Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator returns to Oliver, who has just awoken from his fainting fit at Brownlow's home, to discover that the picture of the unknown mysterious woman has been removed from the parlor, as Brownlow felt that the picture was too much a source of agitation to Oliver.
Just as Oliver's actual mother was "removed" from his life, so, here, is the painterly representation of her also taken away from Oliver. Only at the end of the novel will Oliver finally learn the truth of his mother, and be able to "live" with the knowledge of her—as a tomb is reserved for Agnes in the country parsonage.
Themes
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Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Oliver and Mrs. Bedwin then bond over the course of several days: she teaches him cards, talks about her life with him, and generally contributes to an atmosphere of quiet and tranquility that enables Oliver to recover fully from his fever and illness. Brownlow orders a new suit of clothes for Oliver, who has never had new clothes before.
Mrs. Bedwin, in the meantime, serves as a surrogate mother for Oliver. She is one of several in the novel: Rose and Mrs. Maylie are also important examples, and Nancy, for her part, protects Oliver in several instances, after initially recapturing him for Fagin.
Themes
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Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Brownlow calls upon Oliver, after a few more days, to talk to him in his office. Oliver comes in to Brownlow, after being scrubbed by Mrs. Bedwin, and comments on all the books in Brownlow's study, which Oliver says he would like to read. Brownlow says this will be done one day. Oliver worries that Brownlow is preparing to send him away, but Brownlow promises, to Oliver's reassurance, that he would only send Oliver away if Oliver gave him reason to do so.
Oliver worries that, at Brownlow's, like at the workhouse, he will eventually be "sent away." In fact, the defining feature of Oliver's life so far is the fact that he will be sent off when he gets too old, or behaves badly—or simply when the managers of a given place grow tired of him. Brownlow promises this won't happen to Oliver in his house.
Themes
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Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Brownlow asks Oliver to narrate his life's story up till this point, which Oliver begins to do, until their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Brownlow's friend, a gentleman named Mr. Grimwig. Brownlow asks Oliver to stay while Grimwig enters. Grimwig is a wizened, older gentleman, with a strange way of talking—he tends to end his sentences with the same oath of "I'll eat my head."
Grimwig is a voice of skepticism in these early pages. It is not that he has anything in particular against Oliver, but Grimwig does appear to believe that all paupers, regardless of their origin, are, inherently, liars and cheats. In this way, Grimwig can be seen as representing conventional Victorian upper class views of the poor. Oliver must prove to Grimwig that this is not the case.
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
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Grimwig begins complaining about an orange-peel he found on the steps, which he believes to be dangerous (for slipping), and which he decries repeatedly, as Brownlow laughs inwardly at his friend's strangeness. Brownlow eventually dismisses Oliver, asking him to return at ten the next morning, to the study, so that Oliver can inform Brownlow further of the circumstances of his life.
One realizes later that, if Oliver had told more of his life to Brownlow at this moment, Brownlow might have learned of Oliver's provenance and linked it to the picture of Agnes in the parlor. This could have avoided all sorts of difficulties in Oliver's life—but it also would have made the novel a good deal shorter and less exciting.
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
Oliver leaves the study, and Grimwig tells his friend that he believes Oliver is a faker, a young con-man, who is taking in Brownlow, and who means to deceive him in some way. Grimwig convinces Brownlow to test Oliver, by asking Oliver to take back some books to the bookseller, and to pay the bookseller four pounds, ten shillings, owed him. Brownlow goes through with the test, and Oliver promises to do as asked. Grimwig believes that Oliver will run away with the book and money.
An important "test," for Oliver, one he is fated to fail—and not of his own volition, but because of circumstances outside his control. This is another example of Oliver's early bad luck—his inability to find situations that allow him to explain, or to show, his fundamental goodness. Later, at the Maylies', however, Oliver's true and virtuous disposition will become clear.
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
Mrs. Bedwin states that it is hard to let Oliver out of her sight, but she does so; Oliver goes out to return the book and money to the bookseller. Grimwig tells Brownlow that Oliver will not return, since he has on new clothes, some books, and five pounds, given him by Brownlow for the four pound, ten shilling, debt. Brownlow hopes and believes that Oliver will return. As the chapter ends, Grimwig and Brownlow are sitting in Brownlow's study, still waiting for Oliver's return.
Oliver is, in this final scene of the chapter, quite literally a "new boy": he has new clothes, from Brownlow, and is holding more money than he has ever held before in his life. Again, the stage is set for a great disappointment, one that will motivate the action of the remainder of the novel.
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