The use of the word ‘den’ implies that Fagin is an animal, similar to a fox in the way that he moves at night. However, as the passage continues, Dickens is determined that the reader must not think of Fagin as anything more than a satanic demon, a person who deserves no such comparison to a fox or anything remotely complimentary. ‘It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad.’
After depicting the ghastly night in which all this was occuring (describing the rain as ‘sluggish’ and objects ‘cold and clammy’) this quote shows that Fagin is the sort of person who fits well with this weather, as if he is suited to it. ‘…the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile…’ This fantastic simile makes the reader realize exactly what Dickens wants them to think. That Fagin is a subhuman, a person who is so revoltingly awful, that the only way to describe them is as a loathsome reptile, someone who can only move at night, in grotesque, disgusting places, doing dark, horrible deeds.
To accentuate this, Dickens uses vocabulary to describe Fagin’s movements as ‘slunk, glided, creeping, and crawling’ Finally, to emphasize the readers mounting dislike for Fagin he finishes off with the final sentence ‘A dog growled as he touched the handle of a room door…’ In many horror films and books, vampires and other unearthly creatures are often described as enemies of everyone, even dogs. The fact that the dog growled is an indication that even the dog senses what an evil being Fagin is and how people should beware and be on their guard of him.
On Page 360, Fagin confesses to Bill Sikes how he has ordered the Artful Dodger to trail after Nancy, spying on her actions and caught her informing Mr. Brownlow on their possesion of Oliver Twist. However Fagin has decided that Nancy is a definite threat to him and his business, therefore he vindictively twists the story and makes Sikes believe that Nancy had in fact given Mr Brownlow details about them, their names, residence and plans. In his rage, Sikes immediately storms for the front door, promising that Nancy’s betrayal would not go unpunished. Sike’s rage is emphasised as Dickens describes his temper as ‘fiercely’, ‘wildly’ and ‘furiously’.
Fagin hurries after him in his haste and for a moment, Dickens influences the reader into believing that their may be just an ounce of good remaining in him as he writes the line when Fagin says: “You wont be- too- violent, Bill?” Here is a deliberate false truth that Dickens wishes to inflict on the readers. He raises hope in the readers mind that perhaps there is more of a heart or conscience about Fagin and that he is not truly bad. He produces some kind of good light on Fagin, and implies that he is in fact quite caring. However this hope is completely destroyed when Dickens writes the next piece of dialogue where Fagin says:
“not too violent for safety. Be careful Bill, and not too bold” Dickens here, causes the reader’s hopes to fall and makes them realize that Fagin’s personality is truly implacable, that there is no good left in him. What Fagin actually means is that Sikes shouldn’t be too violent in front of others, that he should only kill Nancy in private and ensure that it is disguised in a way so that no one finds out. This shows that Fagin is yet again, only thinking of himself and his secrecy. This is a fantastic technique of Dickens, as he is playing with the reader’s emotions, raising their hopes only to destroy them.
In the last pages of Fagin’s existence in Oliver Twist, Dickens obviously does not want to grant Fagin any forgiveness or benefit of the doubt. He leaves the reader with an impression of Fagin, which is severe in its hate and dislike. In these pages Fagin has been caught, charged, and awaiting punishment by death, which in those times were public hangings. Oliver Twist and Mr Brownlow enter the cell in which Fagin is being kept. They meet a person who shows signs of insanity, desperation and cowardness. Fagin is obviously extremely petrified of his soon to come end and is desperate to try and escape. Dickens’s reveals to the reader that Fagin has become completely dehumanised in his fear, and that every human characteristic about him has vanished.
“Fagin! Are you a man?” “I shant be one long” he replied looking up with a face retaining no human expression…’ This shows that Fagin’s fear of death has driven him into misery and despair. Dickens’s uses this language, to ensure that the reader is completely convinced that Fagin is not human, nor should we feel remotely sorry for his abrupt and brutal end. However, once again, Dickens uses a classic technique, where he tries to raise the reader’s hopes regarding Fagin, one final time. When Mr Brownlow asks Fagin the whereabouts of papers concerning Oliver’s inheritance, after immediate denial, which most liars do, Fagin all of a sudden changes his position. He decides to whisper the hideaway into Oliver’s ears. This makes the reader immediately grasp onto the faintest hope that now, even after all that’s happened, Fagin has the tiniest bit of heart deep inside of him and he is trying to make amends.
However, Dickens’s implies through his language and tone that there is a much sneakier and cunning reason for this sudden act of kindness. Fagin feels that if he tries to make Oliver believe that he is on his side and is his friend, he can somehow, even now, manipulate him into helping him escape. Once again, the readers hopes are completely destroyed as one realizes there is, in truth no hope for Fagin- he will always be relentlessly evil and that there can be no saving him. It also emphasizes how utterly desperate and pathetic he has become, trying to plot an escape even when there is a guard standing only about 3 metres away from him.
Dickens sees to this last reference of Fagin, that it rids him of every fragment of dignity possible. “He struggles with the power of desperation, for an instant: and then set up a cry upon cry that penetrated even those massive walls…” This leaves the reader with the lasting thought that Fagin really is as pathetic, cowardly and pitiful as we think. Dickens’s obvious dislike for the character ensures that he purges Fagin of all his dignity, respect and self-esteem.