Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

I have said that they were truly happy; and without strong affection and humanity of heart, and gratitude to that Being whose code is Mercy and whose great attribute is Benevolence to all things that breathe, happiness can never be attained. Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white marble tablet which bears as yet but one word: “Agnes”. . . . I believe that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round the solemn nook. I believe it none the less because that nook is in a Church, and she was weak and erring.

The final passage of the novel sums up Dickens’s moral and religious vision. On the one hand, Dickens considers a firm and true belief in God to be an essential prerequisite of both moral rectitude and earthly happiness. On the other hand, the novel has not been kind to characters such as Mr. Bumble, who prattle on about Christian values, but whose behavior is notably lacking in “Benevolence” and who are quick to condemn others as sinners. The description of Agnes’s grave is an attack on puritanical religion, which would consider adultery to be an unforgivable sin. The novel’s faith in Christian values is as wholehearted as its attacks on Christian hypocrisy are biting.