by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Chapter 50 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 50
"The Pursuit and Escape"
- The chapter opens with a description of a dodgy neighborhood on the bank of the Thames that really existed in Dickens day—a muddy maze of streets surrounded by a tidal ditch that was sometimes filled with high water. The houses are all in rough shape, falling into each other, or into the river.
- Toby Crackit, Tom Chitling, and Kags (another criminal who just returned from transportation) are sitting in an upper room of one of these houses.
- Toby asks when Fagin was arrested, and Chitling answers that it happened around 2 p.m. He and Charley were able to hide, but Bolter (a.k.a. Noah) was arrested, and Bet got hysterical, so they put her into "the hospital" (presumably into Bedlam, the main lunatic asylum of Victorian London).
- Charley, Chitling tells them, will be with them shortly. All of the other hideouts have been found out, and are crawling with cops ("traps" is the cant word for policemen).
- They expect that Bolter will give evidence against Fagin, so that Fagin will be convicted as an accessory to Nancy’s murder.
- Chitling describes how bloodthirsty the mob was when Fagin was arrested.
- Just then, Sikes’s dog runs into the room.
- Toby hopes that Sikes isn’t close behind—he doesn’t seem to be.
- They wonder where "he" could be, and whether "he" has "made away with himself" (50.26).
- None of them are willing to call "him" by his name.
- They figure that Sikes must have left the country, and left the dog behind.
- They hear knocking at the door downstairs.
- At first they think it’s Charley, but Charley doesn’t knock like that.
- It’s Sikes.
- They aren’t so keen about letting him in, but what can they do? They let him in.
- He looks like hell.
- Sikes asks if it’s true that Fagin was arrested.
- It is.
- No one really seems to feel inclined to chat with him.
- He asks if they’ll let him hole up there until the search is over, or whether they plan on selling him to the police.
- Toby says he can stay as long as he thinks it’s safe.
- Sikes asks if the body is buried.
- It isn’t.
- Sikes is horrified.
- Another knock at the door—this time it is Charley.
- Charley comes in, and is terrified of Sikes. He calls him a "monster," and says that if the police came looking for him, he’d wouldn’t hide him.
- Charley actually throws himself at Sikes (who is about twice his size) and catches him so off his guard that he knocks him down.
- Charley and Sikes roll on the ground, with Charley shouting for help the whole time.
- The other three are stupefied.
- There’s another loud knocking at the door, and voices call for them to open in the King’s name (quick historical side note: this is an indication that the end of the novel is still during the reign of King William IV, who died in 1837).
- Charley calls for them to break down the door.
- Sikes throws him in a spare room and locks the door, then asks Toby how secure the place is.
- The doors and walls are reinforced with iron.
- Meanwhile, a huge crowd is forming outside—someone on horseback yells that he’ll give twenty guineas to the man who brings a ladder.
- Sikes asks for a rope so that he can drop down into the ditch that surrounds the area—the tide is in, so he thinks he’ll be able to swim out.
- Sikes climbs out onto the roof.
- The water’s out, so the ditch below is just a bed of mud.
- The crowd sees him up on the roof, and everyone calls out and points to him.
- Sikes is momentarily afraid, and then ties one end of his rope to the chimneys, and ties a loop on the other end to put under his arms, so that he can lower himself down.
- But just as he’s pulling the loop over his head, he slips.
- He falls the full length of the cord, and hangs himself.
- The dog had climbed out on the roof with him, sees him fall, jumps after him, and cracks its head and dies on impact in the mud below.
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 50