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Summary Chapter 5


Oliver looks at the coffins in terror, expecting a corpse to rise from one of them. The shop is hot and gloomy, making him feel like he is buried alive. He feels alone in a strange place.

He is awakened the next morning by someone kicking the door. The person threatens to whip Oliver. Oliver opens the door to a charity boy names Noah Claypole, who tells Oliver he is his superior. He orders Oliver to take down the shutters. Oliver accidentally breaks a window glass while doing it, which earns him a beating.

Noah and Oliver go down to breakfast. Noah gets the better spot by the fire and better food from Charlotte. Charlotte tells Oliver to hurry, for he’ll be expected to mind the store.

There is a difference between charity boys and workhouse orphans. Charity boys have parents who require assistance. Workhouse orphans have no families. Noah is often ridiculed by shop boys for his shameful family, and he is glad to have someone who is worse off in status to bully. It is better to have bad parents than no parents.

Oliver is at the Sowerberrys for several weeks when Mr. Sowerberry starts considering making him a mute. He timidly asks his wife’s advice. He is afraid of his wife, who is a shrew and laughs hysterically at odd moments. He remarks that Oliver is a handsome boy. She agrees, and Sowerberry decides to start training Oliver in his profession.

Mr. Bumble comes with another order for a coffin and a funeral. Bumble complains the woman had been ill. The husband refused to let her take the medicine they sent, and now she is dead. Oliver has remained hidden during this interview. When Bumble leaves, Sowerberry tells Noah to mind the shop and leaves with Oliver in tow.

The go to a very poor side of town, where the wood is rotted and there are rats. The apartment is occupied by a man, an old woman, and several children. There is a covered up corpse. The man threatens Sowerberry not to go near it. He doesn’t want his wife to be buried.

The man bursts into tears, saying she died from starvation and fever. They had no candles, and she died in the dark—unable to see their faces. He used to beg to earn money, but he was sent to prison. He came back to find her dying. The old woman comments that it is strange that she survived her own child.

The old woman asks for food and a cloak for the funeral, and Mr. Sowerberry agrees. Mr. Bumble sends the food the next day, and Mr. Sowerberry brings a cloak. Four workhouse workers carry the coffin to the graveyard, where children are playing hide-and-seek. The children jump over the coffin.

They have to wait an hour for the clergyman. The man does a very short service and leaves just as quickly. The woman is buried in a grave with several other people.

Mr. Sowerberry reclaims the cloak, much to the old woman’s ire. The husband of the dead woman faints. They splash water on his face and escort him to the gate, where they leave him.

Mr. Sowerberry asks Oliver how he likes the trade. Oliver doesn’t like it. Sowerberry tells him he’ll get used to it. 

Charles Dickens