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In Oliver Twist, why did the thieves especially want Oliver to help with the burglary?

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abdullahh | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:37 PM via web

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In Oliver Twist, why did the thieves especially want Oliver to help with the burglary?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:23 PM (Answer #1)

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In the middle of Dickens' novel, the exploited Oliver Twist is taken by the brutal Sikes on a long trip outside London. Poor Oliver does not understand the purpose of this trip, but when they cross a bridge, the boy fears that he will be murdered and throw into the water. Finally, they arrive at a dilapidated house, where burglars wait for Sikes. When the infamous Toby Crackit sees Oliver, he asks who he is and Sikes replies that he is "the boy."

"Wud of Bister Fagind's lads [One of Mr. Fagin's boys]," exclaimed Barney, with a grin...."Wot an inwalable boy that'll make, for the old ladies' pockets in chapels!  His mug is a fortun' to him."

Crackit sees the good breeding and innocence upon Oliver's face as well as noticing Oliver's dimunitive size. His size is the reason why Oliver has been brought along, for the next day, Sikes takes him in the night to a house outside Chertsey.

And now...Oliver, well-nigh with grief and terror, saw that housebreaking and robbery, if not murder were the objects of the expedition. He clasped his hand together, and involutarily uttered a subdued exclamation of horror....
"Oh! for God's sake let me go!"

While the windows are barred, there is a small lattice window that is about five feet off the ground which has not been so barred. Because

[T]he aperture was so small, that the inmates had probably not thought it worth while to defend it more securely,

Sikes is able to release the latch and pass Oliver in through this window, giving him strict instructions how to reach the street door and open it. But, Oliver tries to mount the stairs and awaken the victims; seeing him Sikes calls out "Come back!" His voice alerts the "inmates" of the house, who fire pistols and Sikes returns the shots. Toby and Sikes run off with Oliver, who has been wounded. Later, Toby Crackit reports to Fagin that the robbery went badly and they left the wounded Oliver in a ditch. When poor Oliver regains consciousness, he drags himself back to the invaded house where the servants summon a doctor to tend the boy.

This episode, purposefully juxtaposed between chapters about the malevolent workhouse matron Mrs. Corney and the bullying almshouse beadle, Mr. Bumble, is yet another example of Charles Dickens's criticism of the Poor Laws of 1834 which demonstrated the callousness of many towards the plight of orphaned children.

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