by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Master Bates […] led Oliver into an adjacent kitchen, where there were two or three of the beds on which he had slept before; and here, with many uncontrollable bursts of laughter, he produced the identical old suit of clothes which Oliver had so much congratulated himself upon leaving off at Mr. Brownlow’s, and the accidental display of which to Fagin by the Jew who purchased them, had been the very first clue received of his whereabout [sic]. (16.91)
Yeah, yeah, another "Master Bates" joke. The point of this passage, though, is that once again, Oliver’s clothes are important – the people he’s with choose his clothes for him, and his clothes seem to stand in for the kind of person he is becoming. Will he be good? Or will he give in to the bad influence of Fagin and his gang? Just change his clothes and take a guess. It’s like the passage from the first chapter, when the doctor at the workhouse puts him in the little parish boy blanket, "badging" him as a pauper.
He […] hastens to pay them that respect which their position demands, and to treat them with all that duteous ceremony which their exalted rank and (by consequence) great virtues imperatively claim at his hands. (27.1)
Dickens sure knows how to lay on the irony when talking about Mr. Bumble, doesn’t he? What’s really great about it is how he works in the most scathing remarks into parentheses. Like here, the fact that the "by consequence" is in parentheses seems to make the comment look innocuous and obvious – like it’s a given – but the parentheses also call attention to the remark, and make the reader think twice. Do "great virtues" necessarily follow from "exalted rank"?
"But, to speak seriously, Harry, has any communication from the great nobs produced this sudden anxiety on your part to be gone?" (36.5)
Mr. Losberne uses the slang word "nobs" to refer to the rich and fancy people Harry has been living and working with. It’s obviously a derogatory term, and although it seems unlikely that Mr. Losberne means to insult those people (Harry’s uncle, after all, is one of them), it just highlights the fact that the Maylies, Mr. Brownlow, Mr. Losberne, and Mr. Grimwig, as members of the middle class, are the moral center of the novel.