1. Does the “gentleman in the white waistcoat” have a name? I know he’s a member of the workhouse board. After Oliver asks for more gruel, Mr. White Waistcoat is the one that says “That boy will be hung“.
2. In chapter III, Mr. Gamfield the chimney sweep wants to apprentice Oliver. Well, he really wants the pounds that will come with the child. The workhouse board wants to reduce the amount of money given to the sweep due to his unsafe occupation. Gamfield is reluctant to accept the lowered sum. During negotiations Mr. White Waistcoat says,
“He’d be cheap with nothing at all, as a premium. Take him, you silly fellow! He’s just the boy for you. He wants the stick, now and then: it’ll do him good; and his board needn’t come very expensive, for he hasn’t been overfed since he was born. Ha! ha! ha!”
The amount of food given to workhouse employees has been mentioned several times previously. During those instances Dickens lays on thick sarcasm. He poses the board’s discussions in such a way as to make them appear truly concerned about the poor people. We readers understand Dickens is writing with his tongue in his cheek, and we cringe at the terrible things the board says and does for the “benefit” of the poor.
But in this instance is Mr. White Waistcoat laughing aloud because Oliver has been abused his whole life, and he assumes Oliver will receive the same brutal treatment from his new master? Is White Waistcoat saying “Ha! ha! ha!” because Oliver has never had enough to eat; therefore, he will not expect much in the way of meals? Has the curtain dropped to reveal the true beast White Waistcoat is? Is he no longer pretending? Am I misreading this?
Bonus question number 3: Jane Eyre is our next novel. Does anyone know if the orphan in that book is any happier than Oliver Twist is?