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Oliver Twist is the story of a young orphan, Oliver, and his attempts to stay good in a society that refuses to help him. Dickens shows and touches upon all the levels of society; these being the rich and poor. These levels of society give the story a theme that captures reality in the midst of nineteenth English century.
As revealed in the tale, England’s nineteenth century was an era of much poverty and great social problems which resulted in a society of two opposing classes: the wealthy and the poor.
Fagin’s den is where all the evil happens in the novel and is where he trains boys to become thieves and robbers and prostitutes meet together. Its where Oliver is brought by the Artful Dodger and where he is taught the art of pickpocketing through fun before he discovers the true purpose behind his training.
“The walls and ceilings were perfectly black with age and dirt” “There was a deal table before the fire; upon which were a candle, stuck in a ginger bottle.. and standing over them with a toasting fork in his hand was a very old shrivelled Jew”.
Fagin the mastermind among the criminals is as ugly in appearance and the same with his temperament, but he is also two-faced.
Dickens seems to be anti-Semitic as he connects Fagin’s character has something to do with his ethnic identity. He does this by always referring him as the “Jew” this seems to indicate all the evil things he does or think of is connected to his ethnic identity. When Fagin is provoked he may give way to his evil side but on ordinary occasions he is always joking around and this sarcastically gives him the name of “the merry old gentlemen”.
Dickens uses sardonic humour much in the novel and is very effective in the novel. l It is plain that Fagin’s status among the thieves is a result of his considerable talents. He is smarter and more contemplative than his companions. While they may boast with the cockiness of young men. Fagin understands and appreciates the delicacy of his position and the urgent need for cautiousness and tireless alertness when leading a life of crime.
Fagin at first seems a kind man there are some traces of human feeling left in Fagin’s nature. Many times in the book Fagin shows a trace of kindness to Oliver. One of the interesting features of the story is that Fagin is the first adult. Its the first time the reader has seen anyone be kind so it’s not immediately clear he’s evil until they read further in to the book. “The Jew grinned; and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him by the hand, and hoped he should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance”
The other side of Fagin is shown when Oliver wakes up in the morning and sees Fagin playing with his treasure and Fagin spots him he shows his ugly side and then after believing Oliver saying he didn’t see anything he betrays his vicious nature and quickly recovers to the “merry old gentlemen”. Dickens shows Fagin’s ugly side by making Fagin look as though he would have killed Oliver because of his treasure. “Speak out, boy! Quick — quick! for your life! ” “”No! No, indeed! ” replied Oliver.
“Are you sure? ” cried the Jew: with a still fiercer look than before: and a threatening attitude”. One of the tricks Dickens plays is that Oliver is very naive as he watches Fagin’s actions in a lot of respect and tends to follow everything he does. This makes Fagin feel very happy and proud of himself and laughs about how naive and innocent Oliver is as he doesn’t really know what’s happening. Dickens uses sardonic humour while Fagin’s showing him the handkerchiefs and wallets the boys“make” but really stole.
Dickens uses sardonic humour a lot for example “Ah, you’re a-staring at the pocket-handkerchiefs! eh, my dear! There are a good many of ’em, ain’t there? We’ve just looked ’em out, ready for the wash; that’s all, Oliver; that’s all. Ha! ha! Ha! ”. Its easily spotted that Fagin has brainwashed these boys and has now too much power over them it’s so cruel the way he plays the game on them, he makes them do the dirty work and he sits down like a king waiting for his slaves to deliver and bring the goods but it’s their only choice or they’ll get kicked out of his filthy den and be homeless.
Fagin’s only aim is to capture and get control of him mentally so then he can have another accomplice in crime, but somehow every time Oliver escapes and his friends hide him he somehow finds out where he is. He is truly an enemy to Oliver like the devil is to a sinless human. Oliver’s natural goodness help him to overcome the odds of life. Therefore he establishes himself in a world of respectable people who cherish Oliver’s natural goodness these characteristics allow him to have the happy ending he had wanted.
However Fagin’s bad manners and his excessive love for money and will go to the extent of killing makes his fate in the book also deserved for him. Dickens portrays Fagin as a very cunning man as he uses Bill Sikes quick temper to the maximum ability he can use it as Sikes is less intelligent than Fagin he insults Fagin by calling him you “thundering old cur” and also threatens him by saying “it will be for want of breath” this shows Sikes use intimidation and violence to get what he wants.
However Fagin is really the smart one as all he had to say to trigger Sikes was that she has “ she gave him a drink of laudanum” this is what makes Sikes feel like a fool and causes Nancy’s death that Fagin had wanted. Dickens portrays the nineteenth century as a time when people had no feelings for each other and were really no better than animals.
The last chapter about Fagin(3.14:The Jews Last Night Alive) shows how different Fagin was from the rest of the society and even from the entire human race. He’s in a crowded courtroom, and is surrounded “by a firmament all bright with beaming eyes”(52. 1). The crowd of people is reduced to this one feature: their “eyes”(the narrator doesn’t describe any other part of their body in that paragraph), so Fagin is made into a spectacle and his own sense of individual identity is totally destroyed by their “inquisitive and eager eyes”.