Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens
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Oliver Twist Chapter 20 Summary

"Wherein Oliver is Delivered over to Mr. William Sikes."

  • The next morning Oliver finds that he’s been given a new pair of boots, and wonders why – he hopes that it’s because they’re going to let him go.
  • At breakfast, Fagin tells him it’s because he’s going to Bill Sikes’s house, but not permanently.
  • Oliver asks why he’s going, and Fagin won’t tell him.
  • Fagin stays quiet the rest of the day until he goes out.
  • On his way out the door, he warns Oliver not to make Sikes angry, but to do as he says. And then he leaves Oliver a book to read while waiting for them to come and fetch him.
  • Oliver has no idea why he’s being sent to Sikes – he thinks it’s just to be a servant and run errands or something.
  • He starts to read the book Fagin’s left him, and is soon engrossed – it’s a history of the lives and trials of great criminals (these were wildly popular at the time – Dickens read some of them himself).
  • The stories of crime are so vivid and dreadful that he throws the book away and prays that he might be spared from such crimes.
  • Just as he’s calmed himself down a bit, Nancy comes in, and she’s clearly upset about something.
  • Oliver offers to help her, and she makes a gurgling noise and then starts laughing loudly.
  • She pretends it was just a passing weird mood, and tells Oliver he’s supposed to go with her to Bill Sikes.
  • When Oliver asks why, she says it’s no harm, but she can’t make eye contact with him as she says it, and he doesn’t believe her.
  • Oliver considers appealing to Nancy’s sympathy (it worked before, after all), but then reconsiders – it’s not that late yet, and there might be people in the street who could help him.
  • Nancy seems to read his mind, and tells him that if he ever does manage to escape, it won’t be tonight, and that she’s already been beaten for taking his side, but it hasn’t done any good. She promises that she’ll try to help him, but that if he runs away tonight they’d kill her, and that whatever they make him do, it won’t be his fault.
  • So Oliver gives up thinking about escape for the time being, puts his hand in hers, and away they go.
  • Outside, they jump into a carriage, and drive off. Nancy warns Oliver about Sikes just as Fagin had.
  • When they get to Sikes’s house, he’s tempted to call for help in the street, but he remembers that Nancy will get beaten and maybe killed if he does.
  • When Nancy tells Sikes that Oliver came along without complaining or trying to run away, Sikes says it’s a good thing, or he’d have smacked him around.
  • Then Sikes gives him a lecture with a pistol as a visual aid – he tells Oliver that when they’re out, Oliver had better not speak unless he’s spoken to, or he’ll get a bullet in the head.
  • Nancy steps out and brings back dinner (mmm…sheep's heads). Maybe it’s the porter, and maybe it’s because he’s about to go break into a house, but Sikes seems to be in a good mood for a change.
  • After dinner, Sikes goes to bed, telling Nancy to wake him up at 5am. Oliver goes to sleep on the floor.
  • The next morning, Nancy wakes them both up, and they grab a quick breakfast before heading out.
  • Sikes gives Oliver a cloak to throw over his clothes.
  • As they leave, Oliver looks back to Nancy for some parting look or word of advice, but she’s just sitting motionless by the fire.

Next Page: Chapter 21
Previous Page: Chapter 19

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