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Summary Chapter 4

Oliver is now eleven years old. The board considers sending him to sea to some unhealthy port, where he would either be flogged or bludgeoned to death by the ship’s skipper. Mr. Bumble goes to inquire if there are any cabin boy positions.

Upon returning, he meets Mr. Sowerberry, who has come to measure two corpses for caskets. Mr. Bumble remarks that the undertaker will make good money, but Mr. Sowerberry claims the board only permits him so much. The coffins are smaller since the people are gaunt, but the wood and handles are still expensive.

Mr. Bumble asks Mr. Sowerberry if he knows anyone who wants an apprentice. Mr. Sowerberry offers to take Oliver.

Mr. Bumble tells Oliver that if he ruins this opportunity, he’ll be sent to sea—where he’ll be drowned or have his head bashed in. Oliver starts crying, and Mr. Bumble calls him an ingrate and is about to beat him. Oliver begs him not to. He cries because he is heartbroken and lonely. Nobody likes him. Mr. Bumble tells him to dry his tears and doesn’t beat him. He takes Oliver to the undertaker’s.

Mrs. Sowerberry thinks investing in parish children is a waste of money, for they inevitably cost more than what they earn. Mrs. Sowerberry gives Oliver meat that has been reserved for the dog. Oliver is glad to have it. She tells Oliver that he’ll sleep under the counter with the coffins. 

Charles Dickens