Nancy: Character Analysis in Oliver Twist

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Nancy's Role in Oliver Twist

      Nancy is a drab and works in Fagin's gang. Though in the novel nowhere any indication is given that she is a prostitute yet in the Preface to the novel Dickens regards her as a prostitute. In the novel it is not even slightly hinted that she has any sexual relation with Sikes or with anybody. She is deeply concerned with Sikes' welfare and loves to do anything for him.

Her Personality

      Nancy first appears in the novel with Betsy whose job is very much similar to her but does not play an active role. Their physical appearance is given from the eyes of Oliver: "they wore a great deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and the stockings. They were not exactly pretty perhaps; but they had a great deal of color in their faces, and looked quite stout and hearty." Most probably the color in their face is the result of their habitual gin-drinking, "Oliver thought them very nice girls indeed. There is no doubt they were."

Her Heart Full of Milk

      Though Nancy plays an important role in the development of the story yet she is not drawn elaborately. Only two features of her nature is emphasized — her tender heart and courage. It is she who accepts the job of recapturing Oliver and bring him to Fagin. Later, when she sees Oliver ill-treated by Sikes and Fagin she gets angry and tries to save Oliver from being beaten. Thus she defies both Fagin and Sikes. At another point, when she overhears the ill-plot of Monks in his conversation with Fagin, she resolves to save Oliver from any harm done to him.

Nancy's Courage

      At several moments in the novel Nancy's courage is shown. She protects Oliver from the furry of Fagin and Sikes. Her resolve to save Oliver's life and going to contact Rose Maylie at the cost of her own life is the good example of her courage. She mixes some drugs in the drink of Sikes and goes to meet Rose for the first time. Though she feels the premonition of her death, yet she goes on doing her job.

Nancy's Genuine Love for Sikes

      Nancy is ardently in love with Sikes. Sikes is very much like a monster and he always curses upon Nancy and ill-treats her. He treats her like his dog. But Nancy loves Sikes a lot and rejects all the offers of Rose and Brownlow for leading good life. She does not disclose the secrets of Sikes or has given any particular about him but very consciously she saves Sikes from any harm done to him. She does not even dream of betraying her group and it wins our respect and admiration.

Virtue of Goodness

      Nancy has a good deal of potentiality in her ownself. She feels that her life is doomed because of being involved in criminal activities from a very long time. She says to Rose, "thanks heavens upon your knees, clear lady, that you had friends to care for and keep you in your childhood and that you were never in the midst of cold and hunger, and riot and drunkenness, and....something worse than all....as I have been from my cradle, I may use the word, for the alley and gutter were mine, as they will be my death bed." She feels Fagin is responsible for destroying her life, "it is my living; and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; and you're the wretch that drove me to them long ago, and that'll keep me there, day and night, day and night, till I die."

Immensely Sentimentalised

      As the novel proceeds towards its end Dickens has highly sentimentalized the character of Nancy. When Nancy meets Rose and Mr. Brownlow over the London bridge, she behaves with great sentimentality. When she refuses the. offer of money or good life by Mr. Brownlow and Rose, it does not surprise us because she is presented as a good character who would never like to betray her group but when she insists on having some token of remembrance, it is drawn in a highly sentimental manner and further it is repeated when she is on the edge of death, she takes out that handkerchief of Rose from her bosom, and raises her hands to pray God. This is, charged with over sentimentality and thus seems unrealistic.

Nancy's Murder by Sikes: The Climax of Horror

      Nancy's murder by Sikes marks the height of horror in the novel. It is a hair-erecting, disgusting and ghastly murder, we feel pity for an innocent being but our hate for Sikes intensifies by this murder. She is suspected by Sikes that she has given particulars about him and Fagin to Mrs. Brownlow, as reported by Noah Claypole. Sikes in furry batters Nancy to death without listening any explanation from her side.

Dicken's Views about Nancy

      Dickens writes, "It is useless to discuss whether the conduct and character of the girl seems natural or unnatural, probable or improbable, right or wrong. It is true. Everyone who has Witched these melancholy shade of life, must know it to be so... from the first introduction of that poor wretch, to her leaving her blood-stained head upon the robber's breast, there is not a word exaggerated or over wrought. It is emphatically God's truth, for it is the truth."

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