Chapters 6–10 Summary
After his first month with Sowerberry, Oliver becomes an official apprentice. He gets lots of practice because there are many deaths in the “nice sickly season” that he begins. Oliver gains experiences observing the behavior of people at funerals and notices that when a wealthy older person dies, the relatives don’t seem to grieve so deeply, and spouses don’t mourn the losses of partners but seem to be ready to attract a new husband or wife. Oliver admires the composure he interprets in these mourners.
Noah continues to abuse and harass Oliver, and Charlotte and the mistress, Mrs. Sowerberry, are united against him, as well. In one incident, Noah begins to goad Oliver about his mother and alludes to her possibly ignominious background. Oliver strikes Noah, but he is met with attacks from all three of his enemies and is locked in the cellar as a result. The trio completely blame Oliver and wonder why Sowerberry keeps him around and allows his behavior. The mistress sends Noah to get Bumble and report what Oliver has done.
Noah tells Bumble that Oliver has tried to murder him, Charlotte, and the mistress. Noah makes sure to tell his story dramatically, for maximum effect. Noah says that since Sowerberry is out working, the mistress needs Bumble to come flog Oliver as a punishment. Bumble readily agrees. When Bumble meets Oliver at Sowerberry’s shop, he is surprised to see that Oliver is more defiant and less meek than he used to be. Bumble concludes that the change in behavior, namely the increased aggression, is a result of Oliver being fed meat. Bumble advises the mistress to keep Oliver in the cellar and feed him only gruel from now on.
Sowerberry returns home. Oliver tells him that Noah insulted his mother, precipitating his outburst. But Sowerberry knows he must side with his wife, so he hits Oliver. Miserable and alone, Oliver decides to run away to London. He stops by his former workhouse on his way out to say hello to a friend named Dick. It seems that Dick is very ill and will die soon, and he comments that he looks forward to dying so he can go to heaven. The boy blesses Oliver, the first time he has received such kindness in his life.
Oliver walks five miles and is worried that someone may be following him to take him back to Sowerberry. He remembers that London is seventy miles away, and he thinks about the rumors he’s heard about London—namely, that it’s an ideal place for a homeless boy. He thinks there will be many opportunities for him there. Throughout his journey, Oliver struggles to stay warm and to find food; he only has one penny with him, which he uses early on to buy bread. He passes through villages that have criminalized begging, so it is difficult for him to make his way. Nonetheless, he does encounter some kind strangers, like a “turnpike-man” and an old lady, who donate meals or change.
After seven days of walking, Oliver reaches a town called Barnet, which is where he meets Jack Dawkins, who goes by “the Artful Dodger.” Oliver first notices Jack looking at him from across the street. Jack then comes over and strikes up a conversation. Oliver is surprised by Jack’s attire and mannerisms, both of which seem more those of a man than a child, even though Jack is about Oliver’s age. Jack and Oliver go to a shop and procure food and beer, and Jack asks Oliver some questions. Upon learning that Oliver is going to London and has nowhere to stay, Jack offers to accompany him, as Jack is returning to London where he lives with an older gentleman who Jack says will welcome Oliver. In accepting, Oliver also resolves to try to win the favor of the gentleman when he meets him.
When Oliver and Jack approach the building where the gentleman lives, Oliver notices how dirty and crowded the area is, and he also observes the success of the pubs in this filthy environment. Jack takes Oliver up to meet Fagin, the older gentleman. Fagin is described as...
(The entire section is 1,288 words.)