Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The old woman leads Mrs. Corney up the stairs to a small garret room, where Old Sally lies, dying, in bed. Old Sally is attended by a young gentleman, an apothecary's apprentice, who makes himself a toothpick in the fire, complains about the cold to Mrs. Corney, and leaves after a short while; another old woman, already in the garret, talks to Mrs. Corney and the first old woman about Old Sally's condition. The woman who went to get Mrs. Corney learns from the other that Old Sally has been raving in her bed, and is unable to take any liquids. She is very near death.
The conditions of this part of the poorhouse are as squalid and awful as the rest, including the parts in which Oliver lived. Dickens spares no description of the horror of Sally's death—and he all but says outright that the workhouse is responsible for her slow sickness and dissolution. Nevertheless, Sally is also a less-than-moral character, as is to be described in the ensuing parts of the chapter—she seems almost to deserve these horrid surroundings.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Mrs. Corney, after learning that Sally is about to die, begins to leave, but just at this moment Sally awakes from a stupor, and begs Mrs. Corney to come near the bed; Sally has something to say to her. Sally tells a brief story: she, Sally, nursed a woman about ten years ago, who was on her own death-bed; that woman, who was to give birth to a child, had a small bit of gold around her neck, in a pouch, and entrusted that gold to Sally, who stole it; the woman asked Sally that, if her son was born alive, he would be taken care of. Sally tells Mrs. Corney that this boy is named Oliver.
Sally has therefore stolen a bit of material proving the link between Oliver and his mother. This material will be an important part of the set of clues that, simultaneously, Brownlow hopes (later) to piece together, and Monks hopes to destroy. Monks has a vested interest in eradicating Olver's past; Brownlow hopes he can find out the true nature of it.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Sally whispers that the gold is . . . and does not finish her thought aloud—Mrs. Corney bends down and hears Sally finish it, quietly, but the other woman in the room do not hear. Mrs. Corney betrays no emotion as to what Sally has told her, and leaves the room. Sally dies just after speaking with Mrs. Corney.
Mrs. Corney—who is supposed to be helping the poor—is an immensely gifted liar. She would not be out of place among Fagin's gang. She does not let on, to the other women, that Sally has said anything of value, in case these other women want to get their hands on the valuable items Sally received from Oliver's mother.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon