Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist Chapter 28 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator returns to the scene just after Oliver, Sikes, and Crackit escaped from the Chertsey farmhouse. Crackit is already running away from the three men pursuing them. Sikes, carrying Oliver, calls back to Crackit, telling him to return and help with the boy. Crackit turns back for a moment, but seeing the three men and their two dogs, turns on his heels and runs. Sikes leaves Oliver in the ditch and escapes himself.
The narrative cuts back, finally, to the scene outside Chertsey. Oliver appears in dire straits, and Crackit and Sikes, who seemed so courageous when committing a crime, are revealed as too cowardly or uncaring to do anything for Oliver but run away. One wonders what Fagin would do in this situation—whether he would be willing to risk his physical safety to protect his "investment" in Oliver.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
A comic scene ensues, as the three pursuing men, seeing that the criminals are fleeing, decide to pursue no farther—the three admit to one another that they are tired, out of breath, and afraid of the criminals. The fattest of the gang is the head butler of the farmhouse, and is named Giles; the smaller is Brittles, a jack-of-all-trades also employed by the house; and the third is a tinker living in a nearby house. The men do not see Oliver lying in the ditch, and decide to return to their homes, content that the criminals have at least run away.
The difference in this chapter between serious drama and high comedy is one of the notable features of the novel and Dickens' work more generally. Oliver's struggle is a dire one, but the three men pursuing the robbers know nothing of it—and their behavior is therefore free to be interpreted, by the reader, as buffoonery. Dickens believes, rightly, that these sorts of combination of the serious and the comic make literature seem more real, as real life itself functions in this way.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
The next morning, Oliver awakes, discovering a terrible pain where he has been shot in the arm, but nonetheless alive (though very weak). Oliver begins walking straight in front of him, not knowing where he is going, and hallucinates that Crackit and Sikes are beside him, firing weapons, though by that morning they have long since fled. Oliver approaches a garden wall and sees that he has been heading toward exactly the house he had been forced to rob the night before. But he is too weak to go to any other home.
The novel's only dream sequence, and it's not a very long leap from this "dream" to the reality in which Oliver has recently been living. At first, it seems that Oliver's approach to the very same house they attempted to rob is another instance of bad luck, but as Dickens will go on to show, the Maylies wish only to help Oliver, and his retreat to this house is a blessing in disguise.
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
City and Country Theme Icon
Inside the house, Giles, Brittles, and the tinker are recounting (and embellishing) the previous night, and telling it to the cook of the house and a housemaid, who are rapt with attention. Giles brags that he, bravely, was the one to shoot one of the intruders. As he continues to brag, he and Brittles hear a knock on the door, and though they are afraid to see who it is, they cannot make the maids of the house do it. Giles resolves that Brittles, the younger man and his subordinate, will open the door, and he, Giles, will stand back to defend the house and greet the visitor.
Giles' buffoonery is of a sort Dickens likes, often, to highlight—that of an overconfident oaf, whose actions are not nearly so grand or helpful as he envisions. Bumble behaves in this same manner, and both Giles and Bumble are chastened for their impetuous behavior—Bumble, later, by winding up in the poorhouse, and Giles by becoming the object of Lorsborne's scorn.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon
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Brittles opens the door and Giles recognizes Oliver as the boy he has shot—the thief, as he claims. He yells into the house that a thief has returned, and when it is revealed that the "robber" is hurt, the young woman at the top of the stairs (one of the women of the house), asks that the robber be taken in and cared for. This young woman and her aunt ask that the robber (whom they do not know to be a boy) be brought upstairs and tended to by the other, female servants. Oliver is carried up the stairs by Giles; Giles continues bragging that this boy, whom he has shot, has been captured (though of course Oliver merely walked back, in a daze, to the house).
It's important to note here that the Maylie women (Rose and her aunt, Mrs. Maylie) do not see that Oliver is a young boy. Rose is willing to take in a robber who, for all she knows, could be a dangerous man more resembling Sikes, or Crackit. Rose, as a character, is so virtuous as to be nearly unrealistic—she is the only character who approaches Oliver's mixture of courage, confidence, and innate goodness.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
City and Country Theme Icon