by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The boy was lying fast asleep on a rude bed upon the floor, so pale with anxiety, and sadness, and the closeness of his prison, that he looked like death; not death as it shows in shroud and coffin, but in the guise it wears when life has just departed: when a young and gentle spirit has but an instant fled to heaven, and the gross air of the world has not had time to breathe upon the changing dust it hallowed. (19.107)
How can you escape being corrupted? Easy. You have to die. Yeah, so Oliver appears incorruptible in this scene because he looks like his soul just left his body, so that the "world" around him hasn’t "had time" yet to corrupt him. Even Fagin can’t bring himself to wake the kid when he looks so angelic. Obviously he’s not actually dead – so what’s Dickens saying? Why is Oliver so darned hard to corrupt? It’s like he has access to some kind of inner store of virtue that he can tap into when he sleeps, so Fagin is having a hard time running him out – that well o’ virtue just keeps getting refilled.
There is a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes which, while it holds the body prisoner, does not free the mind from a sense of things about it, and enable it to ramble as it pleases. So far as an overpowering heaviness, a prostration of strength, and an utter inability to control our thoughts or power of motion can be called sleep, this is it; and yet we have a consciousness of all that is going on about us. (34.65)
Sleep is obviously important to this theme in Oliver Twist – because when you fall asleep, you give up your ability to choose for yourself. This is a kind of sleep that isn’t peaceful or refreshing, but "holds the body prisoner," and is "overpowering." In a book as obsessed with imprisonment and giving up your free will as Oliver Twist, it’s important to notice that lots of different states can be states of imprisonment – even sleep.
A paper fly-cage dangled from the ceiling, to which [Mr. Bumble] occasionally raised his eyes in gloomy thought; and, as the heedless insects hovered round the gaudy net-work, Mr. Bumble would heave a deep sigh, while a more gloomy shadow overspread his countenance. Mr. Bumble was meditating, and it might be that the insects brought to mind some painful passage in his own past life. (37.1)
This novel is all about imprisonment, confinement, and incarceration – both literal and metaphorical, and how those things are related to freedom of choice and fate. So for Mr. Bumble, who’s been one of Oliver’s chief oppressors and incarcerators, to be sighing and "meditating" on a "fly-cage," is a pretty big turn-around. It’s like Mr. Bumble finally understands one of the main themes of the book.