Oliver Twist Chapter 43 Summary
"Wherein is Shown how the Artful Dodger Got into Trouble"
- The next morning, Noah realizes that Fagin was his own friend, as it were, and agrees to work for the gang.
- Fagin has to explain to him that they’re all responsible for each other, and that if one of them gets caught, they all get caught.
- This is hard for Noah to understand, because he’s remarkably selfish.
- Fagin illustrates his point by explaining that his "best hand" was taken the day before, and tells the story.
- The Dodger was caught attempting to pickpocket, and they found a silver snuff-box on him.
- Fagin thinks that they might let him off, but if not, he’ll only get transported for life (as opposed to hanged).
- Charley comes in just then, and is totally despondent about the Dodger’s arrest. Not because he’s sad that his friend will be transported for life, but because the Dodger was "only" arrested for a snuff-box. And that will mean that he won’t get a big and dramatic entry in the Newgate Calendar.
- (Let’s pause for a quick Historical Context Lesson: the Newgate Calendar was a popular multi-volume collection of criminal biographies. Originally, it was a collection of dying speeches and last confessions published in the eighteenth century, but it got reprinted in new editions all the time – there was one out in 1824 that Dickens may have used. And the joke here is that a young criminal like Charley or the Dodger’s greatest ambition would be to appear among the criminal "greats" in the Newgate Calendar.)
- Back to the story: Fagin comforts Charley by reminding him what a show the Dodger is likely to make in the courtroom, and what a great "distinction" it is, to be transported so young.
- Charley is comforted pretty well.
- Fagin wants to send someone to the court to hear what the Dodger says, but he doesn’t want to go himself, and doesn’t want to send Charley, either.
- They decide to send Noah, since none of the authorities in London knows him, yet.
- Noah’s reluctant to go, because he doesn’t want anything dangerous, but they eventually bully him into agreeing.
- At the court, the Dodger gives as great a performance as Charley could wish for: he makes fun of all the magistrates and judges, demands his "priwileges" as an "Englishman," and makes all the spectators laugh.
- Noah waits until he sees the Dodger locked up by himself, and then rejoins Charley and Fagin with the report that the Dodger was "doing full justice to his bringing-up, and establishing for himself a glorious reputation."