With many interruptions, and repeated insults, Mr. Brownlow contrived to state his case; observing that, in the surprise of the moment, he had run after the boy because he saw him running away; and expressing his hope that, if the magistrate should believe him, although not actually the thief, to be connected with thieves, he would deal as leniently with him as justice would allow.
The narrator explains that, after Oliver’s arrest, Mr. Brownlow sides with him and actively seeks to protect Oliver from prosecution. Once he gets a good look at Oliver, he believes wholeheartedly in the boy’s innocence. As Mr. Brownlow realizes that Oliver appears guilty by association, he appeals for leniency if Oliver was connected to the thieves. Thus far in the novel, Mr. Brownlow exemplifies a mentality that does not believe in deep-seated, unchangeable criminality and its connection to poverty.
You say you are an orphan, without a friend in the world; all the inquiries I have been able to make, confirm the statement. Let me hear your story; where you come from; who brought you up; and how you got into the company in which I found you. Speak the truth, and you shall not be friendless while I live.
Mr. Brownlow encourages Oliver to tell the truth about his life. After Oliver recovers from illness, Mr. Brownlow confirms Oliver’s story, including that he has lived in bad company. However, Mr. Brownlow does not hold these circumstances against Oliver. Instead, he guarantees his own lasting friendship as long as Oliver speaks truthfully. These words stand in powerful relief against the backdrop of society’s stereotypes. In Oliver’s young life, no one has trusted him, listened to him, or assumed he has any goodness or value to offer.
[I]f you have it in your power to produce any evidence which will alter the unfavourable opinion I was once induced to entertain of that poor child, in Heaven’s name put me in possession of it.
When Oliver and Rose go to Mr. Brownlow’s to tell him what happened, Mr. Brownlow begs Rose to prove to him that Oliver is a good boy and not a thief. Mr. Brownlow hopes for positive words to refute defamatory information about Oliver, showing that he continues to hold Oliver in high regard despite his disappearance. Due to his feelings for Oliver, Mr. Brownlow will readily accept him back into his life.
“It is because I was your father’s oldest friend, young man,” returned Mr. Brownlow; “ . . . that I am moved to treat you gently now—yes, Edward Leeford, even now—and blush for your untrustworthiness who bear the name.”
When Mr. Brownlow confronts Monks, he expounds upon the complex feelings he holds toward the younger man. Mr. Brownlow wants to show compassion to Monks as the child of his best friend. He honors the father by overlooking the sins of the child. Mr. Brownlow’s inability to ever fully reject Monks—for instance, giving him a share of his father’s inheritance—demonstrates his own good nature and his fitness as an adoptive father to Oliver.
How Mr. Brownlow went on, from day to day, filling the mind of his adopted child with stores of knowledge, and becoming attached to him, more and more, as his nature developed itself, and showed the thriving seeds of all he wished him to become.
The narrator describes how Mr. Brownlow raises Oliver to be an educated, accomplished man, like himself. The two make a likely pair in their belief that every person has the right to develop into his or her best self. Mr. Brownlow’s trustworthy and kind nature has brought him what he never had before—a family of his own.