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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist Chapter 16 Summary

"Relates What Became of Oliver Twist, After He Had Been Claimed by Nancy"

  • Oliver, Sikes, and Nancy arrive in an open court, and Sikes tells Oliver to take Nancy’s hand on one side, and his on the other.
  • Then Sikes tells the dog to go for Oliver’s throat if he makes any sound at all. The dog looks like it’s tempted to jump on him whether he makes a sound or not. Oliver decides not to risk it.
  • Oliver has no idea where they’re going.
  • Turns out they’re in Smithfield (the livestock market and slaughterhouse, which was in the middle of the city and was typically and predictably filthy with animal poo, guts, and blood – kind of gross, huh?), and Smithfield is right by Newgate, the main prison for felons.
  • The clock tolls 8pm, and Nancy stops to listen.
  • Sikes tries to hurry her on, but she seems transfixed by the idea of what’s going on inside the walls of Newgate – people she probably knows are in there and condemned to die.
  • Sikes is jealous of her sympathy for the guys in the prison, and tries to hurry her on again, saying that the people in there were as good as dead, anyway.
  • Nancy tells him that if it were him in there, awaiting execution, she’d walk round and round the place and never leave it.
  • Nancy’s trying to be romantic, but that’s not Sikes’s style: he says that walking around the place wouldn’t do any good, and that if he were locked up in there, all he’d want her to do would be to smuggle him a file and a rope so that he could break out.
  • Nancy pretends to laugh, but Oliver sees that her face is very pale.
  • They eventually arrive in another narrow little street full of used-clothing stores.
  • They signal with a bell outside a house that looks empty from the outside, and a voice Oliver recognizes tells them from the window that Fagin’s there.
  • Of course, it’s the Artful Dodger who lets them in and fetches a candle.
  • Charley’s there, too, and finds Oliver’s appearance in his fancy new clothes to be just too funny for words.
  • While Charley’s laughing, the Dodger is going through Oliver’s pockets, and eventually comes up with the five-pound note.
  • Fagin and Sikes argue over it briefly, and Sikes ends up with it – after all, he and Nancy are the ones who found the kid.
  • Oliver begs them to give the money and the books back to Mr. Brownlow, because he’s afraid Brownlow will think he stole them.
  • Fagin agrees: that’s exactly what Brownlow will think, and he couldn’t have planned it any better himself.
  • Oliver is so desperate that he makes a break for it, shrieking.
  • Fagin, Charley, and the Dodger run out after him, but Nancy, unexpectedly, hangs onto Sikes and begs him to keep the dog off of Oliver.
  • By the time Sikes manages to throw Nancy off, Fagin and the two boys have come back, dragging Oliver.
  • When they ask Nancy what the matter is, she’s clearly pissed about something.
  • Fagin pretends to think she’s faking it, and turns his attention back to Oliver, and is about to smack him good, when Nancy races forward to stop him. She actually throws his club into the fire.
  • She defends him, and says "Let him be – let him be, or I shall put that mark on some of you that will bring me to the gallows before my time!" (16.69).
  • Fagin can no longer pretend that Nancy’s not really mad, and looks to Sikes to calm her down.
  • Sikes threatens and curses her, and asks her if she knows "who you are, and what you are?" (16.75). (We can only assume he’s calling her a whore, but Dickens still hasn’t come out and said that she’s a prostitute – see "Character Analysis" for more about Nancy).
  • Then Nancy goes off on how Fagin turned her into a thief when she was half Oliver’s age, and has kept her at it for twelve years (okay, math: if she started when she was half Oliver’s age, that would be at four or five years old, and if she’s been at it for twelve years, that would make her sixteen or seventeen now. Got it).
  • She’s gotten herself so hopping mad at Fagin, now, that she attacks him – but Sikes steps in, struggles with her a bit, and then she faints.
  • Sikes, Charley, Fagin, and the Dodger seem to think that scenes like that one, although not all that fun to watch or be a part of, are just a natural part of business.
  • Charley takes Oliver to his bed, with instructions to make him change out of his good clothes.
  • Oliver’s sad to see his own old set of clothes, which he thought he’d parted with forever, on the bed waiting for him – apparently Fagin bought them off of the used clothing guy.

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