Explore how Dickens depicts the evil aspects of human nature with particular reference to two characters. The son of John and Elizabeth Dickens, Charles was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, the second of eight children. Most of his childhood was spent in Portsmouth or Chatham, in Kent. His father was a clerk in the Naval Pay Office and although he was hard working, he was rarely able to live within his income.
Charles Dickens wrote the novel Oliver Twist, which was begun in 1837 and continued until April 1839, in which he expresses his concerns of the social context of his time. Dickens is concerned for the corruption of law and the consequences it leads to, therefore I have chosen Bumble and Fagin to show how dickens depicts the evil aspects of human nature with reference to these two characters.
In Dickens time the law was corrupt and unjust, which is clearly expressed through the magistrates and Bumble. This is emphasised especially through the way they treat Oliver: “stand away, officer,” cried Fang, “let him, if he likes.” Oliver availed himself of the kind permission, and fell to the floor in a fainting fit.” Oliver is obviously in some distress, which Mr Fang is unable to see and he really doesn’t care about Oliver. Charles Dickens is portraying his concerns of the corruption of law through people who have power, such as the magistrates and Bumble, and that is why I have chosen Bumble to show how Dickens depicts him.
Charles Dickens also portrays the personalities of his characters through their name; he does this with various characters. The name Mr Fang may suggest aspects of evil and it does, so Charles Dickens tries to portray the personality of a character through their name, in some cases. The other character I have chosen to do is Fagin as Dickens has portrayed the criminal world through this character. This character is very interesting and many adaptations of the novel represent this character in many ways. Alan Bleasdale interpretation shows Fagin to be a cunning magician, who is intelligent and persuasive, and Fagin is a more of a realistic character in this adaptation. Whereas in the famous Oliver musical, Fagin is interpretated as a loveable rogue and he his not driven to care for Oliver by Monks, but it happens by coincidence. This appears more unrealistic than Alan Bleasdale interpretation.
In the beginning chapters, Dickens shows his outrage at injustice by describing the conditions in the workhouse. During Dickens time such institutions for the poor were badly controlled and the authorities were blind to the feelings of its inmates. Corruption too prevailed. Mr. Bumble is a representative of this group who would starve the infants and enjoy a glass of beer himself, which is clearly portrayed through Lionel Bart’s musical with good use of juxtaposition. When Oliver asks for more food the management punishes him instead of understanding his needs. Dickens denounces the social conditions of his time through Bumble.
When you are first introduced to Bumble he is described as “a fat man, and a choleric” and straight away I pictured a man who is rich, as in Dickens time not many people were fat because many people were suffering from starvation. I also interpretated that he his ignorant as he described as a choleric. Combining the interpretation that he was fat and ignorant, I personally thought that he possessed authority and power. Dickens illustrates him as a cold heartened man: “Although this invitation was accompanied with a courtesy that might have softened the heart of a churchwarden, it by no means mollified the beadle.” By illustrating Bumble in such a way it portrays him as an evil character and Dickens is representing evil ways of human nature through him.
When the audience are first introduced to Fagin, Dickens uses very harsh adjectives to describe him: “very old shrivelled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair.” Dickens illustrates a sinister character within the first line of description about Fagin. This shows that Dickens is criticizing this character obviously, and I interpretated this, as Fagin must have some corruption within him. Dickens does not depict the evil aspects of human nature of Fagin in the introduction. But he uses very harsh adjectives to describe him, which suggests he his evil. As the novel progresses the reader discovers how cunning and manipulative Fagin is but when the reader is introduced to this character he appears loveable.
In the famous musical Oliver by Lionel Bart, Fagin is introduced, as a loving and generous man, who is not under the influence of Monks, as the character does not exists. However in Alan Bleasdale’s adaptation the audience have clear understanding that Fagin is under the influence of Monks, which is why he appears kind and generous, to influence Oliver to be a thief. These two adaptations are very different, Alan Bleasdale’s interpretation has captured Fagin as a more realistic character and Lionel Bart’s version has captured him as a loveable rogue.
Dickens has depicted Bumble as an evil character in the introduction; however, Fagin appears to be kind and generous in the introduction. As the story progresses it concentrates more on Fagin, and Bumble is introduced later in the book. The reader discovers that Fagin has a strong desire for materialism: “His eyes glistened as he raised the lid and looked in.” Dickens has carefully chosen the use of language, he has used a powerful adjective: glistened, which illustrates that Fagin has a desire for what’s in the box: Jewellery. Dickens has depicted the evil aspect of human nature through Fagin as Dickens has clearly expressed Fagin’s attachment to materialism.