"Fagin's Last Night Alive" Passage in Oliver Twist

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      One of the ghastly and dismal scenes of the novel Oliver Twist is "Fagin's Last Night Alive." Fagin is judged as a guilty and he is sentenced to death. As the death sentence is given by the judge he becomes dumb and stunned. He goes with jailor like a machine and is put into a dark cell. This cell was specially made for those criminals who are sentenced to death and waiting for the time of his hanging. Fagin sits on a stone bench for some times and gradually regains his consciousness. He recalls the words of the sentence—'Hang till death'. He recollects memories of those men whom he has seen dying in the maimer which he has to face very soon. Those men were his associates in the crime and victims of his villainy. He thinks that in this very cell, they must have spent their last days also. This kind of thought terrifies him and he starts beating his hands against the doors and walls of the dark cellar. He is overcome by a sense of absolute darkness and screams for light. A candle is brought and the man on the duty enters the dark cellar. At some distance church bell keeps on tolling at fixed intervals, making him conscious of the passage of time and remaining hours to breathe. When priests come to pray with him, he sends them away from coming close to him. The passing of time terribly haunts him. Most of the time he sits motionlessly involved in dreaming.

      Subsequently comes the last night of his life. Fagin is almost in delirium. He feels that everyone is interested in seeing him dead, no one has sympathy for him. He finds himself ill perfect isolation. That night there is nobody who can keep watch over him. Thus two men are provided to give him company.

      Outside the jail, people excitedly discuss with anticipation how Fagin must be living his last moments. All the preparations of Fagin's execution is finished. Mr. Brwonlow enters with Oliver after getting the permission of authority to visit the guilty. For Oliver kind of small boys it is such a horrible sight. Mr. Brwonlow agrees to it but says that visit is too concerned with Oliver and he must bear the sight. Consequently they are conducted through the prison to Fagin's dark cell.

      When they get in, Fagin is getting hallucinations that he is among his associates. For a time being he forgets his present. As he sees Mr. Brownlow and Oliver, he shrinks from them instinctively. Mr. Brownlow asks for some papers entrusted by Monks to him. First Fagin shows himself as innocent and denies to have any information of the paper but then he says to Oliver in whisper. He fancies that perhaps Oliver can help him in escaping from the jail and he very tightly catches hold of him. As Oliver and Mr. Brownlow depart from there Fagin starts screaming like a mad man. The whole scene is too horrible and seems like the nightmarish scene of Nancy's murder by Sikes. Here, Dickens has shown a very remarkable insight into the psychology of man who is going to be executed. Its really astonishing to see Dickens' great command over the portrayal of criminal world in comparison of good men. Fagin appears more lively and vital than any other good characters of the novel like Mr. Brwonlow, Mrs. Maylie, Rose or Harry. Steven Marcus even remarks to that extent that novelist and Fagin are completely identified to each other when Fagin’s last night is described. This imaginative identification ensures the artistic triumph in the novel. In the final stage it seems that in place of Fagin there is Dickens himself because the description is astonishingly vital. He presents Fagin through words in front of us, we can feel the emotions of Fagin. Here, such an inhuman monster is converted into an imaginative triumph.

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