"Oliver Twist," Chapters 42-53

Published in 1838, Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" plunges the reader into a world of orphanages and thieves, where the conditions are awful and
survival is in doubt (etext found here).

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-12, Chapters 13-28, Chapters 29-41, Chapters 42-53.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. expedient
    appropriate to a purpose
    Upon the night when Nancy, having lulled Mr. Sikes to sleep, hurried on her self-imposed mission to Rose Maylie, there advanced towards London, by the Great North Road, two persons, upon whom it is expedient that this history should bestow some attention.
  2. assert
    declare or affirm solemnly and formally as true
    This was indeed the case; but as it was not Mr. Claypole's habit to repose a blind and foolish confidence in anybody, it should be observed, in justice to that gentleman, that he had trusted Charlotte to this extent, in order that, if they were pursued, the money might be found on her: which would leave him an opportunity of asserting his innocence of any theft, and would greatly facilitate his chances of escape.
  3. obscurity
    the state of being indistinct due to lack of light
    Just pausing to observe which appeared the most crowded streets, and consequently the most to be avoided, he crossed into Saint John's Road, and was soon deep in the obscurity of the intricate and dirty ways, which, lying between Gray's Inn Lane and Smithfield, render that part of the town one of the lowest and worst that improvement has left in the midst of London.
    The given definition focuses on the physical nature of obscurity, but another meaning of "obscurity" is "the quality of being unclear and hard to understand." This double meaning could also apply to the phrase "intricate and dirty ways"--which describes both the physical streets and the nature of the dealings in that part of town.
  4. endeavor
    earnest and conscientious activity intended to do something
    However, Mr. Fagin seemed to interpret the endeavour as expressing a perfect coincidence with his opinion, and put about the liquor which Barney re-appeared with, in a very friendly manner.
  5. uncouth
    lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
    Noah Claypole's mind might have been at ease after this assurance, but his body certainly was not; for he shuffled and writhed about, into various uncouth positions: eyeing his new friend meanwhile with mingled fear and suspicion.
  6. demur
    (law) a formal objection to an opponent's pleadings
    This mandate, which had been delivered with great majesty, was obeyed without the slightest demur; and Charlotte made the best of her way off with the packages while Noah held the door open and watched her out.
    "Majesty" ("impressiveness in scale or proportion") and "mandate" ("a document giving an official instruction or command"), along with "demur", are used to give a mocking impression of a formal court of law. In actuality, Noah is simply ordering Charlotte to take the packages upstairs, so that he can talk about illegal matters with Fagin.
  7. insinuate
    introduce or insert in a subtle manner
    "Every man's his own friend, my dear," replied Fagin, with his most insinuating grin.
  8. wily
    marked by skill in deception
    Mr. Fagin saw, with delight, that this tribute to his powers were no mere compliment, but that he had really impressed his recruit with a sense of his wily genius, which it was most important that he should entertain in the outset of their acquaintance.
  9. chagrin
    strong feelings of embarrassment
    With this expression of feeling for his unfortunate friend, Master Bates sat himself on the nearest chair with an aspect of chagrin and despondency.
    While a feeling of chagrin is embarrassment that can be overcome, a feeling of despondency would be harder to shake: Master Bates is embarrassed for his friend the Artful Dodger for getting caught stealing a cheap snuffbox and he is feeling "downcast, disheartened and hopeless" that his friend will be going to an overseas jail for the rest of his life for that instead of for a more glorious crime.
  10. consent
    give an affirmative reply to; respond favorably to
    Persuaded, in part, by these representations, but overborne in a much greater degree by his fear of Fagin, Mr. Bolter at length consented, with a very bad grace, to undertake the expedition.
  11. ungainly
    lacking grace in movement or posture
    Thus equipped, he was to saunter into the office, as some country fellow from Covent Garden market might be supposed to do for the gratification of his curiosity; and as he was as awkward, ungainly, and raw-boned a fellow as need be, Mr. Fagin had no fear but that he would look the part to perfection.
  12. magisterial
    of or relating to a civil officer who administers the law
    Noah Claypole, or Morris Bolter as the reader pleases, punctually followed the directions he had received, which--Master Bates being pretty well acquainted with the locality--were so exact that he was enabled to gain the magisterial presence without asking any question, or meeting with any interruption by the way.
  13. depravity
    moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles
    There was an old smoky bust over the mantel-shelf, and a dusty clock above the dock--the only thing present, that seemed to go on as it ought; for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance with both, had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inanimate object that frowned upon it.
  14. dissimulation
    the act of deceiving
    Adept as she was, in all the arts of cunning and dissimulation, the girl Nancy could not wholly conceal the effect which the knowledge of the step she had taken wrought upon her mind.
    Nancy is adept ("having or showing knowledge and skill and aptitude") in two arts that are both about deception. Although "cunning" can also mean "showing inventiveness and skill" without using any deception, that would not fit the description of a girl who's used to a life of crime.
  15. abyss
    a bottomless gulf or pit
    Vile as those schemes were, desperate as were their originators, and bitter as were her feelings towards Fagin, who had led her, step by step, deeper and deeper down into an abyss of crime and misery, whence was no escape; still, there were times when, even towards him, she felt some relenting, lest her disclosure should bring him within the iron grasp he had so long eluded, and he should fall at last--richly as he merited such a fate--by her hand.
  16. stipulate
    make an express demand or provision in an agreement
    Her fears for Sikes would have been more powerful inducements to recoil while there was yet time; but she had stipulated that her secret should be rigidly kept, she had dropped no clue which could lead to his discovery, she had refused, even for his sake, a refuge from all the guilt and wretchedness that encompassed her--and what more could she do!
