Fagin's World of Vitality and Credibility in Oliver Twist

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Introduction

      Mr. Brownlow and Fagin represent two entirely different worlds in the novel Oliver Twist. Fagin represents the world of crime, callousness, treachery, oppression and evil. He has formed a group that consists of Bill Sikes, Artful Dodger, Charley Bates, Nancy and Betsy, Tom Chitling and Toby Crackit. Mr. Brownlow's world is full of pity, kindness, love, peace and harmony. In his group there are several good characters like Mrs. Bedwin, Mrs. Maylie, Rose Maylie, Harry Maylie, Mr. Grimwig and Dr. Losberne. When we comparatively examine these two worlds and its members, Fagin's group seems to have been laid with greater vitality and lifelikeness in comparison to that of Brownlows and Maylies.

The World of Brownlows and Maylies

      Mr. Brownlow is a highly esteemed, sympathetic, kind and old gentleman. According to George Orwell, Mrs. Brownlow represents "that recurrent Dickens figure, the good Rich Man.'' He continues to state, "Even Dickens must have reflected occasionally that anyone who was so anxious to give his money away would never have acquired it in first place." No doubt Mr. Bronwlow is an angelic figure, a man very much like a fairy godmother. Mrs. Bedwin looks after the house of Mr. Bronwlow, she is his housekeeper. She is 'a motherly old lady very neatly and precisely dressed.' Mr. Grimwig is an intimate friend of Mr. Bronwlow, he is idiosyncratic but altogether a good hearted old man. Mrs. Maylie, like Mr. Brownlow is an example of the false elegant feature of young Dickens, who has this firm belief that old fashioned people are too good, benevolent and generous. He is symbolical of benevolence. Harry Maylie who ultimately becomes a priest is an unconvincing character, he is so less discussed that it is hard to remember his presence in the novel. The character of Rose Maylie is colorless, like other insipid lady characters of Dickens' early novels. She seems to be a tribute to Dickens' seventeen year old sister-in-law. Her name was Mary Hogarth and her sudden death had given a severe shock to Dickens, and he failed to forget her. The character of Rose Maylie is though uninteresting and unconvincing yet it is invested with Dickens' very much personal sentiments. All these characters seem to be depicted rather faintly. They are very mechanically made kind, noble and virtuous. All these 'good' characters are very prompt in shedding tears.

Fagin's World

      In contrast, Fagin's world is full of life, variety and color. They leave the readers unforgettable of their presence. Fagin is 'a very aid shriveled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair.' Several times he is addressed as 'kind', 'merry', 'pleasant', and ’playful’. Few episodes of the novel, in which he appears imprint that impression which can not be easily erased. The horrible scene in which Fagin and Monks appear outside the window of Mrs. Maylie's house and Oliver was nodding sitting inside the room, this scene is unforgettable. A very vital scene of the novel is in which Fagin plays with the boys the game of picking pockets.

      Bill Sikes is drawn with more credibility. When he appears in the novel unshaved and shabbily dressed giving a strong kick to his dog, he leaves the reader after projecting too powerful impression. The ghastly murder of Nancy by Sikes, Sikes' effort to kill his dog, his aimless wanderings, the perpetual haunt of Nancy's eyes — all these descriptions make him immortal among the entire world of Dickens’ novels.

      Artful Dodger is 'one of the queerest looking boys'. He is snub-nosed, flat-bowed and his face is nothing uncommon. His reckless attitude blended with gaiety and wit makes him too remarkable. Fagin has taught him the concept of number one and he shows no hesitation in performing any evil deed. When he exclaims in the trial scene. "This is not the shop for justice" he appears most symbolical, comical and also defiant. Charley Bates is another important figure of Fagin's gang. He is very mirthful, jovial and sprightly. When Oliver is caught, he 'laid himself flat on the floor, and kicked convulsively, in an ecstasy of facetious joy." Thus it is justified to say that "Fagin’s world comes through with more vitality and credibility than the world of the Brownlows and Maylies.

University Questions

"Fagin's world comes through with more vitality and credibility than the world of the Brownlows and Maylies." Examine this dictum with reference to Oliver Twist.

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