In Chapter XL of Oliver Twist, why did Nancy refuse the help of Miss Rose to escape her life of misery and poverty?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Nancy turns to Miss Rose in an attempt to save Oliver, she refuses the woman's help for herself, because of her inexplicable devotion to Bill Sikes. She says,

"I cannot leave him now. I could not be his death...nothing could save him."

Bill Sikes is a low, degenerate man who is unscrupulous in all his dealings, and who abuses Nancy as well. Miss Rose cannot understand Nancy's devotion to him, and asks,

"Is it possible...that for such a man as this, you can resign every future hope, and the certainty of immediate rescue? It is madness."

Nancy knows what kind of a man Sikes is, yet she is unable to find it within herself to leave him. She cannot articulate the reason for her blind devotion; she only knows that it is there, and something she cannot overcome. She tells Miss Rose,

"I don't know what it is...I only know that it is so...I am drawn back to him through every suffering and ill usage; and I should be, I believe, if I knew that I was to die by his hand at last."

Nancy has nothing, and though her love for Sikes makes no sense, she feels that it is, in some strange way, a manifestation of her dignity and womanhood, and it fulfills a void within her. She tells Miss Rose,

"When such as I, who have no certain roof but the coffinlid, and no friend in sickness or death but the hospital nurse, set our rotten hearts on any man, and let him fill the place that has been a blank through all our wretched lives, who can hope to cure us...pity us for having only the one feeling of the woman left..." (Chapter XL).

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Oliver Twist

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