  17. pinion
    bind the arms of
    Sikes looked on, for a minute, watching his opportunity, and suddenly pinioning her hands dragged her, struggling and wrestling with him by the way, into a small room adjoining, where he sat himself on a bench, and thrusting her into a chair, held her down by force.
  18. zealous
    marked by active interest and enthusiasm
    Her altered manner, her repeated absences from home alone, her comparative indifference to the interests of the gang for which she had once been so zealous, and, added to these, her desperate impatience to leave home that night at a particular hour, all favoured the supposition, and rendered it, to him at least, almost matter of certainty.
  19. importunate
    making persistent or urgent requests
    Their appearance was not calculated to attract the importunate regards of such of London's destitute population, as chanced to take their way over the bridge that night in search of some cold arch or doorless hovel wherein to lay their heads; they stood there in silence: neither speaking nor spoken to, by any one who passed.
  20. haggard
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    His face is dark, like his hair and eyes; and, although he can't be more than six or eight and twenty, withered and haggard.
  21. obdurate
    showing unfeeling resistance to tender feelings
    "You will not persist in saying that," rejoined the gentleman, with a voice and emphasis of kindness that might have touched a much harder and more obdurate heart.
  22. involuntarily
    against your will
    But he did not take his eyes off the robber, for an instant, during this action; and now that they sat over against each other, face to face, he looked fixedly at him, with his lips quivering so violently, and his face so altered by the emotions which had mastered him, that the housebreaker involuntarily drew back his chair, and surveyed him with a look of real affright.
  23. ostentatious
    intended to attract notice and impress others
    "Oh, you haven't, haven't you?" said Sikes, looking sternly at him, and ostentatiously passing a pistol into a more convenient pocket, "That's lucky--for one of us.
  24. brandish
    move or swing back and forth
    "Again, tell it again!" cried Fagin, tightening his grasp on Sikes, and brandishing his other hand aloft, as the foam flew from his lips.
  25. circuitous
    deviating from a straight course
    He acted upon this impulse without delay, and choosing the least frequented roads began his journey back, resolved to lie concealed within a short distance of the metropolis, and, entering it at dusk by a circuitous route, to proceed straight to that part of it which he had fixed on for his destination.
  26. leniency
    lightening a penalty or excusing from a chore
    I will appeal to the law too; but when you have gone too far to recede, do not sue to me for leniency, when the power will have passed into other hands; and do not say I plunged you down the gulf into which you rushed, yourself."
  27. advocate
    speak, plead, or argue in favor of
    "I have not the inclination to parley," said Mr. Brownlow, "and, as I advocate the dearest interests of others, I have not the right."
  28. sordid
    meanly avaricious and mercenary
    I know that of the wretched marriage, into which family pride, and the most sordid and narrowest of all ambition, forced your unhappy father when a mere boy, you were the sole and most unnatural issue."
  29. blighted
    affected by something that prevents growth or prosperity
    "When they had been separated for some time," returned Mr. Brownlow, "and your mother, wholly given up to continental frivolities, had utterly forgotten the young husband ten good years her junior, who, with prospects blighted, lingered on at home, he fell among new friends.
  30. ardent
    characterized by intense emotion
    "The end of a year found him contracted, solemnly contracted, to that daughter; the object of the first, true, ardent, only passion of a guileless girl."
  31. modest
    humble in spirit or manner
    "Especially, when the exclusive young man has got a friend stopping with him, that's arrived sooner than was expected from foreign parts, and is too modest to want to be presented to the Judges on his return," added Mr. Kags.
  32. execration
    hate coupled with disgust
    The crowd had been hushed during these few moments, watching his motions and doubtful of his purpose, but the instant they perceived it and knew it was defeated, they raised a cry of triumphant execration to which all their previous shouting had been whispers.
  33. alacrity
    liveliness and eagerness
    Mr. Brownlow merely nodded to Mr. Grimwig, who disappearing with great alacrity, shortly returned, pushing in Mrs. Bumble, and dragging her unwilling consort after him.
  34. discontent
    a longing for something better than the present situation
    She didn't quite rely, however, on their discontent and poverty for the child's unhappiness, but told the history of the sister's shame, with such alterations as suited her; bade them take good heed of the child, for she came of bad blood; and told them she was illegitimate, and sure to go wrong at one time or other.
  35. opprobrious
    expressing offensive reproach
    There was nobody there, to speak to him; but, as he passed, the prisoners fell back to render him more visible to the people who were clinging to the bars: and they assailed him with opprobrious names, and screeched and hissed.
  36. venerable
    profoundly honored
    Venerable men of his own persuasion had come to pray beside him, but he had driven them away with curses.
  37. reciprocate
    act, feel, or give mutually or in return
    Before his removal, he had managed to contract a strong friendship for Mr. Grimwig, which that eccentric gentleman cordially reciprocated.
  38. contend
    maintain or assert
    It is a standing and very favourite joke, for Mr. Brownlow to rally him on his old prophecy concerning Oliver, and to remind him of the night on which they sat with the watch between them, waiting his return; but Mr. Grimwig contends that he was right in the main, and, in proof thereof, remarks that Oliver did not come back, after all; which always calls forth a laugh on his side, and increases his good humour.
  39. appalled
    struck with fear, dread, or consternation
    Master Charles Bates, appalled by Sikes's crime, fell into a train of reflection whether an honest life was not, after all, the best.
  40. hallowed
    worthy of religious veneration
    But, if the spirits of the Dead ever come back to earth, to visit spots hallowed by the love--the love beyond the grave--of those whom they knew in life, I believe that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook.

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