by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Chapter 51 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 51
"Affording an Explanation of More Mysteries than One, and Comprehending a Proposal of Marriage with no Word of Settlement or Pin-Money"
- Two days later, Oliver, Mrs. Maylie, Rose, Mrs. Bedwin, Mr. Losberne are traveling to Oliver’s native town (Mudfog, if you’re reading an edition that names the town). Mr. Brownlow and some nameless additional person are following in a separate carriage.
- Oliver, Rose, and Mrs. Maylie have been told about what Monks admitted (that Oliver is, in fact, his younger half brother, and that he and his mother had conspired to keep him from his inheritance —all that good stuff).
- Mr. Brownlow decided that the delicate and innocent ears of Oliver, Rose, and Mrs. Maylie shouldn’t hear about what happened to Sikes.
- Oliver is especially excited to see his dear old friend Dick again (remember the little orphan at Mrs. Mann’s baby farm who blessed him when Oliver ran away from home?), and Rose promises him that they’ll take Dick away from the parish authorities and take care of him.
- Everything in the town is very much as Oliver remembered it, only maybe it seems smaller and less intimidating now.
- They arrive at the hotel in Mudfog, and Mr. Grimwig is there to meet them.
- All the men, and occasionally Mrs. Maylie, as well, are bustling around looking anxious and dealing with "business," and Rose and Oliver are kept in the dark.
- Finally, the men all enter the room where Oliver and Rose have been waiting, and bring with them the man who had appeared at Oliver’s window with Fagin—Monks!
- Monks looks hatefully at Oliver.
- They introduce Oliver to Monks as his half brother, the illegitimate son of Edward Leeford, Mr. Brownlow’s oldest friend, and Agnes Fleming, who died in childbirth way back in the very first chapter.
- Mr. Brownlow asks Monks to explain the circumstances of Oliver’s birth to the assembled group, even though it’s already been written down and signed by Monks in his "confession."
- Monks tells the story of what happened when he and his mother arrived in Rome to meet his dying father:
- His father was in the last stages of his illness, and was so feverish he didn’t know they were there.
- He and his mother found two papers on his desk that were supposed to have been forwarded to Mr. Brownlow—one was a letter, and the other was his will.
- The letter was addressed to Agnes, begging her forgiveness (he had, after all, knocked her up without marrying her—a big no-no), and asking her to take care of the child and not to blame the innocent baby for any of its father’s sins.
- The will described how evil his first wife was, and how wicked and malicious his first son (Monks) was, and how he wanted his property to be divided into two portions: the first to go to Agnes Fleming, and the second portion to go to their as-yet-unborn child—but only if he reached adulthood without having committed any public act of dishonor. If the child did commit any such act, then that portion of his estate would go to Monks, because the two children would then be equal.
- Monks’s mother had burnt the will—Monks says that was the only sensible thing to have done. And the letter his father had written never reached Agnes.
- Monks’s mother then told Agnes Fleming’s father everything about it, but colored it all so terribly as to make Edward Leeford sound like a total jerk.
- So Agnes’s father had run away from his village in shame with his other daughter, and had even changed his name.
- Agnes herself, meanwhile, had already run away (she was preggers and unmarried and didn’t want to dishonor her father or younger sister).
- Her father had tried to find her, but decided that she must have committed suicide, so he retreated to some obscure corner of Wales and died of a broken heart.
- Mr. Brownlow picks up the story from there: some years later, Monks’s mother had gone to Mr. Brownlow—she told him that Monks had run away from her when he was eighteen years old, and had robbed her of jewels and money on his way out. She had an incurable disease, and wanted to see him before she died.
- Brownlow helped her, and they did find Monks, and he went back with his mother to France.
- Monks continues the story from there: his mother died, but before she died she told him about how Agnes Fleming’s father had died in Wales, and that she had a hunch that Agnes had not killed herself, as her father was led to believe, but had lived long enough to have had a son. Monks swore to his mother on her deathbed that he would hunt down that child, drag it into crime, and see it hanged.
