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By the end of this novel, Fagin is no longer a two dimensional racial stereotype but a character for whom the audience has considerable sympathy. Discuss.

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Introduction

By the end of this novel, Fagin is no longer a two dimensional racial stereotype but a character for whom the audience has considerable sympathy. Discuss. "Oliver Twist" was the second novel of Charles Dickens. It was initially published in monthly instalments that began in February of 1837 and ended in April of 1939. The book has been criticised for anti-Semitism since Fagin is frequently referred to as "the Jew". At the time many Jews, who had fled to England from persecution abroad, were so discriminated against by the law that they became travelling salesmen and stallholders. In these trades it was very easy to drift into receiving and selling stolen goods. The Jewish thief's characterizations do seem to owe much to ethnic stereotypes. The first time Oliver meets Fagin is when The Artful Dodger takes him away from the bitter cold of London to his den. From the very first time we hear about Fagin, Dickens gives the reader reasons to believe he is an evil, "villainous-looking" man. For example, at the start of chapter 8 we see Fagin "standing over them, with a toasting fork in his hand". This gives the images of a devil holding a fork in his hand. In addition to this, Dickens gives Fagin the term of "merry old gentlemen" which is also a term for the devil. ...read more.

Middle

Fagin is a man full of tricks. He tells Oliver after he has seen the contents of his box to get a "pitcher of water", while the Jew would get a basin for him to wash him. But, "When Oliver turned his head, the box was gone". This shows that even if Oliver had seen Fagin's treasures, the Jew didn't want the boy to know where they were hid. Therefore, he tricked Oliver by hiding the box of treasures when he wasn't looking. When Fagin thinks that Oliver has told someone of his trade, we see a violent side to him. For example "The Jew inflicted a smart blow on Oliver's shoulders with the club". The reader is left wondering what fate would have come to Oliver if Nancy had not stopped Fagin at this point. Nancy is a character that has become a thief and a prostitute by Fagin's teaching. She uses words like "thief", "devil", "liar" and "wretch" to describe the Jew. Surely, if Nancy grew up working for Fagin before she was the age of Oliver, it would be true to say that she would know him very well. This would mean that the way she describes Fagin must be accurate. Now that Fagin has acknowledged Nancy betraying him, he intends to provoke Sikes into killing her. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows that he realises as every second passes, he is getting closer to death. This contrasts with the feelings of other people, since they value time. Fagin knows he is close to dying. There is a sense of fear. For example "There was no day...and short in its fleeting hours". We get the impression that to Fagin his life is already over, time is passing and his death is getting closer. In this chapter Fagin is seen to have feelings. For example, "Withering sense of his helpless" and "desperate state came in its full intensity upon his blighted soul". Inevitably, if Dickens describes him with senses he can be seen to be having humane characteristics. It also shows that maybe because of the torture of the environment, his soul has been destroyed. All of these words are written illustrating great pity for the Jew. In conclusion, there is much evidence to show that Fagin is a stereotypical person since he has all the characteristics of a Jewish thief with his avaricious, miserly, and ugly nature. The way he abuses the children and other people is totally wrong. However, we can see that Dickens is not totally anti-Jewish since he also describes decent Jews as "Venerable men". As his humane character comes to light at the end of the novel, we come to feel that Fagin is the product of an unfortunate upbringing rather than a stereotypical Jew. ...read more.

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