I am reading a translated version of "Oliver Twist" and a paragraph was so vague there. So I referred to the English version:

The surgeon leaned over the body, and raised the left hand. ‘The old story,’ he said, shaking his head: ‘no wedding-ring, I see. Ah! Good-night!’

  1. To whom does “the left hand” refer here? In translated book it is the surgeon but it make no sense to me.

I guess it should be "the body". Right?

  1. What does "The old story" mean?

  2. What does "no wedding-ring" mean here? Is it about poorness or it is about illegal marriage?


It's the hand of the body: if it meant the surgeon's own hand it would say raised his left hand.

"No wedding ring" - the woman was not married. (I haven't read the book in years, but I presume this was Oliver's mother dying in childbirth).

"The old story" - a story we keep on hearing, i.e. something that isn't supposed to happen, but keeps on happening (unmarried women giving birth).

  • Thanks for answer. Is it correct to write "raised her left hand" here? and Does "the woman was not married" mean "sexual harassment"? – C.F.G Apr 3 '20 at 14:05
  • 1
    "Her left hand" would have been more appropriate if the woman had still been alive. Dickens speaks of the dead body as an inanimate object. She had had sexual relations before marriage (then very much frowned upon) and presumably been deserted by her lover (I haven't read the book in years either). – Kate Bunting Apr 3 '20 at 16:48
  • 1
    @C.F.G: there is no grounds in that scene for concluding anything about her sexual relationship, except that she wasn't married (which was scandalous in those times). It could be anything ranging from a loving relationship where the father recently died, to a rape: we simply can't tell. Of course, later in the book we discover more about her circumstances, but from the words in that chapter, we can tell very little. – Colin Fine Apr 3 '20 at 19:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.