Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator shifts the scene back to the workhouse where Oliver was born. A woman named Mrs. Corney, who is the matron of the house (the director), is making herself a cup of tea, when she accidentally scalds herself with a small teapot, and mourns her circumstances as the poor mistress of a miserable workhouse. Mrs. Corney, it is revealed by the narrator, is a widow, Mr. Corney having died some years before. She hears a noise and realizes that Bumble has arrived.
Mrs. Corney seems to fill a position similar to that of Mrs. Mann, but Mrs. Mann works in the "farm-house" annex to the workhouse that is for children, where Mrs. Corney manages the fully-grown workers at the main house. Both Corney and Mann are, at best, moderately immoral—Mrs. Corney cares only of her own material gain, and Mrs. Mann was noted, earlier, taking some of the funds for the children for her own use.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Bumble comes simply on a friendly visit. He begins a conversation with Mrs. Corney, complaining about the behavior of the poor people of whom he is in charge—how they continue demanding food enough to feed their families, and how they complain about the terrible conditions of the workhouses. Mrs. Corney asks Bumble to sit down for tea, and he readily agrees.
Mrs. Corney does not sense the irony in this scene: that she is complaining about people she believes complain too much. In reality, of course, the workers in the poorhouse do very little complaining, as they are not permitted to voice their opinions with Corney or with the managing board.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
Bumble, while drinking his tea, flirts with Mrs. Corney, who is unsure how to respond to his advances, in the small room of her kitchen, with no other people present (Mrs. Corney seems to worry that the scene would appear improper to someone stopping by). Suddenly, interrupting this scene, is an old woman from the workhouse, who informs Mrs. Corney that Old Sally, a pauper living there, is very sick and about to die. The woman informs Mrs. Corney that Old Sally has asked for Mrs. Corney's audience before she dies. Mrs. Corney goes to speak to Old Sally, cursing her along the way, and leaving Bumble to his tea in the kitchen, alone.
It is not immediately clear what Mr. Bumble wants from Mrs. Corney; he appears simply to have a crush on her. The scene ensuing will be an important deathbed conversation, the second in the novel. The first, tellingly, involved the short conversation Oliver's mother had with the doctor and attending nurse, right after Oliver was born; Oliver's mother died the next instant. Mrs. Corney seems to sense that Sally possesses important information.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon