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Against the Return of Fagin

Dickens and the Persistence of the Principle of Goodness

Michela Marroni    Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italia    

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abstract

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.

Keywords: Dickens. Oliver Twist. Fagin. Principle of Goodness. The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Lingua: en

Presentato: 28 Luglio 2020   Accettato: 07 Settembre 2020   Pubblicato: 22 Dicembre 2020  

permalink: http://doi.org/10.30687/AnnOc/2499-1562/2020/54/012

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