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In the novel Oliver Twist Dickens paints the Jewish character Fagin in a very negative light. He is portrayed as villainous, sinister, unkempt, and elderly. Later Dickens adds to the dreadful creation by introducing several loathsome vices. It is important to remember, however, that Jews had a history of persecution; many fell back on their own resources due to exclusion from the rights to work and to enjoy a home. They were often viewed as being necessarily opportunistic and exploitative and, indeed, we find Fagin living off the immoral "earnings" of young destitute boys. He did not enjoy his wealth, however. His deep paranoia and insecurity made him always fearful of the next hungry day, or of being caught by the police. So in a very miserly way he hoarded money and ill-gotten gains and rationed out food. He made the boys dependent on him and they mistook his provisions for them as kindness. In reality he fed them and gave them shelter because they were useful to him. These are examples of his greed and controlling behavior. He also questions the boys and makes them turn out their pockets for the spoils and threatens them about giving the game away.
He can be lively, but this is short-lived and insincere. For example, referred to as "the merry old gentleman," he has a good turn of phrase and does have his lighter moments. However, Dickens portrays him as having a corrupting influence. For example he turns innocent children into wicked thieves. Another vice is his dishonesty. For example he makes out to Oliver that he is kind and benificent but then sends him out to rob, knowing there is a risk he will get caught. He even "grinned, and, making a low obeisance to Oliver, took him by the hand, and hoped he should have the honor of his intimate acquaintance" to make Oliver compliant. He is a good actor and puts the young boy at ease, but all the while he is displaying another vice which is his ability to manipulate.
Fagin is also slovenly as his place is dirty, and he lets the boys drink alcohol and smoke. This is an example of his cruelty. Another is the way he beats the boys until they cry and have to beg. Dickens portrays Fagin as an evil character but all heroes and antiheroes are the result of their own circumstances as well as their own personalities.
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