Chapters 16–20 Summary

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Last Updated on April 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1328

Chapter 16

Nancy and Sikes seize Oliver’s hands and lead him through the backstreets at a quick pace. Oliver senses that Sikes’s comments to Nancy make her afraid and uncomfortable, because her hand is shaking, even though she laughs loudly. They stop at a dilapidated, dark house, and Jack leads them in. Charley laughs at Oliver as he sees him walk by, and Jack empties Oliver’s pockets. Charley and Fagin poke fun at Oliver’s new suit, and then Fagin and Sikes fight over the money and the books that Oliver was delivering to the book cart. Eventually, Sikes claims the money, saying he and Nancy deserve it for their work in bringing Oliver back. Oliver begs to have the books returned, even if he has to ultimately stay with the thieves, because he can’t bear for Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin to think he is dishonest. Fagin torments Oliver by agreeing that his patrons will think he is a thief. 

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Oliver attempts to escape, and Nancy pleads with Sikes to not set the dog after Oliver. The other boys catch Oliver and bring him back to Fagin, who begins to beat Oliver with a club. Before Fagin can get a second blow in, Nancy grabs the club from his hand. The men are reluctant to fight with Nancy any further, and the narrator remarks that Fagin and other men know better than to exacerbate an impassioned woman’s rage. Nancy regrets bringing Oliver back now, and she recounts how she has thieved for Fagin since she was a child. She eventually gets so upset that she faints. Charley returns Oliver’s old clothes, which had been brought back to Fagin by the boy who purchased them from Brownlow’s servant, and Charley takes Oliver’s new suit away. The house is very noisy that night, but Oliver is so exhausted and miserable that he falls asleep quickly. 

Chapter 17

Mr. Bumble has come to check on the parochial children, to give Mrs. Mann her monthly salary, and to tell her that he is going to London with two paupers to give a deposition. When Bumble inquires after the parish orphans, she says they are fine except two that have died, and she mentions that Dick is still very ill. Bumble questions Dick and is outraged when the boy asks to be allowed to write a note for Oliver Twist, to be given to Oliver upon Dick’s death. As a result of this request, interpreted as ungrateful and audacious by the adults, Dick is locked away in seclusion. 

Bumble proceeds to London in a cart with the paupers and is horrified by their behavior: they are shivering from the cold, which he does not understand because he is wearing a warm coat. Once they have arrived at a house for the night’s lodging, Bumble reads a paper in which he comes across an advertisement for information on Oliver Twist. Brownlow will pay five guineas for useful intelligence on the boy. 

Bumble immediately orders a coach to Pentonville, where he gives Brownlow a defamatory account of Oliver’s background and past behavior. Brownlow pays Bumble the five guineas and reveals that he would have paid three times as much to have a positive account of Oliver. Bumble thinks to himself that he would have gladly presented a more uplifting story had he known the payment would have been higher. Grimwig feels justified in his opinions of Oliver, and Brownlow tells Mrs. Bedwin, who refuses to change her mind on the boy, feeling that “Oliver… is an imposter.” The housekeeper insists he was good and grateful, but Brownlow shouts that he never wants anyone to mention the boy again.

Chapter 18

Fagin sends Charley and Jack out to the streets to steal while he lectures Oliver on how ungrateful he was to leave their company. Fagin reminds Oliver that he once supported, fed, and gave Oliver a place to stay when he was at his lowest point; Oliver could have died without Fagin’s help. Fagin gives Oliver a detailed account of what it’s like to die by hanging as a way of scaring the boy into not running away again. Fagin keeps Oliver isolated for about a week; he then lets the boy walk around the house. 

Because he is so lonely, Oliver is happy to help when Jack asks for his help shining his boots. While Oliver is doing this, Jack laments to Charley that Oliver isn’t a thief. Oliver admits he does not like stealing, so the boys challenge Oliver, asking if he’d rather be dependent on others or make his own way, as they do. Jack insists that Fagin can make a success out of Oliver. The boy is still hesitant, but Jack argues that someone will steal these items anyway, so it might as well be Oliver. Fagin enters the room and agrees, approving of the boys’ teachings. 

Betsy and Tom Chitling arrive, and though Oliver cannot guess so, it is apparent that Tom has been imprisoned for some time. Tom does not like Oliver but says that Oliver is lucky to have Fagin’s training and support. Fagin talks to Oliver about the tactics of the other boys and his own thefts, and Oliver cannot help but be entertained by the stories. Oliver begins to be won over by the thieves, because their banter is more pleasant than his own miserable musings.

Chapter 19

Fagin travels to Sikes’s abode, where he and Fagin discuss a plan for a robbery of a house in Chertsey. One of their associates, Toby Crackit, has been attempting to persuade a member of the house staff to help so that it can be an inside job, but the staff will not agree. Sikes needs a small boy to help execute the plan from the outside, and Fagin volunteers Oliver. Fagin is unsure if he can say this in front of Nancy because of her apparent affection for the boy, but she concurs that Oliver is the best for the job. Fagin believes Oliver’s participation will make him feel like one of the thieves’ company and will bind him to their society for life. The next night, Nancy will bring Oliver to Sikes, and the two will proceed from there with the robbery. Fagin returns to his residence to tell Oliver what to expect, but the boy looks so weak that Fagin decides to wait until morning.

Chapter 20

Oliver wakes up next to a brand new pair of shoes in place of his old ones. Fagin tells him he will be going to stay with Sikes temporarily. Oliver seems anxious to know more, but Fagin says it will wait until he sees Sikes. Oliver is used to change by now and figures it can’t be any worse than life with Fagin and the other boys. Fagin leaves a book and a candle out for Oliver, and when he begins to read, he is horrified by the stories of murders and other crimes. He prays that he will not have to be involved in these crimes. 

Nancy then comes in to take Oliver to Sikes. She can see that Oliver is thinking about escape, but she warns him against it. Nancy and Oliver have a heartfelt conversation in which each reveals that they would like to protect the other. Nancy concludes that she has done what she could, but she also shows Oliver her bruises, apparently a result of her standing up for the boy. Nancy and Oliver join hands and she leads him to Sikes’s apartment, where they are greeted with a much more sociable Sikes than Oliver is used to seeing. Once Oliver is in the apartment, though, Sikes quickly threatens him by showing him a loaded gun that he will use if Oliver disobeys. The next morning, Sikes and Oliver embark for Chertsey.

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