The question of criminality in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is connected to the theme of family and upbringing. The novel shows the importance of growing up in good circumstances, with both practical and moral consequences. For example, Oliver almost dies several times in the novel from being starved and mistreated by the workhouse and by Fagin and Sikes.
Fagin pretends to offer a type of family to the criminals under his control. He feeds the boys and calls them “my dear”, offering them a place to live and some degree of safety. He explains his theory to Noah Claypole that everyone in his gang has to take care of themselves, but they also have put Fagin first: “ ‘It’s your object to take care of number one – meaning yourself. […] Well! You can’t take care of yourself, number one, without taking care of me, number one.’ ” (Chapter 43, 7%)
However, this approach does not work out and all the criminal characters come to bad ends. Fagin is caught and sentenced to death, while Bill Sikes murders Nancy and then accidentally kills himself. The Artful Dodger is caught and sent abroad, while Monks ends up dying in prison. Fagin’s corrupt version of a family fails.
There are sever...