- Monks works himself into a bit of a passion at the very thought of getting his little brother hanged, so Mr. Brownlow has to take over the story from there:
- Fagin was an old acquaintance (and accomplice) of Monks, and had received a large reward for corrupting Oliver, but had to give up a portion of it if Oliver were ever rescued. That was why they’d both appeared at the country house—Fagin wanted to see if it was really Oliver.
- Monks is able to pick up the story again at this point: he bought the locket and the ring from the "man and woman" he had told them about before, who had stolen them from old Sally, who had stolen them from Agnes’s dead body.
- Mr. Grimwig takes this signal to bring in the Bumbles.
- Mr. Bumble comes in full of fake enthusiasm at seeing Oliver again.
- They tell him to shut it, and ask him to identify Mr. Monks.
- The Bumbles pretend never to have seen him before, and deny any knowledge of the locket or the ring.
- But then the two old pauper women who were with old Sally the night she died are brought in—they were listening at the door when Sally told Mrs. Bumble about the locket and the ring, and they spied on Mrs. Bumble when she went to the pawnbroker’s shop to pick them up.
- At that point, Mrs. Bumble realizes that she’s in a corner, and admits it, but in a not-very-nice way. She asks what they’re going to do about it.
- They say nothing, but they’re going to make sure she’s never in a position of trust or authority again.
- Mr. Bumble tries to get himself off the hook by saying it was all Mrs. Bumble’s fault, but Mr. Brownlow points out that in the eyes of the law, Mrs. Bumble, as the wife, always acts under Mr. Bumble’s direction.
- Mr. Bumble says that if the law thinks that he can direct his wife, then the law is an idiot. And a bachelor. Because clearly, the law knows nothing about wives.
- Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Bumble leave.
- Mr. Brownlow tells Rose that there’s one more piece to the story, and that it involves her.
- Monks picks up the story of the Fleming family again: after the father died in Wales of a broken heart, his younger daughter was left there under a fake name, among strangers, without any evidence of where she’d come from.
- The cottagers in the village raised her for a while.
- Monks’s mother went and found the child there. Rather than take it away with her, she decided to just leave it, figuring that the cottagers were poor enough that they’d grow to hate the child as a financial burden. She also told them a bunch of lies about the little girl’s family—that she was illegitimate, and of a bad family, and sure to go wrong at some point.
- But to Monks’s mother’s annoyance, the child never did go wrong in spite of all her efforts—and a kindly old widow lady saw the little girl by chance and decided to take her in and raise her herself.
- Of course, that little girl was Rose, and Monks identifies her.
- Mrs. Maylie and Rose hug each other and cry a little bit.
- So Rose is really Oliver’s aunt—the baby sister of Agnes, Oliver’s mother.
- They hug each other and cry some more—the other folks all leave.
- Someone knocks on the door—it’s Harry Maylie. Oliver sneaks away so that he can talk to Rose alone.
- Harry asks her if she has changed her mind about marrying him, knowing what she now knows about her parentage.
- Rose says that her own father was so ashamed at his older daughter’s dishonor that he ran away, changed his name, and died of a broken heart. So she, the younger daughter, has to deal with the same family dishonor. So, no, sorry, she can’t marry Harry and be an obstacle to his social and professional advancement.
- Harry asks if she’d change her mind if he changed his career path.
- What? asks Rose.
- Turns out that, after he last left her, Harry broke off all of his fancy connections, gave up his political career and his uncle’s inheritance, and decided to be a minister at a little country church where no one would care that his wife’s dead sister had had an illegitimate child.
- We don’t get to hear Rose’s answer—the narrative cuts over to everyone else. They’ve all been waiting on Rose and Harry for dinner for ages and ages.
- Rose and Harry finally come in, and Mr. Grimwig "salutes the bride" as she enters by giving her a big wet one on the cheek. Mr. Losberne and Mr. Brownlow follow suit.
- Everyone else is very happy and kissing each other indiscriminately, but little Oliver’s crying.
- Because poor little Dick the angelic orphan is dead.
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 51
People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...