When Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker comes by on business, Mr. Bumble offers to sell Oliver Twist to him as an apprentice. Taking him up on the offer, Mr. Sowerberry has Oliver brought to live with him. Oliver spends his days assisting Mr. Sowerberry at funerals, his seemingly innate gloominess matching the occasions.
Gaunt, dressed in black, and not given to smiling, Mr. Sowerberry initially seems a frightening man, but he is not openly cruel. At worst, he is cold and miserly, feeling no empathy for the bereaved paupers he often has to serve. At one point, he loans an old woman a cloak for her daughter's funeral, then removes the cloak from her shoulders the moment the services end. He is so used to death that when Oliver complains about undertaking work, he tells the boy that he will eventually get used to it.
Regardless of his morbid occupation and distant manner, Mr. Sowerberry treats Oliver a great deal better than his wife, his maidservant Charlotte, or his other apprentice Noah Claypole. Mrs. Sowerberry resents having another mouth to feed, while Noah and Charlotte mock Oliver for his low-born status. When Noah insults Oliver's mother, the boy flies into a rage, after which he is locked in the cellar and then later beaten by Mr. Sowerberry as punishment. This incident prompts Oliver to run away.