Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Oliver is placed in a small room, in solitary confinement, as punishment for asking for more oatmeal; he remains there one week. Oliver is flogged in public and in private, including before the other boys in the dining hall. Meanwhile, a chimney-sweeper named Mr. Gamfield happens to notice the posted bill, advertising Oliver's services as apprentice.
Here Oliver's punishment in the workhouse is indistinguishable from the punishment he would receive in prison. This lays bare the truth of the workhouse: that it is, essentially, a jail for the poor, who are treated, by the state, like criminals, simply for being poor.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Mr. Gamfield, who has been mercilessly beating his donkey outside the workhouse, is believed, by the man in the waistcoat and others on the board, to be a "suitable" and strong-willed master for Oliver. But the board pretends that they have reservations, sending Oliver to such a dangerous trade as chimney-sweeping, and they argue their reward down to three pounds, fifteen shillings. Gamfield accepts.
The board merely pretends they are concerned for Oliver's health as a chimney-sweep's apprentice—in reality, the board wants to pay less to foist him off on someone else. Another irony: while the board fakes concern for Oliver's condition, they have him locked up in a solitary room not far away.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Bumble takes Oliver before the magistrate, in order to have papers signed granting Oliver to Gamfield as a chimney-sweep's apprentice. All proceeds according to Gamfield's wishes, until the magistrate notices that Oliver is pale and upset about his coming apprenticeship. The magistrate asks Oliver what's the matter, and Oliver replies by begging the magistrate to do anything he can—even to send Oliver back to the workhouse—to avoid going off with the cruel Gamfield.
One of Oliver's qualities, throughout the novel, is an inability to dissemble—to lie about his feelings. Rather, as here, Oliver must show what he feels—he "cannot tell a lie." He is scared about serving as Gamfield's apprentice, and he shows this to the magistrate. Bumble believes Oliver is trying to trick his way into sympathy, but this is simply Oliver's way of expressing emotion.
Themes
Thievery and Crime Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
Bumble is immensely angry with Oliver, and he leads him back to the workhouse; Gamfield walks away, wishing he might have had Oliver as an apprentice; and a sign is once again posted outside the house, offering Oliver's services.
It should be noted that the board is mostly upset, here, because they now have to expend extra effort in "placing" Oliver again, and because they had a "good deal" in placing him with Gamfield—paying Gamfield less than the promised five pounds.
Themes
Poverty, Institutions, and Class Theme Icon
Individualism and Social Bonds Theme Icon
Social Forces, Fate, and Free Will Theme Icon
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