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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist Chapter 52 Summary

"The Jew’s Last Night Alive"

  • The chapter opens in a courtroom.
  • A huge crowd is staring at "the Jew" at the front of the court.
  • He’s watching the jury members’ facial expressions – they’re about to discuss amongst themselves to decide on the verdict.
  • He sees people out in the gallery craning their necks to look at him, and they look at him with hate and horror.
  • No one seems to feel any sympathy for him at all.
  • The jury asks the judge to leave the courtroom to discuss.
  • He tries to guess from their faces as they’re leaving, whether they’re feeling inclined to be merciful towards him or not, but he can’t really tell.
  • As he’s waiting, he feels distant and removed from the whole process, and watches people moving around the court.
  • The jury comes back in: guilty. And he’ll die on Monday.
  • The whole courtroom cheers.
  • The judge has to put on a special black hat to issue the "may God have mercy on your soul" speech to the condemned man.
  • The jailer leads Fagin out of the courtroom, and Fagin seems numb as he follows.
  • Other prisoners have friends visiting them, and chatting through the bars – but everyone there to watch him walk back to the condemned hold is there to yell names at him.
  • They leave him in one of the condemned cells alone.
  • Fagin sits alone and repeats the judge’s sentence over and over again in his head: "to be hanged by the neck until he was dead."
  • He remembers all the men he’d sold out who had, perhaps, sat in that very cell.
  • Thinking about it in alone in the dark drives him crazy, and he starts banging against the walls and door, calling for light.
  • Two guards come in – one brings a candle, and the other brings in a mattress so that a guard can stay nearby, outside the door, all night.
  • Fagin listens to the clock strike all the next day, and each hour is an hour less to live.
  • They send in rabbis to talk to him, but he doesn’t want to talk to anyone, and curses them until they leave.
  • By Sunday night, he’s become so horrible to be around that the two guards stay outside his door together – neither of them can stand to be near him alone.
  • Later that night, Mr. Brownlow and Oliver arrive at Newgate, and ask to see the prisoner.
  • The guard is a little doubtful about letting Oliver in, because it’s hardly a place for children. But Mr. Brownlow figures that Oliver’s seen worse.
  • Once they’re alone with Fagin, Mr. Brownlow asks him where he’d hidden the papers that Monks had given him for safekeeping.
  • Fagin won’t tell Brownlow, but calls Oliver over.
  • Fagin mostly wants to persuade Oliver to help him escape (he seems to be slightly out of his mind), but he does tell Oliver where the papers are.
  • Oliver tries to comfort Fagin and asks to pray with him, but Fagin starts shrieking and gets all clingy, and they have to skedaddle.
  • The chapter ends with a crowd of people assembling to watch the hanging.

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