by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Chapter 6 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 6
"Oliver, Being Goaded by the Taunts of Noah, Rouses into Action, and Rather Astonishes him"
- Business is good for Mr. Sowerberry. Of course, this means that a lot of people are dying, which isn’t really a good thing. But Oliver is getting a lot of experience attending funerals, because Mr. Sowerberry wants Oliver to "acquire that equanimity of demeanor […] so essential to a finished undertaker" (6.1). In other words, he wants Oliver to become as cold and business-like as he is, himself.
- Oliver observes a lot of hypocrisy in his new role as an undertaker’s apprentice: he sees how people who have just lost a family member will act inconsolable in public, but will chat cheerfully with friends behind closed doors. Of course, Oliver never uses the word "hypocritical"—Dickens describes these scenes from Oliver’s point of view, and Oliver’s still too innocent to judge people. In fact, Dickens says that Oliver sees all of this "with great admiration."
- Noah, in the last month, has become more jealous of Oliver than ever, and Charlotte treats him badly because Noah does. And because Oliver is a favorite of Mr. Sowerberry, Mrs. Sowerberry (who loves to contradict her husband) mistreats him, as well.
- At this point, Dickens stops filling us in on how things are going in general, and gets down to a specific incident: Noah starts tormenting Oliver one day when they’re alone in the kitchen, and he chooses to make fun of Oliver’s (dead) mother. Big mistake.
- When Noah calls Oliver’s mother "a right-down bad ’un," Oliver goes nuts on him, overturns a table, starts throttling him, and finishes by punching him in the face.
- Unsurprisingly, Noah’s too big a wimp to stand up to Oliver (even though Oliver’s a lot smaller than he is), and starts whimpering for Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry to come to his rescue.
- Charlotte arrives and starts beating on Oliver from one side, while Mrs. Sowerberry holds his other arm and scratches at his face. Now that reinforcements have arrived, Noah plucks up the courage to start punching Oliver in the back. This scene is another one of the illustrations by Cruikshank—check it out.
- Once his assailants have worn themselves out, they lock Oliver in the cellar, and Mrs. Sowerberry goes into hysterics.
- Since Mr. Sowerberry isn’t at home, Mrs. Sowerberry sends Noah off to fetch Mr. Bumble.
READ THE BOOK: Chapter 6