Fagin

Outer characterization

Fagin is an old man who runs a gang of criminals in London in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. He is Jewish and is often referred to as “the Jew”. This has led to accusations that Dickens’ depiction of Fagin is antisemitic, because it conforms to many negative stereotypes about Jewish people. 

Fagin is described as being “a very old shriveled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair. He was dressed in a greasy flannel gown, with his throat bare.” (Chapter 8, 83%). Fagin is a repulsive, evil character:

As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: crawling forth by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal. (Chapter 19, 6%)

Inner characterization

Fagin is motivated by money

When we first meet Fagin, Oliver sees him looking lovingly at a box of stolen jewels: 

His eyes glistened as he raised the lid, and looked in. Dragging an old chair to the table, he sat down; and took from it a magnificent gold watch, sparkling with jewels.

‘Aha!’ said the Jew, shrugging up his shoulders, and distorting every feature with a hideous grin. (Chapter 9, 11%)

Fagin then goes about trying to turn Oliver into a thief. When he learns that Oliver might have died, he is “mad with rage” (Chapter 25,...

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