Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Oliver is dragged by Nancy and Sikes through the back-streets of London—Sikes tells Oliver that, if he lets go of either of their hands, or yells out for help, Sikes will have his dog bite Oliver. Nancy hears the bells chime eight o'clock, and marvels that, at this moment, some young criminals are being hanged in London (as this is the customary time for hanging); Sikes appears jealous that Nancy cares about other men, and Nancy, sensing this, teases Sikes as they head, with Oliver, back to Fagin's.
The nature of Sikes' and Nancy's relationship becomes more clear. They are romantically involved, and Sikes wonders whether Nancy has a special place in her heart for criminals about to be hanged. Sikes is a complex character—gruff and impossibly violent, on the outside, but filled with dread and doubt on the inside.
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
Nancy and Sikes eventually lead Oliver to a new safehouse, where Fagin is now hiding with Bates, the Dodger, and the other boys. The Dodger and Bates see Oliver from out the window of the apartment, and let the three of them in. Bates, in particular, finds Oliver's new "togs" (clothes), bought for him by Brownlow, to be incredibly funny.
A scene of interesting ironies. Oliver is "welcomed" back to his "home" by his new "family," Fagin and the gang. Of course, Oliver has another option for a new family which he prefers, that offered by Brownlow, but he is not able to return to the old gentleman and Mrs. Bedwin.
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
Sikes demands that he and Nancy deserve the five-pound note, taken from Oliver; Fagin reluctantly allows the far more powerful Sikes to keep the note, and Sikes allows Fagin to keep Oliver's books. Oliver claims, desperately, to Fagin that the books belong to Brownlow, and that he will think Oliver has stolen them if he, and the books, aren't returned. Fagin says this is right, and that things could not have worked out better for Fagin and the gang. Oliver is very upset.
A demonstration of Oliver's naiveté. Oliver acts as though Fagin and the boys might be concerned that Brownlow believes Oliver is a liar and a thief. In fact, Fagin wants Oliver to become a liar and a thief—thus the plan has worked out perfectly for him, and horribly for Oliver.
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
Oliver leaps up and tries to escape the apartment. Fagin, the 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 the two boys return with Oliver; he had not gotten very far before being overtaken.
This is a new development for Oliver: a kind of power and courage even more pronounced than his earlier efforts in the workhouse, when he asked for more gruel. Oliver is attempting to take his fate into his own hands.
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
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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 at least treat Oliver well. But Fagin believes Nancy is acting "hysterically" in Oliver's defense. Sikes tells Nancy not to interrupt Fagin's punishment of Oliver, otherwise he (Sikes) will have to "shut Nancy up" himself.
A common Victorian trope is here demonstrated: the idea that women who experience emotional states of any kind are "crazy," "hysterical," or "about to faint." The fact that Nancy does faint here does little to support her cause. But, of course, Nancy is completely rational in her desire to protect Oliver; she cares for him.
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
Nancy starts screaming at Fagin, expressing remorse for aiding in the return of Oliver to the apartment, and realizing, aloud, that she has participated in a capture of the young boy that mirrors her own capture, by Fagin, when she was a child. Nancy bewails her own fate, and argues to Fagin that, although she was corrupted by him at a young age, she does not wish for the same thing to happen to Oliver. Sikes attempts to control Nancy, who is worked into a frenzy, and when he grabs her, she faints.
Nancy gives the reader more information about the nature of Fagin's "mentorship." Although Fagin appears to take care of the boys and of Nancy, he actually keeps these young people from their families and forces them into terrible, immoral, dissipated lives. Nancy is reminded of these as she sees Fagin attempting to corrupt Oliver.
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
Bates and the Dodger 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 of the day.
Bet is an interesting foil to Nancy—someone who occupies the same social position, but who never questions Fagin's authority, nor attempts to change her life or consider the immoralities and crimes she is forced to commit.
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