Against the Return of Fagin

Dickens and the Persistence of the Principle of Goodness

Michela Marroni    Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italia    



Bob Fagin was a boy who helped twelve-year-old Dickens during his traumatic experience at Warren’s Blacking Factory. Taking the cue from the discrepancy between the real Fagin and devilish Fagin in Oliver Twist, I will consider the reasons underlying Dickens’s choice of this particular name for such a villain. At the same time, in light of the scarcely plausible contrast between Oliver’s innocence and the urban decay surrounding him, I will argue that the novel should be interpreted as a social metaphor whose ethical model is The Pilgrim’s Progress. Indeed, as suggested by the novel’s complete title – The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress – the eponymous hero’s experience can be regarded as a transition from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City where the “principle of good” is ultimately brought into action. However, unlike Bunyan’s motivated and energetic hero, Oliver is a character whose main traits are passivity, innocence, and silence. Although melodramatic and awash with sentimentality, Victorian middle-class readers readily subscribed to the novel’s message based on the final triumph of goodness.

22 Dicembre 2020
07 Settembre 2020
28 Luglio 2020

Keywords: Oliver TwistDickensPrinciple of GoodnessFaginThe Pilgrim’s Progress

Copyright: © 2020 Michela Marroni. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.