy enters Rose's room at the hotel, where Rose apologizes for Nancy's difficulty in coming to... (full context)
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Nancy reveals to Rose information she has heard from conversations between Fagin and Monks (whom Rose... (full context)
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Nancy reveals the content of tonight's conversation between Monks and Fagin to Rose: Monks said that... (full context)
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Rose begs, again, that Nancy stay with them, but Nancy repeats that she is loyal to the scoundrels she lives... (full context)
Chapter 41
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Rose is not sure what to do with Nancy's information. Rose has promised to keep Nancy's information secret, but Rose knows, also, that she... (full context)
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Lorsborne is furious with Nancy when he hears that she is responsible for dragging Oliver back to Fagin, when Oliver... (full context)
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...wait until the next Sunday (it is Tuesday), and send Rose to speak again with Nancy on London Bridge, with the aim of getting more information about Monks. Brownlow says that... (full context)
Chapter 42
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On the same night that Nancy dosed Sikes with laudanum and visited Rose, Noah Claypole and his now-partner Charlotte (it is... (full context)
Chapter 44
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Nancy, back at Sikes' apartment, worries that she must attempt to protect Oliver while hiding her... (full context)
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Fagin comes over that night, a Sunday, to join Nancy and Sikes. Nancy is eager to meet Rose on the London Bridge, and asks Sikes... (full context)
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Fagin believes, as he is walking home, that Nancy was eager to see a new lover, and that Nancy knows that, if she were... (full context)
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To this end, Fagin vows to send someone along to follow Nancy the next time she goes out to meet the person Fagin believes to be a... (full context)
Chapter 45
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...pane of glass in the secret room (from which Fagin once observed Noah), Noah observes Nancy. He says he would recognize her anywhere, and will follow her the whole night. Fagin... (full context)
Chapter 46
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Nancy keeps arrives at the bridge, and Rose and Brownlow arrive just after her. Noah sneaks... (full context)
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Brownlow says that, if they cannot secure Monks, then Nancy will have to hand over Fagin to them. Nancy becomes upset at this, however, saying... (full context)
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Nancy describes Monks to Rose and Brownlow, and tells how he might be found at the... (full context)
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Rose is deeply upset that Nancy will not go with them, and that Nancy will take no money from them. Nancy... (full context)
Chapter 47
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Fagin reveals to Sikes, slowly, that Nancy has spoken to "a gentleman and a lady" on London Bridge; he insinuates to Sikes... (full context)
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Fagin has therefore spun the turn of events, lying to Sikes that Nancy has sold out Fagin and Sikes, when in reality Nancy has avoided doing just that.... (full context)
Chapter 48
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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... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
Chapter 49
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...lest Monks should make the connection between the two. After Oliver was taken away by Nancy, back to Fagin's, Brownlow realized who Oliver was, and vowed to find him. Brownlow went... (full context)
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...Monks, that murder has been done on account of this secret—as Sikes, after all, killed Nancy because he feared that Nancy had given away the group (Fagin, Sikes, Monks, and the... (full context)
Chapter 50
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...looping the rope over his neck, he turns and believes he sees "the eyes" of Nancy, which have been following him these many days and preventing him from sleeping. He stumbles... (full context)