Summary and Analysis
Mr. Brownlow brings Oliver to his house near Pentonville, and the sick boy is put to bed. For many days, Oliver remains unconscious and feverish. Eventually he awakens, wasted and feeble; Brownlow's housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin, is at his bedside. Following a visit by a doctor and after a decent meal, the boy enjoys a night's rest and is on the way to recovery.
As he begins to convalesce, Oliver is carried down to the housekeeper's room. He is fascinated by the portrait of an attractive lady that adorns the wall. He contemplates the picture with a "look of awe."
Mr. Brownlow comes in and cannot deny the tenderness aroused in him by Oliver's piteous condition. Yet the old gentleman is momentarily displeased when he suspects Oliver of falsehood for denying that he told the magistrate that his name was Tom White. Brownlow, however, is reassured by Oliver's guileless expression.
The old gentleman is unable to get over the feeling that Oliver's features are somehow familiar. Then with a sudden exclamation, he points from the portrait to Oliver's face: there is "its living copy." Oliver is so startled by the outburst that he faints.
After leading the hue and cry in pursuit of poor Oliver, Dawkins and Bates discreetly drop out of the chase and take a roundabout way back to Fagin's quarters. Fagin is forewarned by the sound of only two sets of footsteps on the stairs.
Enraged at Oliver's absence, Fagin hurls a pot of beer at Bates, but another person enters the room and receives the contents in his face. This is Bill Sikes, a powerful, unkempt ruffian of about thirty-five. He is followed by a dog as disreputable-looking as himself. Sikes berates Fagin, who obviously fears his guest.
The Dodger presents a modified account of Oliver's misadventure. It is evident that Oliver may be a menace to all those assembled. They agree that someone should visit the police office to learn the boy's fate and to learn, if possible, whether Oliver has betrayed Fagin and his associates. None of the company is willing to undertake the mission, all being known in the district and allergic to police offices.
The arrival of Bet and Nancy suggests a natural way out of the impasse. Bet strongly refuses to risk the inquiry, causing all efforts to be centered on Nancy, who is relatively new to the area and as yet unknown. She is coerced into compliance and cheerfully sets forth on the expedition.
At the police station, Nancy poses as Oliver's sister. She finds out from an officer everything that occurred and the general location of Brownlow's residence. Nancy speeds back to the hideout with the information. Sikes leaves without a word. Fagin is greatly disturbed. He commands his young lieutenants to direct all their energies toward finding and apprehending Oliver. He then gathers up his treasure and prepares to transfer to another retreat.
After the crisis of his arrest, Oliver is now in a haven of safety, and his fortunes seem to be rising. The boy has no reason to suspect that Fagin would take measures to have him kidnapped, so he is quite unaware of the threatening danger.
The attraction that the young lady's portrait exercises over Oliver compounds the mystery created by the similar effect the boy's features had on Brownlow. The old gentleman's amazed discovery of the likeness between the picture and the young invalid raises suspense to a high pitch. There can be no doubt now that the lives of Mr. Brownlow and Oliver Twist are somehow linked.
Dickens cites as a splendid illustration of the law of self-preservation the fact that the Dodger and Bates would sacrifice their comrade in the interest of their own safety. The author digresses to level some ridicule at thinkers who expound the doctrine of immediate self-interest while denying all "considerations of heart, or generous impulse and feeling."
Back at the thieves' hangout, the outlines of some definite relationships can be detected. Sikes does not fear Fagin in the least and takes great delight in baiting his old colleague without provocation. Instead of retaliating, Fagin suppresses his resentment because he fears his tormentor. On the other hand, Sikes expresses a high opinion of Nancy and takes for granted a considerable right of authority over her.