Oliver Twist * Charles Dickens
The Modern Library Classics (2001)
A baby boy is born in a workhouse shortly before his unmarried mother dies, and he becomes an orphan. His name is Oliver.
While he is raised in a workhouse for young children, on the day of his ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble retrieves him to return to the main workhouse where he will “be educated and taught a useful trade.” Yet, a very cruel system has been implemented in the house where the poor are slowly starved to death; and Oliver, being a victim of this system, is entreated to ask for more to eat; the result is solitary confinement for Oliver and a notice outside the workhouse gate offering anyone five pounds to take Oliver off their hands.
A chimney-sweeper, Mr. Gamfield, in need of assistance for rent, spies the notice on the gate and inquires of Oliver, but the gentlemen of the board are not in agreement of the work for which Oliver would be apprenticed, and they lower the payment. Yet, when Oliver meets his inquirer, he pleads to the board not to let him go with Mr. Gamfield, and they consent; and another notice is posted outside the workhouse gate again for five pounds.
The gentlemen of the board consider sending Oliver to sea to employ a wretched end to his life, until Mr. Sowerberry, the parochial undertaker arrives and asks for the boy, since he does so much to help the poor anyway; and Oliver has a new life as an apprentice to an undertaker. At his new home he meets Charlotte, I assume a maid, and Mrs. Sowerberry, who is a rough woman.