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When Oliver is led by the Artful Dodger to Fagan's lair in Chapter Eight, it is clear that crime in this novel is accompanied by an appropriate dismal and disturbing setting. In spite of Oliver's naivety and his lack of awareness of the true profession of Fagan and the boys he sees, it is clear that this setting indicates that something is very wrong with the boys that Oliver spends time with. Consider how the setting is represented:
A dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours. There were a good many small shops, but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children, who, even at that time of night, were crawling in and out of the doors or screaming from the inside... Covered ways and yards, which here and there diverged from the main street, disclosed little knots of houses where drunken men and women were positively wallowing in filth, and from several of the doorways great ill-looking fellows were cautiously emerging, bound, to all appearance, on no very well-disposed or harmless errands.
Setting is always a key factor in Dickens and is used in this novel to present us with the grim and bleak reality of crime in the Victorian underworld, which, like its locality, is dirty, shady and unrespectable. This novel is notable in the way that it unveils the Victorian underworld to us through the characters of Fagan, with his gang of pickpocketing boys, and Bill Sykes. Both of these characters are clearly presented as being evil through and through in the way that they use and abuse others for their own advantage.
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